SPfreaks 2012

Article by The SPfreaks Team

MCIS France promo 

Again, what a remarkable year for Smashing Pumpkins fans!  We saw the release of a long awaited follow up to Zeitgeist.  The album, Oceania, is the first album to incorporate recordings from the post 2009 line-up after Jimmy Chamberlin left the band in March 2009.  It was well received by the public and has convinced the band to continue to push forward with plans to release another album already in motion.  Exciting news!

We also saw two of our favorite releases re-mastered and reissued; Pisces Iscariot and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.  Both releases contained an abundance of bonus material and re-imagined artwork. The winner of our contest “Your World of Mellon Collie” is now enjoying the deluxe reissue of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.  Congratulations!

For our part, The SPfreaks Team was able to become more of a presence in the social networking world.  We were able to increase our site visits nearly 150%, simply by reaching out to the community across multiple platforms.  We were able to support the international community by searching, finding, purchasing, and shipping the exclusive Target US-only Celestials 7” with bonus shirt to countries all over the world.  We provided these items at cost, and even provided a few freebies here and there.  We have begun to assemble an elite cast of writers to author articles of differing interests and research.  One of the biggest articles from 2012 revolved around a band that Billy Corgan started with Greg Bates called Coat of Eyes.  A truly remarkable demo tape surfaced, providing song titles and an inside look at this pre-Pumpkins time period. 

Thank You SPfreaks 03

Last but not least, we’d like to highlight not just one, but three impossibly rare releases acquired by some lucky SPfreaks members this year:  First, the almost mythical French Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness promotional 2 CD issued by Delabel.  This was last seen for sale some 5 or 6 year ago and went unnoticed (and cheap!) to an unknown collector.  We were only able to grab some low-fidelity scans of this release to document its existence before it disappeared again.  Rest assured, once received, we will provide appropriate scans that a rare release of this magnitude deserves.

Second, an internal acetate promotional CD was discovered that contained all the mixes of Perfect by Puff Daddy.  These are already widely available you say?  Well the CD also contains Puffy remixes of Ava Adore as well!!!  They have always been rumored, but only confirmed some 14 years after their creation.  For more information on this one-of-a-kind release, please review Collecting to the Extreme, Episode 7.

Third, one of our collectors was kind enough to share pictures of a truly one of a kind possession.  The moon and earth props used in the Tonight, Tonight video!  Obtaining these items was no easy task, but nothing worth obtaining ever is.  Even the hardcore collectors who have almost everything have to sit back in awe at some of the items that have been found in this past year alone.  It’s a great time to be a Smashing Pumpkins fan, and even better if you are a collector of the band’s memorabilia.

At its core, this is what SPfreaks is all about; the community and a communal support for everyone involved.  We need you, and always will!  Help us enjoy and chronicle our favorite band into 2013.  Thanks to the SPfreaks Team for a wonderful year.  Let’s keep it going and rock on!

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Winning Entry for ‘Your World of Mellon Collie’ Contest

Announcement by The SPfreaks Team

We’re pleased to share the winning entry of our contest, with the submitted article and decoupage set below. Our winner is now being sent a copy of the Mellon Collie CD Deluxe Box Set and an SPfreaks t-shirt!

 

The World of Mellon Collie

By: wK

Do you know these guys that “know music”? They’re familiar with every possible band you’ve never heard about, discographies by year, lineup changes, backstories and trivia? They also know their way around the different genres, styles, eras and influences?

Well, I’m sort of that kinda guy.

* * *

The first time I heard “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” was in the summer of 2002, and I had just graduated from highschool. It was a good album with some great hits in it, but nowhere was it as coherent as the previous, grungier, Siamese Dream. The whole thing just seemed too bloated and overly produced for my taste. I had only a few months before recruiting to a mandatory 3-year army service, and had virtually nothing to do with that borrowed time. And, as it happened to be, that summer I fell madly in love with a girl.

* * *

I was always fond of secondary titles appended to the name of a piece of art. If I had to choose one for MCIS it would have been: “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness: Music for the Heartbroken, in E♭”. Because when your heart is ill, you’re not simply depressed. Depression is for when something gets fucked up in your life. But when you are truly heartbroken, you are not merely depressed, you become melancholic. The difference being? Whereas depression is your life played as a monochromatic black-and-white film, melancholy is your life on a colored-canvas painting.

Just for comparison, “The Wall” is an album you want to cut your wrists to; Mellon Collie is an album that lets you know that everything is OK, and makes you feel perfectly fine with your sadness, and even lets you enjoy it in a strange way. Perhaps that’s what Billy meant when he described Mellon Collie as “The Wall for Gen X”.

* * *

So, being the self-proclaimed musical expert that I am, I’m very often asked what my favorite album is, and I always answer, without a second’s hesitation: “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”. “Why?” is the question that almost instantly follows, but it’s always very difficult for me to answer.

Because Mellon Collie isn’t just an ALBUM.

