When I young I had delusions of being a rock star. One of the bands that I built my foundation on was the Smashing Pumpkins. I was fascinated by their sound, which didn’t sound like anything else out at the time. I connected with the lyrics on a deep emotional level. I was a teenager and it felt like Billy Corgan was talking to me and for me.
In 1997, Billy Corgan to me was a god. In 2014, I find the same man to be narcassistic and spoiled. 1997 Billy would never threaten to take his ball and go home. 2014 Billy has already done it more than once. But i’m jumping ahead.
The Smashing Pumpkins formed in 1988. Around the world, crack was being introduced to the streets, the iraq-iran war was ending, the United States was putting the Hubble Telescope into operation, I was in second grade and playing with G.I.Joe’s and other action figures of the day, and Billy Corgan and James Iha were forming a band that would define a large part of my life.
Corgan and Iha were joined by D’arcy Wretzky and Jimmy Chamberlin to round out the band. After releasing a song on a compilation album and two singles, the band released its first full length album,Gish.
I didn’t discover this album until years after its release. Gish, is very heavily influenced by Goth and psychedelic rock. Songs like I am One and Rhinoceros featured driving rock with abstract lyrics over top. Lead singer, Billy Corgan, clearly was not comfortable yet fully expressing himself openly in his lyrics. There are good tracks here but its not the tracks from this time period of the band that really connect with me.
In 1993, the Smashing Pumpkins released Siamese Dream. When i discovered this album it was actually from Beavis and Butthead. The show used to have clips of music videos and they had a clip from the bands “Today” music video. The clip featured Billy Corgan driving an Ice Cream truck through the desert and James Iha wearing a dress.
That small clip introduced me to the band but songs like Mayonaise and Disarm drew me in and didn’t let go. The album ranges from hard rockers like Cherub Rock and Rocket to atmospheric tracks like Soma. Siamese Dream was a perfect album to me. I could put it on and just let it run. In a day of fast forward and track skipping, i would never do that with this album.
The band struggled during the time of these two albums. Billy Corgan was a control freak and ended up playing all the guitar and bass on the albums. The dude was suicidal and desperate to succeed. All of his soul was laid open and bare. All of Billy’s hard work paid off and the album was a success. There was only up from here and their next release increased the bands legacy.
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was released in 1996. It was ambitious. The band had followed up its first big success with a double album. If it hadn’t worked this would have been the doom of the band. Instead it won Grammy’s and was commercially successful on a grand scale. I first saw the band live on their tour for this album in Saginaw, Michigan. It was live changing. The live show was so powerful, it really spoke to me and i left an even bigger fan.
Billy had reached his creative peak, he just didn’t know it yet. Everything he and his band mates had worked for was about to come crumbling down. At a tour stop in New York City, a touring keyboardist was doing heroin with the drummer and he overdosed and died. Jimmy Chamberlin was immediately fired from the band. The band would never be the same.
Billy’s mother died during this period and between that and the breakup of his marriage and the stress within his band, it broke him more. The band decided to jump back into the studio and record a more intimate record, using a drum machine and some random fill in drummers.
Adore, the resulting album was a more stripped down, more tragic, more emotional album. The entire album just felt depressed. There was no joy left. Everything was just sadness. It was not what i was expecting. It was not what in 1998, i was looking for from the Smashing Pumpkins.
The album to me today holds memories of a girl i once knew and sadness and depression that i have linked with this depressing and sad album. I may not sound like i like this album. I do, i truly do. Adore is an album that grows on you. It takes a few listens but it is worth the investment. After this album the band decided to bring Jimmy Chamberlin back into the band.
The band decided it would release one more album and call it quits from there. Machina: The Machines of God, was the album that resulted. Instead of making a straight forward rock album, the band decided to make a concept album based on the idea that they were pretending to be a different rock band and were recording as them.
There are some good songs on this album and its follow up Machina 2, which was freely released on the internet. The band came to a natural conclusion and sleeping dogs should have been let to sleep.
At the time i couldn’t believe they were breaking up. I did not want to accept it. I wanted them to be together forever and to continue making great music. It was time for the band to move on. D’arcy started raising horses, James Iha formed a group with one of the Hanson boys and then ended up in A Perfect Circle. Billy and Jimmy decided the party wasn’t over and they decided to form a new band.
Zwan was born in 2001, when three new members were brought into the Billy/Jimmy jam fest. In 2003, they released their one album, Mary Star of the Sea. This album showed growth for Billy. It contains great songs like Honestly and Lyric, that connected to me emotionally. It wasn’t the greatest album I had ever heard but it was still good. This is what Billy should have done post Smashing Pumpkins.
The band wasn’t able to stay together for one reason or another and Billy decided to go the solo route. He released one album, TheFutureEmbrace. The album was electronic based, a departure from his normal sound. It didn’t have any of the appeal that his other releases held. It felt like he had no one around him willing to tell him what was good and what wasn’t.
It didn’t last long and in 2005, Billy announced he wanted his band back and that the Smashing Pumpkins would reform. Only Jimmy took up the offer to return. At this point the band was the Smashing Pumpkins in name only. The spirit was long gone.
This version released one album, Zeitgeist, and as soon as they were here they were gone again. Billy and Jimmy were able to channel some of his old magic for a few of the tracks but overall, it didn’t feel like a Smashing Pumpkins record. It was something different and it felt it. By 2009, Jimmy had had enough as well and he quit along with most of the rest of the new Pumpkins. Billy was able to find a guitarist to stick around but the rest of the musicians in the band have constantly been changing ever since.
Billy has since then released two more albums, Oceania and Monuments To An Elegy. Each album had less and less actual good tracks. Billy has no filter anymore and can’t seem to tell what is good and what is not. Maybe what is good to him just isn’t the same for the rest of the world anymore.
Along the way he has distracted himself by creating professional wrestling organizations, writing books of poetry and dreaming about how things could have been. He has taken to talking up himself as being the greatest musician of his generation. He talks down about others and comes across in interviews as a narcissistic spoiled fool desperately clinging to what was instead of what could be. He recently threatened to take his musical ball home once again if not enough people buy his album. What a douche.
The Smashing Pumpkins are dead dude. They have been for years. Learn from Axl Rose, if you continue down this path you are just a novelty act. People will just want the old hits, nothing new under that banner. Billy Corgan seems dead set on bleeding every last drop out of the Pumpkins name. It’s a dead horse and eventually you have to just accept it and quit beating it.
If you really want to release an album of you jamming with Tommy Lee, create a new band. Accept you have to start from the bottom again and hit it hard. Otherwise accept your fate and quit bitching.
You were once my hero, then i saw behind the curtain, then the man behind the curtain went insane. Please just go graceful Billy or I’ll have to have you locked up.