Collecting to the Extreme, Episode 4

Article by Arthur van Pelt

This week we will present a few more items that caught our attention when it comes to extreme collecting. We will go from video props to another extremely rare vinyl test pressing (after we put the spotlight already on a Filipina “Today” jukebox test pressing last week). And we will close today’s article with a one-of-kind Smashing Pumpkins sampler tape, still owned by the first person that received it.

“Tonight, Tonight” video props

When D’arcy Wretzky, former bass player of Smashing Pumpkins, was having a little garage sale on eBay earlier this year (selling some items like sales awards), she also decided to get rid of some video props from “Tonight, Tonight” in a private sale to an American collector.  These video items had remained in her possession since the video was shot halfway the 1990s.

We are sure the “Tonight, Tonight” song needs no further introduction.  But here are the facts about the props for its video.  Throughout the Mellon Collie world tour in 1996 and early 1997, Smashing Pumpkins almost always played their hit single “Tonight, Tonight” with Georges Melies’s 1902 Voyage to the Moon displayed on the background behind the band.  The single, and the video where these props were used, was released on June 11, 1996.

On the 31st of July, 1996, MTV announced  that the Smashing Pumpkins had received no less than eight MTV Video Music Award nominations, mostly for their video of “Tonight, Tonight”, and were scheduled to perform at Radio City Music Hall in New York on September 4, 1996.  They won all the following awards for the highly regarded video: Best Video, Breakthrough Video, Best Direction in a Video, Best Art Direction, Best Special Effects in a Video, and Best Cinematography.  On a sidenote, they also won the Best Alternative Video award for “1979”, adding up to a stunning seven MTV awards in one day.  1996 was quite a remarkable year for the Smashing Pumpkins, but we might come back to that in another article.

On a very personal sidenote, in 2009, “Tonight, Tonight” was one of the two songs played inside the municipal office during the wedding ceremony of the writer of this article.  The other one was a Within Temptation song, picked by the bride.

We invite you to go check where these video props appear in the official video for “Tonight, Tonight”.

Now, let’s continue with one of those extremely rare vinyl test pressings again.

“Tristessa” 12” vinyl test pressing from Germany

With a big thanks to SPFC.org, who transcribed  a 2011 interview with Billy Corgan where he said the following about the song “Tristessa”:

“I was very into Jack Kerouac, and I read a little book by Jack Kerouac called Tristessa, which was about a Mexican prostitute.  And although the song’s not about a Mexican prostitute, I thought it was such a cool title for a song – I’ve always like girls’ names in songs.  Always been attracted to that. Um, like “Caroline, No”, that kinda stuff.  So um, I dunno, it’s kinda vague.  I think it’s about an LSD trip, I’m not really sure.  What I like about Tristessa, in hindsight, is it’s probably similar to “Siva” as – “Siva” & “Tristessa” probably more than any other 2 songs on Gish sort of point the way where the Pumpkins are headed, this very electric, kinetic style.  The use of the guitar as almost like, as Eastern instruments, pulling on the strings, & taking them out of tune, & kind of playing with the harmonics of the guitars, & a lot of open strings, & that, whatever, you know.  People used to say, when they’d come see us live, they’d be like, “I can’t believe there’s only 2 guitars playing.”  Because the style we would play, it would almost sound like there were 3 guitars.  And James & I really learned how to do a certain kind of technique that would sort of make the band sound bigger than the other bands that we might be playing with on the bill.  So, “Tristessa” sorta captures that, that technique & that style. And uh, still play it live, still like the song, so – it must not be too bad.” Billy Corgan, Matt Pinfield interview, Nov. 2011

And what SPFC found in the liner notes of the 2011 Gish reissue:

“Lifted from author Jack Kerouac’s book of the same name, written, I think, about a Spanish prostitute.  I see myself not as a whore, but as a mirrored reflection in the feminine creative mind.  I will await the artist within to come out to play.  I call out her name longingly, coyly.  Maybe I know that the artist in me is indeed meant to be a whore?  Our second single this was, re-recorded to try to clarify an earlier version.  In the trade-off something vital gets lost. I won’t even bother to try to make it better, a shrug of ambivalence.  I have already moved on from her.” Billy Corgan, Gish 2011 re-issue liner notes

“Tristessa”, on vinyl, was released in the US in 1990 as a 7” by Sub Pop. ‘Officialy’, it came in 3 different colors;  black, pink and grey.  For anyone who is interested, in 2011 SPfreaks had an interview with Pette Discographies, a discography site specialising in Sub Pop vinyl, about this colorful 7”. Besides that, “Tristessa” was released in the UK, also by Sub Pop, on a black 12” vinyl in a single run of 5,000 copies.

Oddly, the UK 12” was manufactured in Germany, since Glitterhouse Records (note the little stamp on the sleeve of this test pressing), is located in Beverungen, Germany.  Glitterhouse Records is quite famous in Europe for their releases of David Eugene Edwards’ musical vehicles Sixteen Horsepower and Wovenhand.  Their vinyl test pressing for “Tristessa” was found on an eBay auction a few years ago. And for the moment that’s about everything we know of the background of this extremely rare test pressing.

5 Song Demo (sampler tape for Joe Shanahan, owner of Metro Chicago)

In our first episode of this series we declared “We will not be talking about the early 1989 demo tapes however, as dozens of those cassettes are still known to exist.”.  With this statement we meant the demo tapes that Smashing Pumpkins were selling during live shows.  But Smashing Pumpkins (read: Billy Corgan) was also sending free demo, or sampler, tapes around as a marketing tool in the old days.  One of the earliest tapes known that Billy Corgan produced is pictured above.

This picture, as almost all pictures used in this series, is taken from the online collection of Smashing Pumpkins memorabilia on www.SPfreaks.com.  It shows the plastic box with a Maxell UR 90 cassette inside, in the hands of Joe Shanahan.  The 90 minutes cassette is carrying 5 songs only.  What is the further information SPfreaks provide?

“We think it is fair to believe that this “first demo cassette” that Joe Shanahan, owner of the Chicago based venue Metro, received, is dated around September 1988. Smashing Pumpkins had just played in The Avalon the previous month (last 3 songs on the tape) and the same month too, and had just recorded the first 2 songs presented on this tape. Based on this demo tape Joe invited Smashing Pumpkins to do the 1988/10/05 gig, the very first of a long row of gigs in the years after in Metro. Note that Metro was named Cabaret Metro in these days…” 

The five songs on the sampler tape are:

My Eternity 5:40 
There It Goes 5:01 
Screaming (live) 5:21 
Bleed (live) 5:45 
Armed To The Teeth (live) 6:01

The three live tracks are, as said, recorded during a live show in The Avalon on August 10, 1988. It is unknown at the moment where “My Eternity” was recorded, but “There It Goes” was recorded at Billy’s father house, in his home studio around September 1988. It can be found on Mashed Potatoes too, and it was recently officially released on the Pisces Iscariot reissue deluxe box.

It is fair to assume that this one-of-kind tape, currently owned by Joe Shanahan, will most likely not end up with a collector ‘out there’ anytime soon. When it happens, he or she should be willing to pay something in the four figures, we think.

See you again next week. Keep on dreaming, hunting & collecting!

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2 responses to “Collecting to the Extreme, Episode 4

  1. Pingback: Collecting to the Extreme, Episode 10 | The SPfreaks Team

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