Was Smashing Pumpkins Founded in 1988?

Article by Arthur van Pelt

Both online and offline 1988 is considered to be the starting year of Smashing Pumpkins. And yes, the band consisted as a somewhat stable four-piece after hiring Jimmy Chamberlin to take over the drum kit in that year. Jimmy played with the band live for the first time at the Cabaret Metro (back then, Joe Shanahan’s own Metro, Chicago was still referenced this way) on October the 5th. And they even played a few live gigs earlier in 1988, starting with the Chicago 21 venue on July 9 and the Avalon venue on August 10. These locations also reside in Chicago. Those first two Smashing Pumpkins gigs were performed with a drum machine. Furthermore, they had their first (attempt of a) demo tape out in 1988, where Ronald (Ron) Roesing was credited for swinging the sticks. Ron was also playing drums, together with Billy Corgan writing, singing and playing the guitar, in a band called ‘The Marked’ in the 1985-1987 era. For every fan of the band Smashing Pumpkins this is rather common knowledge. But was the band really founded in 1988?

Before we answer that question, let’s have a look around on the internet first. What does the band say about the root year, what does Wikipedia say about it? Shouldn’t at least Wikipedia be well informed, and present us validated information? And what do the fan sites mention in their Smashing Pumpkins band biographies? Here is a summary:


SmashingPumpkins.com and related

Just have a look at the picture on top of this article again. After the band went into a 5 year hiatus in 2000, the shirt shown could be ordered online on the band’s personal website. We clearly recognize the artwork of the Greatest Hits album (released November 2001), with the time frame 1988 – 2000 stated on the shirt.

Billy Corgan on the other hand, mentioned 1987 as the founding year of the Smashing Pumpkins on stage a few times over the years. The most recent occasion was during the Oceania Cruise Record Release Party on June 12, 2012*. He also hints to 1987 when blogging on LiveJournal.com about ‘The Smashing Pumpkins Archive Project’ on June 7th , 2011, when he mentions a demo that was created in that same year:

“The SP archive project, for which we don’t yet have an official nom de plume, is now fully underway. People are being hired, wired, and fired up with this insane pile of stuff to go through. The main focus of our tape transfers is to take any materials from 1985-1994 that are relevant to the Gish, Siamese Dream, or Pisces Iscariot albums and get them into a stable, 96k format. This makes it easier for me to instantly jut around and hear what we have. It is a surreal experience to listen to a demo from 1987 and have no memory of ever recording it, but knowing from the chords and the style that is indeed you that is playing!”

* Billy Corgan mentioned 1987 as the year Smashing Pumpkins played their first live show. However, it should have been 1988 (Chicago 21, Chicago on July 9th).

But these words of Billy Corgan are hardly picked up by the official media. Or are they?



The Wikipedia page about Billy Corgan states “William Patrick ’Billy‘ Corgan, Jr. (born March 17, 1967) is an American musician, producer, and occasional poet best known as the frontman and sole permanent member of The Smashing Pumpkins. Formed by Corgan and guitarist James Iha in Chicago, Illinois, in 1987, the band quickly gained steam with the addition of bassist D’arcy Wretzky and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin.”

On the other hand, the page about the Smashing Pumpkins on Wikipedia states “The Smashing Pumpkins are an American alternative rock band from Chicago, Illinois, formed in 1988. Formed by frontman Billy Corgan (lead vocals, lead guitar) and James Iha (rhythm guitar), the band has included Jimmy Chamberlin (drums), D’arcy Wretzky (bass guitar), Melissa Auf der Maur (bass guitar), and currently includes Mike Byrne (drums), Nicole Fiorentino (bass guitar, backing vocals), and Jeff Schroeder (rhythm guitar) among its membership.”


Starla.org, and the connection to SPFC.org

Chronology section, about the year 1987: “Billy befriended a Japanese-American, James Iha. James had grown up in a suburban environment where he ’learned to deal early on with being a minority, being called names.’ He had average grades in high school, attended a junior college where he received high grades, and continued his education with a Graphic Arts major at Loyola University. He also took courses in theology, psychology, and ’all these other things that didn’t relate to art. But it was good.’ He later dropped out to spend time working with the band. Their similar influences and interests caused both of them to collaborate and form a band. James was playing with a band called Snake Train for the first few months with the Pumpkins.”

And about the year 1988: “The Smashing Pumpkins begin to take shape, as guitarist Billy Corgan meets D’arcy Wretzky in a confrontation, and gives her his number.”