I’ve read somewhere that a great piece of art should conform to the following: It must be universal, introspective, and self-contained. I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with that definition, but I think that Mellon Collie is just that; it can touch your inmost personal experiences and memories, while still providing some insight about the ‘world’. Most importantly, it’s not just a bunch of songs put together – it’s a complete universe.

Sure, there are the 28 songs from the official album, but once you are done with these, you begin to grow an appetite for more. Then you dig a little deeper and find out about long-sold-out “The Aeroplane Flies High” box set. At first you may think it’s an ordinary leftover B-Sides collection, but to your amazement you find 28 MORE songs, and damn! Some of these songs are even better than the ones released on the album. And just when you think that you’ve got your hands on all the stuff that could have possibly been recorded on that era, you stumble upon the demo tapes. The acoustic Sadlands sessions, the Pumpkinland rehearsals, the Gravity demos, the 666 video, a plethora of live performances, and of course the music videography highlighted by “Tonight, Tonight” which may possibly be one of the best music videos of all times.

* * *

The fall came, and my friends and I were staying up all night, getting high and drunk on a daily basis, just the way you’d imagine 18-year-old-soon-to-be soldiers facing the unknown. That was when I rediscovered the Mellon Collie universe, and it became the soundtrack to that weird, wonderful time of my life.

Because Mellon Collie isn’t JUST an album.

It’s about opening the booklet and getting that feeling you had when you were little, reading an old children’s book full of soothing Victorian-era anthropomorphic illustrations.

It’s wanting to learn piano just so you could be able to endlessly play the opening title for yourself; It’s wishing that the Reprise in the end of “Ruby” would never end; It’s being awaken by the mid-“X.Y.U” scream after you’ve fallen asleep just a few songs earlier, Or, if you’re lucky enough, falling asleep to the closing piano of the sweet, sweet lullaby that is “Farewell and Goodnight”, feeling at peace with world, even if for a brief moment.

It’s obsessing about the sold-out vinyl version, going into old record stores hoping they might just have it, even when you know they won’t. It’s constantly trying to find it on eBay at a reasonable price, and when you do, you realize it’s a fake cause you’re already an expert on this subject matter by now.

It’s arguing with fellow MellonColliacs on whether “Marquis in Spades” should have been included in the album; It’s wondering why the hell “The Viper” wasn’t properly recorded; It’s constantly trying to build your own perfect album playlist out of the abundance of songs, only to find out that it’s an impossible mission, because you couldn’t let go of even the most obscure of songs, because you love each and every one of them a little differently.

It’s looking at a cookie-shaped moon, hoping it would smile back at you while you smoke a cigarette in the middle of the night; It’s wanting to tattoo one of icons from the lyrics sheet on your leg.

It’s imagining the girl you love, sitting on a huge star, staring at the skies.

 * * *

With every return of the fall, the little green grass begins to cover the hills on the countryside, the colors of the sunset get a little dimmer, the winter clothes being taken out from the back of the closet – that’s when I put on the pink CD in my little stereo, and with the sound of the C♯ piano chord being played, I begin my annual journey to the land of Mellon Collie.

Significant albums have come and gone during my life, some of which were really, really good. And I do return to some every once in a while. But with Mellon Collie it’s a bit different. Because, well, Mellon Collie isn’t just an album.

* * *

MCIS_Decoupage_Kit (small)

Collecting to the Extreme, Episode 7

Article by Arthur van Pelt
Additional research by Geo Folkers

Last week we ended in Mexico.  We will head back there now to look at an Adore-era live promo CD.  Afterwards, we will journey across the Atlantic Ocean to the United Kingdom to take a look at a rare set of remixes of the Adore singles, “Ava Adore” and “Perfect”.

En Concierto En Mexico (MX promo)

En Concierto en Mexico (limited Mexican-radio promo CD)

This is another Mexican promotional release, which is said to have been released in a very low quantity – only 10 examples (according to one source; read his story below), or 30 (according to another source, some 10 years ago).  It appeared on eBay a few times several years ago, and at auction, it reached prices over $1,500.  Not even the Machina II / The Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music 4CD acetate set from Virgin US (which is pressed in an even lower quantity than En Concierto en Mexico) has ever reached such prices in auction.  This Mexican promotional radio CD contains four songs from the Smashing Pumpkins show at Palacio de los Deportes, Mexico City, on August 11, 1998.  The tracks are “To Sheila”, “Behold! The Night Mare”, “Pug” and “Ava Adore”.  Our conclusion: it is rare as hell, and although it is not unique, it is highly sought.  It is the most expensive Smashing Pumpkins CD release we know of so far.  Some call it “a mythical release”; others call it “the holy grail of Smashing Pumpkins collecting”.

