Someday, Avid Reader, I need to tell you the story of the “mix tape that changed my world forever”, or you can buy me a pint someplace while I regale you with the story. Anyway, on side two of this Alt-Rock mix tape from fall 1996 there were two hidden tracks my friend put on there after a few minutes of silence. Every other song on the tape was labeled with the exception of these two; this drove me nuts because I loved those songs. My friend was tight lipped until he told me they were Smashing Pumpkins songs. It would still be a year or so before I picked up my first proper album by them, but I was hooked. The songs in question were “I Am One”and “Rhinoceros” off of Gish.
I listened to Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness like so many other starving alt-rock kids of my generation. I loved Jimmy’s drumming, D’Arcy’s heavy bass, James’ flowing guitar yet it was Billy’s snarl and sonic boom that always pulled me in to each track. The Pumpkins weren’t my favorite band, but I found solace in many of their songs. Then 1998 happened and all of that changed.
For many of us when the album Adore dropped we were very disappointed; despite the rather revealing shirt D’Arcy wore in the booklet, none of us knew what to make of the album. Jimmy had left and there was a drum machine in his place. Then in 2000 when they came back with Machina and Melissa Auf der Maur was the new bassist, while Jimmy was back, so many of us were excited again . . . and we were greeted with a dense album that our young minds couldn’t grasp. It was at this point I stuck with the three albums I had and realized that Billy Corgan was dead to me, even though he was alive and still touring; the Smashing Pumpkins I grew to know and brood over were nowhere to be found. Don’t even talk to me about Zwan; I didn’t even steal the album from my college roommate to hear what the fuss was about.
Last fall the latest incarnation of the Pumpkins came to Boston for a show. A fellow I work with happened to know I liked the band and offered to let me borrow the recording they were selling after the gig. I said OK, and went back to my cube to be sucked in for the next hour plus by sonic rage. While putting out emails I heard Billy slice the air with his guitar and the rest of the band blast on with him; it was 1996 all over again.
For the next few weeks I’m going to come to terms with the Smashing Pumpkins and apologize to Billy for being too harsh on the guy. I’m going to focus on the albums that get overlooked, then hit the new album to see if Billy still has that fire.