On the Omnipedia – Timeline page: “1987 – Billy’s friend introduces him to a young guitarist named James Iha and the first form of the Smashing Pumpkins is created. They start ’writing little goth-pop songs‘. They are kind of a new wave band at this point, their drummer-the good old drum machine. James was in a band called Snake Train at that time. 1988 – July 9th – The Pumpkins have their first gig ever at a Polish Bar in Chicago. Later that year, Billy Corgan met D’arcy Wretzky outside the Chicago Avalon nightclub, according to the Jim Stapleton book; Billy [his] first words to D’arcy were ’You’re full of shit‘ because she liked a band he thought sucked. She had been in a band and was recently in Europe (France). The band they were arguing about was the band she was in, The Dan Reed Network. D’arcy joined the Pumpkins after a visit to Billy’s house; she was impressed by his music.”


BillyCorgan.it (BCIT)

On the Billy Corgan biography page: “A 19 anni lavora in un negozio di dischi usati. È lì che incontra James Iha, che, colpito dalla qualità delle canzoni di Billy, non ci pensa due volte a mollare gli Snake Train. I due fondano gli Smashing Pumpkins, che debutteranno nel 1988 al club Chicago 21; intanto hanno assunto pure una bassista: D’arcy Wretzky.”

Translation: “At the age of 19 he worked in a used record store. It was there that he met James Iha, who, impressed by the quality of Billy’s songs, did not think twice about giving up the band Snake Train. The two founded the band Smashing Pumpkins, who debuted in 1988 at club Chicago 21, and meanwhile they also found a bass player: D’arcy Wretzky.”

(Note: Billy Corgan turned 19 years old in 1986.)



In the band history, very first sentence: “The Smashing Pumpkins are an American alternative rock band that formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1988. While the group has gone through several lineup changes, The Smashing Pumpkins consisted of Billy Corgan (vocals/guitar), James Iha (guitar/vocals), D’arcy Wretzky (bass guitar/vocals), and Jimmy Chamberlin (drums/percussion) for most of the band’s recording career.”



Who are the Smashing Pumpkins? page: “What? You don’t know who the Smashing Pumpkins are? You’re kidding, right? The great alt-rock band from Chicago, USA who performed together from 1988 until 2000?”


And finally, what do we say on SPfreaks.com?

From About the Band – The History Page: “The son of a jazz guitarist, Billy Corgan grew up in a Chicago suburb, leaving home at the age of 19 to move to Florida with his fledgling goth metal band, the Marked. After the band failed down South, he returned to Chicago around 1987, where he began working at a used-record store. At the shop he met James Iha (guitar), a graphic arts student at Loyola University, and the two began collaborating, performing and recording songs with a drum machine.”

Taken from the page ‘The Chicago Band’s Turbulent Career’: “In 1988, Chicago’s clubs were still pumping with the dance innovation that had exploded in the city two years earlier: also known as house music. Meanwhile, at a Polish bar near the center of town, the germ of another sonic revolt was taking shape. In front of a tiny crowd, a lanky, moon-faced guitarist and his ice-cold, American Japanese sidekick were whipping up a maelstrom of freeform jazz-punk noise. Eighteen months later, this embryonic two-man show had evolved into the Smashing Pumpkins, a proto-grunge quartet with two incendiary 7″s to their name, including one on the legendary Sub Pop label.”

And lastly, what do other sites say? Let’s examine one of many examples.



James Iha page: “James Yoshinobu Iha was born March 26, 1968 a 2nd generation Japanese-American. Though Billy Corgan was known as the driving force of the band, Iha has played a vital role in the Pumpkins, co-writing and writing over a dozen songs. In 1987 he began playing guitar with Billy Corgan to form the Smashing Pumpkins.”

Smashing Pumpkins page: “Smashing Pumpkins formed in 1988, when Billy Corgan (lyricist, vocals, lead guitar) met James Iha (guitar) in a record store. They began playing together, with former members of Corgan’s failed band The Marked joining temporarily. After recruiting D’arcy Wretzky (bass) and Jimmy Chamberlain (drums) solidifying the lineup, the band would spend the next couple of years playing around Chicago.”

After reviewing all known online information, we can see confusion and/or misinformation everywhere. Is it 1988? Is it 1987? Is it even 1986, when Smashing Pumpkins were formed?

Smashing Pumpkins were founded in 1987.


Yes, 1987. We are going to clear this up, now and here, for once and for all. With the help of the picture above of this tape called Gish/Moon, a handmade demo tape by Billy Corgan in the early days of the Smashing Pumpkins. And a few more pictures later in this article.

As stated above, it was 1987 when the name Smashing Pumpkins appeared for the first time, and when the first rehearsals and recordings were done under this moniker. Those practicing jams and recordings were done by James Iha and Billy Corgan and were supported by a drum machine. They lead to at least one Smashing Pumpkins (home) studio recording in 1987, called I Fall. It can be found on the B-side of the Gish/Moon tape and is the penultimate track.

