Article by Arthur van Pelt
Let’s continue our journey that we started last week with three more rare Smashing Pumpkins items. Today we will bring you extremely rare vinyl pressing plates, an unknown but official Machina II/The Friends And Enemies Of Modern CD release and Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (+ singles) made by a CD pressing plant employee who was obviously toasted.
Lull 12’’ vinyl pressing plates
The Lull EP, with the tracks “Rhinoceros”*, “Blue”, “Slunk” and “Bye June”, is a somewhat unknown Smashing Pumpkins release from 1991. Produced by Billy Corgan and Butch Vig, it was mastered at Masterdisk Corporation, New York by Howie Weinberg (who, in January 2011, left Masterdisk to open Howie Weinberg Mastering in Los Angeles). The EP was licensed from Caroline Records, Inc. and distributed by RTM/APT. We know of a few countries worldwide where the CD release was pressed (UK, US, Japan and Australia), but the 12” black vinyl was only pressed in the UK, and that is where these pressing plates are from. How they ended up on the streets, we don’t know. They are the only Smashing Pumpkins vinyl pressing plates we know of that are in private hands. We know that an American collector obtained them in the 1990s, selling them to a UK collector several years ago. A few months ago, the plates were sold again to another American collector who had them signed by Billy Corgan, who was “very surprised to see them”.
* “Rhinoceros” is the edited Gish album version.
Machina II/The Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music (Billy Corgan handwritten CD)
Machina II/The Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music (hereafter referred to as Machina II) is known to have three more or less official CD pressings. There is the Q101 promotional release of 2,000 numbered copies, and there are the (extremely limited!) Virgin US and Virgin UK promotional sets. So what should we think of the piece pictured above? It does not receive any mention in the detailed Wikipedia article on Machina II, despite a thorough list of release sources. However, around 2003, on a record fair in Utrecht, The Netherlands, this rare CD, with its handwritten track-listing, appeared in a box stuffed with second hand CDs. The seller had absolutely no clue what he was holding on to, and the CD, together with a promotional letter from Virgin Schallplatten GmbH, was acquired for a very small amount.
The CD contains all 14 tracks of what is known as CR-04, the Machina II full album, while CR-01 to CR-03, the vinyl EPs that accompanied the Machina II vinyl album, are not included. CR stands for Constantinople Records, and released only these records and the limited CD Live at the Cabaret Metro 10-5-88, given away at the then-final show at the Metro, Chicago in December, 2000. The handwriting belongs to Billy Corgan, but it is copied from another source. The letter from Virgin, Germany, explains (in our translation from the German):
“The setlist [of the German tour] also consists of some tracks from the internet-only album Machina II/The Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music, presented in the media as the “final fuck you” from the Smashing Pumpkins to the band label. The quote is absolutely not accurate, as Billy Corgan repeatedly expressed to us when we accompanied him on the tour.”
So what is the history of this CD release of Machina II? While it is presumably not the only one of its kind, only one copy is known to exist so far! A further look into the technical details of the tracks on the CD tell us that they are sourced from the vinyl rips that were initially made by Eric Agnew, founder of SPFC.org, one of the most respected Smashing Pumpkins fan sites worldwide. How do these tracks end up on a Virgin Germany promotional release, together with Billy Corgan’s handwriting?
Machina II was released on vinyl on September 5, 2000 in a limited run of 25 copies. At the same time, Constantinople Records issued a press release, stating:
“MACHINA II/the friends and enemies of modern music, the final album from The Smashing Pumpkins, has been released. The album is the companion piece to MACHINA/the machines of God. Both were recorded at the same time, and the new album completes the story of a rock star gone mad. MACHINA II/the friends and enemies of modern music allows fans to be the record company by distributing the music for free via various fan web sites. In addition to the album, there are 3 EPs which feature alternate versions of MACHINA songs, as well as outtakes. The band only pressed 25 copies each of four distinct pieces; one 12-inch LP, and three 10-inch EPs. The records are only available on vinyl, each uniquely numbered and signed by hand etching in the out groove.”
Eric Agnew, a close friend of the band, was one of the lucky few to receive one of these vinyl copies, with the instruction to immediately redistribute the songs on the Internet, free of charge. Eric ripped the vinyl on a Sony PS-LX150H turntable and spread the MP3 set as instructed. A little more than a week after the release of Machina II, Smashing Pumpkins continued their farewell tour in Europe, starting with several gigs in Germany. Agnew joined the band on this part of the tour and brought his set of ripped Machina II songs to Europe. Billy Corgan used these rips as a gift to Virgin Schallplatten GmbH. As the letter with the cd explains further “It was Corgan himself who – to underline his statement – handed us a Master CD after the last concert in Munchen with precisely that new Internet-only album. He asked us to copy the album and use it as a so-called “farewell-gift” for our media partners and friends.” And that’s how it went. Virgin Germany made several copies of the handwritten tracklist, and sent these promotional copies around in October 2000, most presumably in Germany only. One of the people that received this gift decided to let go of his/her copy, and that’s how it ended up with a CD seller on a Dutch record fair.
Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (Mis-pressed colour CDs)
In general, collectors highly appreciate the existence of mis-pressings. SPfreaks knows of several of them when it comes to Smashing Pumpkins releases. One of the most notable are the colour mis-pressings of the CD album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, where the colours of CD1 (Dawn to Dusk) and CD2 (Twilight to Starlight) were switched. We know of such mis-pressings coming from Canada, Korea and Mexico. The picture above shows the mis-pressing on top, with the correct colour scheme below. Rare? Yes. One of a kind? Most probably not. But certainly worth a mention here, and an obvious focus point when it comes to extreme collecting.
A few singles from the Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness album have a different colour scheme on their CD pressings too. We know of “Thirty-Three”, pictured below, for example. Both of these CDs were pressed in The Netherlands, where the white version was most presumably used for an official release in Thailand, since that is where it was found. The red version is how the “Thirty-Three” CD single was released in the rest of the world in November 1996.
And what to think of this official Korean CD pressing of “Zero”? The single for the song “Zero” was released in April 1996 in the US, Canada and Mexico, but only in August 1996 in the rest of the world. Below, on the left, is visible that the official colour scheme of the “Zero” CD release was somewhat freely interpretated in Korea. The image on the right shows the Dutch CD pressing, as it can be found in many other countries too.
So far for the mis-pressings and (un-?)intended changes in colour schemes of official Smashing Pumpkins CD pressings. Please feel invited to send your findings to TheSPfreaksTeam@gmail.com with a clear description and pics or scans with your story. Meanwhile, see you again next week with more rare Smashing Pumpkins items!