IN RESEARCHING MY story on Northwest music photographers, I was scrolling through a Google image search when I stopped on one in particular.
There was Pearl Jam, at the White House on Saturday, April 9, 1994, posing with President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office.
The band had joined a long list of pop artists who, over the years, have taken in this tradition.
It’s not high art that these images typically represent. They’re your basic meet-and-greets.
The thing is, they sometimes bring together unlikely picture partners. And one of them is the president of the United States — you know: the most powerful man on Earth.
The most historic such image is of Elvis meeting Richard Nixon on Dec. 21, 1970. Elvis arrived tastefully dressed in a purple velvet suit with a huge gold belt buckle and amber sunglasses. He brought as a present a Colt .45 pistol mounted in a display case, although the Secret Service confiscated it before Elvis met the president.
In the book “Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge,” various people who were there described what happened when Pearl Jam met Clinton.
The White House meeting originally was scheduled with George Stephanopoulos, then a White House adviser, to talk about Pearl Jam performing at military bases set for closure to help the communities.
Tagging along for the ride to the White House were some of members of Mudhoney, who had smoked pot before going.
Bassist Matt Lukin remembers, “I had another joint that I was going to smoke on the way, but all of a sudden I realize, ‘We’re on our way straight to the … White House. I got no time to light this thing up.’ So I ate it.”
As Pearl Jam talked to Stephanopoulos, according to John Hoyt, an adviser to the band at the time, “Clinton’s secretary came in and said, ‘Would you guys like a moment to see the president?’ ”
Hoyt remembered that Clinton came out, and a group photo was taken.
Kelly Curtis, the band’s manager, remembered that with Kurt Cobain’s death by suicide four days earlier, “Clinton asked Eddie if he should address the nation.”
With the possibility of copycat suicides, Vedder thought that was a mistake.
The meeting concluded with Vedder saying, “See ya, Bill.”
Barbara Kinney was then an official White House photographer and took the Pearl Jam photos. Now based in Northern California, her storied career has included time as a photo editor at The Seattle Times.
At the time, it didn’t register with her who Pearl Jam was. She emails that she thought, “ ‘Aren’t they just some heavy metal grunge band?’ ”
But she did pose for a photo with the group.
“Years later, I realized what a treasure this photo is,” she says.