On a sidenote, I Fall was most likely recorded on a Fostex X15 four track cassette recording device which Billy used for recording demos. This device, pictured below on the left, was taken from the Smashing Pumpkins Facebook page. The picture on the right presents a clearer picture from the internet. This device was already in use by Billy Corgan in 1985 for recording and transferring The Marked songs.

Speaking of The Marked, for a new band to begin properly, it needs Billy Corgan’s old band to break up, right? Well, yes. Maybe. Not necessarily. But we do know that The Marked stopped as a band before Smashing Pumpkins took shape. We don’t know the exact moment when The Marked called it quits, but what we do know is that there are known recordings of The Marked of January 1987 (see picture below and here). Therefore, it must have been shortly afterwards that The Marked broke up in the year 1987. In addition, there are currently no known historical facts that Smashing Pumpkins existed alongside The Marked.


What about James Iha’s band, Snake Train? There is a known demo tape in 1988 (pictured below, also to be found here), and James is credited on that tape as playing guitar. The explanation is not that remarkable. Starla.org explains: “James was playing with a band called Snake Train for the first few months with the Pumpkins.”


And finally, how do we know the Smashing Pumpkins song I Fall was recorded in 1987? The current and longtime owner of the Gish/Moon tape asked Billy Corgan himself. His answer, not a direct quote, was: “That recording dates back to late 1987, it was then recorded at my father’s home studio.”.

Let the conclusion be clear:

Smashing Pumpkins was founded in 1987. 25th anniversary this year, anyone?


Get Your Pumpkins Faster

Article by Arthur van Pelt
Sourced by DutchCowboys, ComputerWorld, Archive.org

Since The Internet Archive and BitTorrent Inc. announced a partnership last week, and sealed that cooperation with already over 1.5 million torrents available on Archive.org, the fans and collectors of Smashing Pumpkins live music can benefit from the move forward of these two parties.

The vast majority of internet users think, and know, BitTorrent and other torrent tools are used for illegal-or-not downloads of all kind of files, in a wide variety of software programs, movies, music, books and other digital media.  While BitTorrent is often in the news because it can also be used as a conduit for pirated media, projects like this cooperation between The Internet Archive and BitTorrent emphasize the practical nature of the torrent peer to peer (P2P) protocol: decentralized file transmission can be fast, anonymous and robust. And as Archive.org now shows, it can also be used for perfectly legal, non-controversial purposes.

“I supported the original creation of BitTorrent because I believe in building technology to make it easy for communities to share what they have. The Archive is helping people to understand that BitTorrent isn’t just for ephemeral or dodgy items that disappear from view in a short time. BitTorrent is a great way to get and share large files that are permanently available from libraries like the Internet Archive,” said John Gilmore, founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

OK, so what’s the deal, and what’s in it for the Smashing Pumpkins fans? The Internet Archive embraced the P2P download concept of BitTorrent and made over one million torrents available (as we speak it runs into the 1.5 million figures) of all books, movies, TV shows, music albums, and live shows that were already available as a free download on Archive.org. The torrents are being seeded by two Archive.org servers, thus making sure that download speed is always fast and very secure, even if a certain file is not that popular.
And as we might know already, there are quite the names in the online archives. Music artists like John Mayer, The Grateful Dead, and of course Smashing Pumpkins, have their files of (mostly) live concerts hosted on Archive.org. With the use of BitTorrent they save a lot of band width and they can now reach out to a new audience with their musical content.

Next to this, Archive.org hosts over 9,000 movies (http://archive.org/details/bittorrentmovies) and more than one million books (http://archive.org/details/bittorrenttexts). Other notable content in the archives is over 3,000 hours of 9/11 TV coverage. This coverage includes more than 20 channels of international television news over seven days, and select analysis by scholars. The footage begins shortly before the first reports about 9/11. All in all, ComputerWorld calculated the total content of Archive.org that is currently unleashed by torrents is up to nearly a stunning petabyte (PB), which is almost 1,000 terabytes (TB)!

Archive.org states in the blogged press release about how to use the new torrent feature:

“To download the Torrent of the files in the item, click the Torrent link at the bottom of the download box; your Torrent client (such as transmission and uTorrent) can use the Torrent file you get to download the files in the Archive item, including the original item files, plus all derivative and metadata files. Individual files can be selected (or deselected) from the list within most BitTorrent clients, allowing Torrents to be used to retrieve an entire item or a specific subset of files within it. BitTorrent is the now fastest way to download items from the Archive, because the BitTorrent client downloads simultaneously from two different Archive servers located in two different datacenters, and from other Archive users who have downloaded these Torrents already. The distributed nature of BitTorrent swarms and their ability to retrieve Torrents from local peers may be of particular value to patrons with slower access to the Archive, for example those outside the United States or inside institutions with slow connections.”

