The Smashing Pumpkins
Although The Smashing Pumpkins have been around since 1988, I never really knew who they were until 1994. When I watched MTV their video for Today was in heavy rotation Then they released Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which I owned.
Bullet With Butterfly Wings hooked me with its opening line, “The World Is A Vampire.” The rest of the song is a wonderful existential rock anthem. Corgan sings that despite all his rage that he is still a rat in a cage. “Tell me I’m the only one. Tell me there’s no other one. Jesus was the only son, yeah. Tell me I’m the chosen one. Jesus was the only son for you.” He wants to change the world and be a savior figure, but the people of the world don’t believe they need saving. Corgan, on the other hand, believes the world is damned, just like the vampire.
Though I was only 4 years old in 1979, I enjoyed the second single of that title from Mellon Collie. It is a song about becoming a teenager. It is a snapshot of a moment in time and the reflections of an adult looking back on that time.
I liked the song Zero, as it exuded more existential angst. My friend Nikki, on the other hand, absolutely loved the song Zero. More than anything she admired Billy Corgan. She was shocked that he’d shaved his beautiful hair off. During this time Nikki fell for a guy named Sean who did bear some resemblance to Billy Corgan.
Tonight, Tonight was a good song and had a very creative video for it. Georges Méliès’s silent film A Trip to the Moon was the inspiration for the turn of the century look of the piece. The song itself is a sort of black-humored look at Corgan’s life. It served as a sort of self-affirmation about believing in himself and becoming successful despite his abusive childhood. Though they released 33 and Muzzle from the Mellon Collie album, I wasn’t particularly impressed or attached to those songs.
It was 1996 that Jason and I saw The Smashing Pumpkins on tour. Garbage was opening for them and I was eager to see both bands. However, we got some bad directions and ended up being late to the concert. We caught only the last song that Garbage performed. I was a bit disappointed, but I quickly forgot about that since the Smashing Pumpkins were awesome. Most memorable was when Billy Corgan wanted the crowd to give a moment of silence for the set piece known as the Cone When the crowd wouldn’t shut up, he got more than a little frustrated.
My kids know The Smashing Pumpkins from their guest appearance on The Simpsons. That episode caught the moment they were on top and touring with Lallapollusa in 1994 It was a good episode and I loved that The Smashing Pumpkins didn’t take themselves too seriously They cemented their place in pop culture and gained brownie points with me by appearing on The Simpsons.
It wasn’t until Ava Adora came out in 1998 off of the Adore album that I rediscovered them. The song was full of electronic rhythms and loops, which was cool. The video was Gothic-inspired and stylish. It matched the lyrics about Corgan’s Gothic-loving love—the one he adored.
Perfect expanded on the characters in 1979. It was a good song, but didn’t get as much play. Crestfallen and To Shelia were also not included in my compilations. Mostly because I hadn’t heard them. The Smashing Pumpkins continued to put out albums, including: Machina, Machines of the Gods, Rotten Apples, Zeitgeist, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, Oceania and Monuments to an Elegy.
The Smashing Pumpkins kept a strong following of fans, but never matched the popularity they had with Mellon Collie. I never heard any of their later songs since they didn’t play very often on radio stations. However, I did eventually get the Oceania CD form the library and downloaded some of their other songs. Their songs are still solid work–both intelligent and entertaining.