Smashing Pumpkins is suing Virgin records for using some Pumpkins music in a Pepsi commercial. Normally, I would applaud such artistic integrity, but this news ---like most things Billy Corgan related--- just pisses me off. According to the lawsuit, Virgin violated the terms of its contract by using the Smashing Pumpkins name and music in promotional deals that hurt the band's credibility with fans.
Really? Which fans? I’m sorry. I lost track of the Pumpkins demographic some time after ’97. Who are we talking about? Thirty five year old Japanese Anime enthusiasts who work at Blockbuster? Soccer moms who have destroyed all the old photos of themselves featuring crotchless black and white striped stockings? Vampires who still get beat up for lunch money?
Yeah, I don’t think Virgin is the biggest culprit when it comes to the band’s loss of public affection. As a former Smashing Pumpkins fan, I’m pretty sure I know where the problem is. Let’s recount:
1991: Smashing Pumpkins releases Gish, an amazing, guitar-driven collage of sound and emotion. Young Gladstone is duly impressed.
1993: Smashing Pumpkins releases Siamese Dream to rave reviews and commercial success. Young Gladstone incorporates Disarm into his acoustic coffee shop set and succeeds in getting the phone number of a super-cute waitress.
1995:Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. A goofy title for a double album that contains a number of throwaway tracks and a single (Tonight, Tonight) that sounds suspiciously similar to Disarm. Corgan, in full-douche mode, refers to the album as The Wall for Generation X. Gladstone refrains from purchasing. Incorporates none of the songs into his acoustic set. Gets the phone numbers of no waitresses.
1998: Adore. Smashing Pumpkins take a bold step into a hackneyed form of Eno-influenced electronica, and it's somehow lamer than it sounds. Corgan shaves his head. Wears black leather or spandex or whatever you call that S&M gear worn by people who enjoy being urinated on. Gladstone’s girlfriend buys the CD and is mocked mercilessly by Gladstone.
2000: Deux ex Machina. Bassist Darcy is kicked out of the band and is replaced by Melissa Auf de Maur. Gladstone grows more suspicious of Corgan. For a guy who’s all about musical integrity, how come he only hires bassists Gladstone wants to have sex with? As far as the album goes? Not sure. I saw the poster for it in a record store window. Shortly thereafter, Smashing Pumpkins breaks up. Glastone’s girlfriend leaves. Gladstone calls waitress from years earlier. Repeated messages go unreturned. Gladstone tries to imagine Darcy and Melissa Auf de Maur having sex with each other. Succeeds.
My point is simple. Pumpkins kind of went to pieces, and Billy Corgan breaks my heart. He’s a talented guy who was very good at making some interesting and attractive sounds. He was also talented enough to want to do something more. Something different and iconic, but he never succeeded in purveying that new sound successfully. Unlike the similarly situated Kurt Cobain, however, Billy chose not to kill himself. Instead, he moped about with his bald head and shiny clothes whining and whining and whining. Occasionally, he appeared for photos like this:
That’s what killed Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan. A talented, geeky, suburban kid who dreamed of greatness. Who achieved it. But who fell when he tried to become more than a talented musician. When he tried to be an icon. He wanted 14 year old girls to swoon. He wanted black and white graffiti of his visage on the Berlin Wall. He wanted the kind of rock star celebrity that is very rare and often created only by untimely death. Kurt Cobain is an icon. Jim Morrison is an icon. Jimi Hendrix is an icon. Billy Corgan is not. (Even though I think he’s more talented than two of those three guys. Can you guess which?)
Billy, if you’re reading this, which you aren’t, but hey, this is a literary device, let me make a request: just be content with what you’ve done. A lot of it's great. I wish that made you happy. I wish you’d grow out your balding hair, sit down with your guitar, and record some tunes with no agenda.
And don't be sad. I’m pretty sure I know the number of at least one waitress who would still totally sleep with you.
Check out some more Gladstone over HERE and find the still undetected blog reference HERE.