Currently there are over 1,300 Smashing Pumpkins related downloads to be found on Archive.org in the Live Music Archive (LMA) section, making Archive.org the most comprehensive source for Smashing Pumpkins live music collectors. The Limited Flag as stated on their site however:  No unauthorized soundboards (SBDs) and the need to email for approval before uploading.

The Live Music Archive also provides a statement why it is allowed to record and trade Smashing Pumpkins live music:  “Smashing Pumpkins Taping Policy June 2007: “a clear declaration of our new open-source taping policy…everyone is welcome to tape at our shows in whatever capacity they see fit…anyone is welcome and invited to document using audio, video, or picture cameras (cell phones are welcome)…although we do reserve the right to refuse anyone at anytime (especially if we feel the reason for recording is not for entirely altruistic)”.”

With over 170,000 downloads, “Smashing Pumpkins Live at Shepherds Bush Empire on 2007-06-19” is, as we speak, the most popular full concert of Smashing Pumpkins uploaded in the Live Music Archive. And from now on we can grab this one, and all other live concerts that are available, even faster!

Smashing Taiwan, report from Taipei

Update by Arthur van Pelt
Sourced by Now News (Shi-Jie Lin), China Times, CTS, The Liberty Times & Apple Daily
Additional translations, material & photo by Ed & Geng Hao

Our long time friend and contributor of SPfreaks.com Ed reports, in his unique English style, from Taiwan, where Smashing Pumpkins kicked off the Twinkle Rock Festival last night in Taipei at the Taipei World Trade Center (Hall 2).

‘2012 Twinkle Rock Festival’ running from 10th started by The Smashing Pumpkins to kick off the 2012 show, members including lead singer Billy Corgan, drummer Michael William Byrne, bassist Nicole Fiorentino, and guitarist Jeff Schroeder. They not only got numerous awards such as Grammy, their albums hit breakthrough astonishing sales record of 30 million globally.
Chicago band Smashing Pumpkins was extremely popular back in ’90s, recently they launched a new album and world tour also, they had a concert in Taiwan last night for the first time.
It seems the group members had done homework about attractions of Taiwan before they came, right after their arrival on 9th, they immediately asked to go to Shihlin Night Market, some fans followed the group all the way asking autograph, the group members done whatever fans asked happily.
In the night market, the four members had a happy time nibbling lots of Taiwanese snacks including ‘wonton noodles’ and dumplings. Billy enjoyed a variety of ‘Jianbao’, he took pics right after he found ‘stinky tofu’, he posted to Twitter immediately and said it’s so delicious. Michael was willing to try to eat ‘pig’s blood cake’, ‘pie enfolding small pancake’, ‘pearl milk tea’, sausages and other snacks, and also diligent in shopping and spent all NT$ he had.

Before the concert, Nicole went to ‘Longshan Temple’ to worship, in addition to experience Taiwanese style, and also prayed for the concert to be successfully.
Last night concert, lead singer Billy Corgan no longer go the dark route, he led the three young members to re-light power of life, mixed with new album tracks and familiar old songs that led fans to return to the golden age of 90s music, just  like a enthusiastic rock feast and it brought great joy to the audience.
The group performed a total of 22 songs (or 21?). Billy’s special voice remains the same with opening ‘Zero’, after 2nd song “Bullet…”, he pointed to the audience and forced to split, this caused wholehearted screams everywhere. The 3rd song “Today” is their classic that led the fans through time tunnel back to ’90s. After 4th song “Luna” finished, Billy said ‘thank you’. When the prelude of ‘1979’ appeared, the whole audience were caught in madness again, the superb performance shook & turned the scene, all fans got totally high. If memory is well, they did not perform Stand Inside Your Love but it was on the setlist.
The group will leave and fly to next stop South Korea this noon.
Last night the box office was not as expected, only sold 30% (about 2,000 audience), the organizer ‘Very Aspect’ feel discouraged, they worried that if Taiwan concert market continue to slump, the industry no longer willing to bear the risk of performances of foreign artists to come to Taiwan, this no doubt is a great loss to local fans. On a side note I think ‘Very Aspect’ didn’t promote the concert good enough, I didn’t know it either ’til several weeks ago when I saw the promo flyer.

By the way, I went to Bob Dylan Taipei concert last Apr., that night later lots of concert video clips were uploaded to YouTube, but soon all were removed by some kind of ‘web cop’ next day morning, same happened to The Eagles/Santana/… Taipei concert clips, so perhaps you guys would like to download these Smashing Pumpkins Taipei clips before they disappear.

No Time To Drown: Billy Corgan Meets Rain-Soaked Manila

Article by guest writer Annie S. Alejo
Photo by Magic Liwanag

Billy Corgan says he grew up around a lot of Filipinos. His fans here, meanwhile, have waited nearly two decades to see him and his band The Smashing Pumpkins in the flesh.

MANILA, Philippines – Billy Corgan could not have come to Manila at a worse time. Twenty years late, by his own sheepish admission, the horrible weather that greeted them here would be a real test to The Smashing Pumpkins front man’s resolve, as well as that of his many fans that had waited this long for him to be here.

With torrential rains sucked in by a monsoon on its merry, destructive way to China, large parts of Metro Manila ended up submerged in water on their second day here. After their mid-day press con on Monday, Aug. 6, and with daytime sky as bleak as dusk by Tuesday, Corgan and company spend Day 2 working with the local promoters—and, presumably, with people waiting for them on their next stop—to push the concert back one day.

Corgan would later tweet an announcement moving the concert to Wednesday, Aug. 8, ending his posts with, “SP has the best fans in the world and we didn’t want anyone taking any chances. Manila you are worth the wait to US. Lots of love/be safe.” He spends some of his free time on that dreary day in the mall beside his hotel, tweeting “ZOMBIE MALL” on account of most shops being closed.

It seemed an odd time for rock n’ roll considering the suffering and destruction wrought by this non-typhoon. But it could not have been more rock n’ roll either—a band defiantly putting out a show despite the worst possible weather conditions for fans that are willing to risk it all to spit in the face of chance. Though worth it, the artist and his fans would wait no longer.

An ocean away

The Smashing Pumpkins’ latest album is called “Oceania.” When you call up images on the web, they would reveal the Pacific Ocean and countries like Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and the Philippines, among others. In The Smashing Pumpkins terms, it would only be a part of a massive 44-song undertaking collectively known as “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.”

“I was going through a difficult time in my life… There was this, a personal sense of alienation in love and in life,” Corgan says about the inspiration for the album.  The sense of separation brought about by modern day trappings would also figure in his thought and writing process. “Here I am in the Philippines, texting people in Thailand, France… I’m connected to friends all over the world, which is incredible, yet we don’t talk on the telephone. There’s this weird kind of, you feel connected but you also feel a little bit more isolated.”

“Oceania” is hailed as Corgan’s return to form. “It’s probably the best-reviewed album I’ve ever had, which is strange because I’ve probably made better albums. It’s weird to make an album that you knew was great, like ‘Siamese Dream,’ and it got a lot of bad reviews at that time; and now it’s considered a classic… It’s been a long time since I’ve had that—probably about 15 years. I’ve had to hear every album how I’m stupid and dumb and I don’t know what I’m doing. So it’s nice to know I’m not stupid and dumb.”

In his most recent shows, including the one in Manila, he and the band would play the entire album instead of pandering to the greatest hits mindset. “Why? ‘Cause you need it. You need ‘Oceania.’ I can see it in your eyes,” he jokes at the press conference.  At the concert, while fans cheered the loudest for older hits like “Today” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” and grew wild for “Tonight Tonight” and “Disarm,” they turned a reverential ear to the newer “Oceania” songs, including two of Corgan’s alternating favorites, “Pale Horse” and the album’s title track.

The future of rock

“I have some of the most difficult and intelligent fans in the world… and I’m lucky sometimes, and sometimes not so lucky in that,” Corgan says. But while he understands the need of long-time fans to hold on to their idea of The Smashing Pumpkins and their music, he notes, “They forget the 16-year-old, the 20-year old… this is their time. ‘Oceania’ is their album, for their time. Now, if they connect with it, great; if they don’t, they don’t. [But] don’t try to always come in and steal that away from the next generation. Because that’s why we’re here, we love our fans… But without the young fans, there is no future to Smashing Pumpkins. We can’t run an oldies business; not only is it boring, it’s actually not a very good business.”

The nasty consequence of the art-as-business paradigm isn’t lost on Corgan, who has always struggled for integrity in the face of shifting musical tastes and endless parade of flavor-of-the-months. “The music industry essentially operates on a dumbing down principle—how dumb do we have to go to sell this record to the most [number] of people. And the more intelligent and articulate it is, you lose a certain degree of audience.”

He adds, “For the most part, the charts are dominated by music that’s essentially… repetitive [in] melody, style, tone, texture, message because it reaches the most [number] of people.”

Thus, his highly conceptual “Teargarden” album made in what he says is the “tradition of music”—in essence, inspiring others and lifting them up to be creators themselves—is his public battle with failure. “I’m willing to fail. Most artists are not willing to fail; they want their failures to happen behind the scenes because they don’t want to be criticized. I’m okay with being criticized because I think that the journey is really valuable. There’s a lot of people out there who get that,” he says. “It’s amazing, if you let people be with you on a deeper journey, they’ll actually figure it out.”

Rock n’ roll and Pinoy values

Aside from his high-regard to music fans in general, Corgan’s own set of values runs deep and curiously parallel to ours.  “I grew up around a lot of Filipinos in the outskirts of Chicago where the family rules,” he shares. “There’s always that uncle or that Grandpa—he knows what the hell is going on, you know? That’s where the real wisdom lies.”

He adds, “You have to listen to that. You can’t dumb your family down. You can’t dumb your community down. You can’t dumb your country down. You can’t dumb your fans down. I think I’m at a point now where I don’t wanna be dumbed down anymore. I just think that’s the worst thing for rock n’ roll.”

Growing up with Filipino friends—“Some of my best friends now are Filipino,” he adds—his visit here may be a long time coming but it holds great meaning to him. “It’s always humbling if you go to a place I already have a respect for the culture.”

He adds, “I’m embarrassed it’s taken that long. It’s nothing that I did. Honestly… this business is always difficult; if somebody doesn’t wanna bring you here or if they wanna pay you five bucks and stick you in a dirty club, you know what I mean? You gotta come the right way; so finally we’re here, under the right circumstances.” Freak weather occurrences notwithstanding.

Although he says The Smashing Pumpkins have “made a lot of people a lot of money by just being weird,” their many years in this fickle business have allowed them to see the shifts in the value system. Where the value of artists is quantified by how many records they sell or if they get on radio or MTV, and where, once, the business loves “alternative” music because it’s made people money, somehow the music—and artists like Corgan—still survives because it matters to the people that listen.

In all the years of being critically panned to being hailed as champions of marketing genres, to simply being laid on the wayside for not being “cool enough” or “alternative enough,” or even not sociable enough, Corgan knows a deeper truth. “What The Smashing Pumpkins means as a band is so much more valuable; what we mean to people is so much more valuable than our commercial value,” he says.

He is right. The band’s Manila fans that braved the rains and floods certainly proved that.  Calling them “old school fans” of The Smashing Pumpkins during the show, their riotous reception could only have come from what Corgan himself always strives for—connecting with people emotionally.

What it Means to be a Smashing Pumpkins Fan

Article written by guest writer Michael Berrios

In 2000, my older brother introduced me to the music videos for The Everlasting Gaze, 1979, and Zero.

I was 6 years old at the time and found the Pumpkins’ music both captivating and, as per Billy’s intense monologues in The Everlasting Gaze and Zero, simply awesome. In this account, I plan on expressing many of the frustrations (and praises) of Smashing Pumpkins fans, along with what it means to be one today.

As a super fan that collects all the rarities, looks for the best 90s bootlegs (including Zeitgest-era SP to present), and travels across the country to see the band when it does not come to Florida, I know I’m not alone when I say that Dave (that kid who wrote Billy a letter) has a point as far as there being a definitive possibility that Billy chose to play Oceania in-full in an attempt to prove that he is still relevant as a songwriter and musician; he has on numerous occasions expressed his disdain for his critics.


However, Oceania was originally intended to be listened to track after track – and it is only logical for its creators to present it in a way they believe it should be heard. Furthermore, reviewers have berated the man since the 90s for his nasal, whiny voice and confessional, emotional lyrics–for things that made the Smashing Pumpkins so awesome.

Billy is known for such innovative, grandiose projects. In the late 90s, both he and James Iha stated independently that rock music was becoming boring to play and that the future was in electonica. Today, there has been a renewed interest in his electronic solo-album TheFutureEmbrace (so he says, anyway). For his resolve in continuing to pursue audacious music projects, I respect him for playing Oceania in its entirety–though I favor the first half of the album versus the second half (Tracks 1-4 + The Chimera). But I still disagree with him in his belief that a band cannot be relevant via individual, digital singles and other nonconformist methodologies of releasing albums–for if the music is powerful enough, a band will have its impact and be known–if the music isn’t, it won’t.

Royalty from Childish Gambino, anyone?

Do I empathize with Billy based on the state of commercialized music today? Absolutely, for even if Billy was producing songs at the caliber with which he did when he was 28 (MCIS), the music scene and record labels would still stifle him. Recently, Pumpkins fans are attempting to mobilize and chastize reviewers who criticize the absence of the original line-up, while also making requests to radio channels so that Oceania gets some airtime. These are very interesting ventures in the community to me, as it solidifies a new Pumpkins era – at least in the indie scene. However, for every fan that wants to help SP get back to the top, there are just as many ignorant Smashing Pumpkins fans that only have 1979, Disarm, and Cherub Rock on their iPods. To the casual SP listener, he or she may end up feeling dissatisfied or frustrated with the band’s setlist and the absence of the original line-up (even though Billy wrote nearly all of the material and has been the only consistent member through the years).

When the Pumpkins go on a tour, I immediately check setlist.fm to see what songs are getting played as Billy has an immense catalogue of material to choose from. I say Billy because I’m not sure what input Mike, Nicole, and Jeff have in choosing old songs to play live. To me, most of it is pretty damn good. What this means is that I examine each setlist with a bias. In 2011, it was, “They’re playing Thru the Eyes of Ruby! This is gonna be awesome!” because I knew it hadn’t been played since at least the late 90s. When I told several of my friends who were only casual listeners that they were playing the song, they shrugged their shoulders.

Having such a massive catalogue of good material and varying genres across albums means that Billy has to pick and choose what to play from each. And while this article is in no way being written as a defense for the man, it should be noted that if one determines his satisfaction of a concert based on whether or not Cherub Rock or Disarm or To Sheila got played, he may end up feeling let down.

Is there a cure for this condition for The Pumpkins or any other band?

No, it is a personal paradigm that you as a listener must arrive at. Will you accept the difficulty an older band has in preparing a setlist that encompasses the tastes of its audience (which often includes playing the songs in a way that still sounds good as you get older) or determine your happiness based on whether or not your favorite song from said band was played? Both are understandable beliefs and each will determine your conviction as a fan.

On the use of the band name

Throughout high school I bought into Teargarden by Kaleidyscope and Zeitgeist as a Billy Corgan fan boy even when he kicked Jimmy out of the band again in 2010 (Check out his Rolling Stone interview). I even took my Pre-Calculus test while listening to A Stitch in Time. The question people are still asking after 5 years post-reformation remains: Should Billy call the band The Smashing Pumpkins anymore? I think so, as long as the music he outputs has several key components: emotional singing, enigmatic lyrics, the Big Muff pedal, and LOTS of overdubbing.

In reality, however, The Smashing Pumpkins were gone a long time before returning in 2007–not since 2000, but since 1997. (I did not forget about the Arising shows.) After Jimmy Chamberlin was kicked from the band, Matt Walker was brought in, beginning what remains to be my favorite SP-era. Why?

The explosive and energetic live performances, seamless combination of songs (such as Porcelina of the Vast Oceans and Rocket), and the legendary metal screams from Billy that permeated the majority of the band’s songs. The next year brought with it the melodic studio release Adore, which was categorized by live setlists much more tame in contrast. Machina, on the other hand, was similar to older releases and included heavier shows during the subsequent tour.

These are both respectable and solid SP efforts. But do I listen to these albums? Songs from them, yes. Adore is very dark and lacked the rock anthems that I enjoyed from past albums, while I just didn’t connect with most of the songs on Machina.

There’s a reason why Billy hails Oceania as the band’s best effort since Mellon Collie. Hey maybe there’s several–or a lot more than that–such as the relationships between the band members and the work each member contributed in the studio…

In 2007, Billy and Jimmy reformed the band without James and D’arcy, alienating fans that wanted the early 90s line-up back. They released Zeitgeist, a political album that seemed to lack heart above anything else. In 2008, the band went on a 20th Anniversary Tour where Billy was standoffish and confrontational to crowds that expected Greatest Hits performances (It WAS called the 20th Anniversary Tour…) When Rolling Stone was writing about Billy calling “James Iha” up on stage, I was more annoyed at the fact that he wasn’t using his softer voice when he performed newer and older songs. But that’s just a personal preference.

I have no shame in admitting that what I wanted was young Billy back; I wanted the IMAGE of the band back that expressed every pain, anguish, doubt, fear; every ounce of happiness that I had ever felt in its live performances and  studio recordings. In 2007, I remember reading about Gossamer and how people walked out during it–a song which ultimately evolved into a weapon to separate real fans from “greatest hits fans”. But in the last few years as I delved deeper into SP bootlegs and found a 45 minute version of Silverfuck (played in West Palm Beach in 1997), I realized that Billy is doing the same thing he’s done since he got on stage: bantering and telling some sarcastic, witty jokes.

What’s the problem with that?

The problem is that people had time to go on YouTube and pull out SP’s albums in its absence, developing subconscious opinions about the way the band should look rather than whether or not its members are still producing good, relevant music. Artists are tortured souls to begin with; remaining a driving force in his or her field only exacerbates the pressure they already feel to create quality work. When I saw the band in 2010 at Revolution Live in Ft. Lauderdale (my first concert) and they played Gossamer, I thought it was incredible. Billy, at 43, still sounded decent after singing (and screaming) for over 20 years. He still writes Sabbath-influenced riffs and can pull off a 20 minute jam on stage. However, fans still may not be satisfied. Here’s the reason why:

Many people have an underlying focus on the image of a band rather than on its sound.

There are so many factors that contribute to why there wont be another Gish, Mellon Collie, or Siamese Dream (for those fans who cherish these particular albums). Therefore, any argument defending or criticizing Billy is entirely arbitrary because he’s not miserable, doesn’t have drug-using bandmates/internal drama, and it’s not the 90s anymore, a time in which grunge and alternative rock were still in.

Cherub Rock live at MTV Studios in 1993

If you listen to the applause from 90s bootlegs and look at the propulsion which the press and media generated for the band, you realize that 90s Smashing Pumpkins are one of the only TRUE rock ‘n roll bands. They’ve gone through all the stereotypical stages that rock bands go through: the fame, overdoses, record label pressures, loss of place and regaining of relevance…  (Examples: AC/DC, Hendrix/Morrison, Limp Bizkit, Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc.)

But anyway, here’s my last point.

An overwhelming importance should be placed on continuing to insert emotion in both new material and live performances from any band that is known for such music.

Here comes the bias.

Personally, I believe that there is an emotional void in music today. Popular artists don’t make viewers/listeners feel the way prior ones once did. I believe a successful band shouldn’t just care about tone and pitch–it should care about the feelings its music evokes in the audience and within the bandmates. For instance, Gordon Gano, Billy Corgan, Fred Durst were all societal misfits that used music as a their emotional medium–and all of them achieved widespread success. For all of the aforementioned bands from these musicians [Violent Femmes (now broken up, sadly), The Smashing Pumpkins, and Limp Bizkit, respectively], the only concrete way for any of them to reach the fame they once held is to write music with emotion again– however painful it is–and perform it in the same fashion. For Limp Bizkit that means Fred has to scream again.

Billy Corgan seemed to address this topic recently, saying that he was not going to play older songs the way he did when he was 26. What that means to him is entirely different than what it means to fans. But Billy, I know I’m not alone when I say we love it when you lose control on stage.

To the fans: Start it up around 6:40:

The reality of the situation is that we’re not in the 90s anymore and our favorite frontman is 45 years old. Many of you are not ready to let the memories of 90s Smashing Pumpkins go, whether it includes catching the band live or your nostalgia for your own individual memories that include the band. After all, I’ve listened to the band at so many different points and milestones in my life that I can usually name a song to describe how I was feeling on a particular month within a given year. For me, that’s what makes this band so  special.

Sidenote: If you still have not listened to Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, there are some very strong songs on it. Freak, Cottonwood Symphony, Lightning Strikes, and Spangled do it for me in that order.

I will say (and I tweeted this to Billy after seeing the X.Y.U. performance at Perth) that the band’s most recent line-up is playing the music (both new and old) in a manner almost equivalent to the power of 90s SP. And frankly, that is the only thing that matters for any older band trying to stay relevant. For The Pumpkins, it means bringing back the emotion to songs that seemed played obligatorily at shows in the past. For instance, in 2007 Billy played songs like the ominous b-side The Aeroplane Flies High, like he was doing the audience a favor (fair enough, especially in the case of Luna in 2012).

As a fan I have now been entirely honest with my expectations and hopes for my favorite band. Maybe all of you out there should do the same. For me, Oceania is only a starting point for this new generation of SP–a very limited snapshot of the potential that it holds.

And that’s it!

These views are my opinions that detail the mostly subconscious work of listening to the band that has soundtracked my life since I was a kid. If you can relate or agree, let me know in the comments. If you can’t or don’t, please also let me know. I’m open to differing viewpoints as I continue to understand Billy’s goal with the new music, what the most recent incarnation of the band means to me, and what it means to be a real fan of any band.

Looking for writers

Article by The SPfreaks Team

SPfreaks.com needs your help to fill our new WordPress blog with articles. If possible, we want to get in touch with Smashing Pumpkins fans/writers, and see if they are willing to have their articles, after a little review and editing process, to be published on SPfreaks WordPress.

Next to that, a few years ago, Smashing Pumpkins asked fans to cooperate in a writing contest, and several of those fans were chosen to write on behalf of SmashingPumpkins.com. Unfortunately, after a while, the setup of the website of the band was changed and the writers concept did not come back. Also, there is no Online Archive where we can find and read those well written articles again. We want to host those articles, and this time forever, on SPfreaks WordPress.

While we appreciate all submissions, it will ultimately be up to the discretion of The SPfreaks Team to decide what articles are hosted at SPfreaks WordPress. We presume there are no copyright issues, but we are not sure. Who knows more? Who wants to submit his/her old SP.com article(s) to us? Please contact us at TheSPfreaksTeam.

Thanks for your help, fellow Smashing Pumpkins freaks!