Last month, we were contacted by a Smashing Pumpkins collector who stated the following:

“There seems to be some confusion on your site about the En Concierto en Mexico release.  There are not two versions; the only true version is the Gold Kodak CD-R with the EMI stamp.  The silver CD-R version that you all have listed is not real, it is a fake.  This is why the back insert is noticeably different.  The forger took a close up of another part of the Adore album front cover, and  placed the radio logo on top, adding the Virgin and Hut stamps to make it look more authentic, before putting it up for sale on ebay.  I actually had the name of the forger at one point after he was traced back through his eBay auctions.

Additionally, there are not 30 copies of the genuine En Concierto En Mexico; there are only 10.  It was handed out as a gift to radio station employees for promoting the concert.  Other than a one of kind Siamese Dream multi-colored vinyl pressing, En Concierto En Mexico is the rarest of all official Pumpkins releases.

En Concierto en Mexico was the one item that always eluded me.  There are only a few extremely rare items I have ever failed to own, but it was the only one that simply could not be found.  For a short while I became obsessed with it.  It was so hard to find that at one point, I was even convinced it was just a myth.  I went through a great deal of trouble and effort to authenticate its existence.  I spoke to management at EMI at one point; a friend of mine even visited the radio station and spoke with several employees when he was on vacation in Mexico.  I even attempted to find the item once through some associates that worked at Universal South with connection to Virgin Records management.

Ultimately, the radio station confirmed the ten copies given out as prizes to employees; I do not know how they were given out (raffle, seniority, etc.).  It is possible that a few of the copies were given out as radio prizes to the public.  However, I am certain of the number of copies.  EMI confirmed the authenticity of the item, stating that it was a legitimate release and that the gold Kodak CD-R was in fact genuine.  Virgin had little input other than to agree to the use of the Adore artwork, though this was told to me from memory and was not documented – Virgin basically didn’t know anything about the release.

So, that’s the story.  No official documentation; just an extensive search for what might as well have been the Holy Grail.  I did actually find the CD online once, receiving pictures from an anonymous person.  But, of course, once he realised what he had, this person changed his mind and disappeared into oblivion.  Keep in mind that all this happened twelve or more years ago, so it’s very unlikely that anyone that worked at that radio station is still there.  That’s the biggest problem with this release – it is so rare that it doesn’t seem legitimate and it’s possible that several people just threw it away thinking it was nothing.  I sold my collection back in ’04/’05 but have continued to keep an eye out for this particular item.

For what it’s worth, in all my seventeen plus years of collecting the Smashing Pumpkins, I have only seen it once; it is very likely that only a few copies may be left.  In my opinion, it’s rarer than any of the early cassette demos.  If people actually knew of the existence of En Concierto en Mexico, there is no way to tell how much it might be worth.”

(Disclaimer: since we have not yet double-checked this story with previous or current owners of this release (they are really hard to find!), we cannot yet confirm these claims. We hope to have confirmation soon.  Also, upon hearing these claims, we immediately updated the online collection entry for this item.  We too felt uncertain about its authenticity.)

This article contributes to an existing discussion on our forums about this truly rare release. We also would like to invite you, as always, to send your findings and experiences via email to  TheSPfreaksTeam.

Remixes (UK inhouse promo)

Remixes (Hut Recordings UK: in-house reference CD)

At a first, superficial, glance this looks like a label’s in-house promo.  These pop up on the market every now and then.  Most of the time, nothing interesting can be found on them, since they (almost) always contain tracks that have been released commercially.  Not in this case however…  This is not just the only known copy of this CD, it is also stuffed with unreleased material from the Smashing Pumpkins’ remixing vault.

On a second, more thorough glance, you can start to realise what is going on.  On this Hut Recordings CD from the UK, the much-rumoured yet never-released “Ava Adore” mixes by Puff Daddy (a.k.a. Puffy) make an appearance.  It took a stunning 13 years to finally confirm the existence of these tracks.  What was the history behind the Puffy remixes?

In this Billboard magazine article, dated January 16, 1999, it was announced that Sean “Puffy” Combs had booked several studios for various projects, including a remix of the Smashing Pumpkins’ song “Ava Adore”.  This was all taking place in the fall of 1998 (note that the CD was manufactured in Summer 1998, as the last line states “Copied From CDR 13.07.98”).

Billboard magazine 19990116

The remixed track has not yet seen the light of day.  And for a long time, this left a question of whether the “Ava Adore” project was actually followed through on.  Was it cancelled somewhere down the road?  Did Sean “Puffy” Combs call it quits halfway the project?  Or did Billy Corgan decide not to approve the mix(es)?  Were they deleted or otherwise destroyed in the studio?  Or were they put on the studio shelves somewhere?  We now know the latter to be true, thanks to the existence of this reference CD with the four different “Ava Adore”mixes.

Note that there are two mixes for “Perfect” by Sean “Puffy” Combs on the CD too.  They have not yet been commercially released.  We already knew about the “Perfect” remixes for a while; they were found on this extremely rare Virgin acetate CD (which also contains a third mix by Puff Daddy for “Perfect”).

A year ago, Billy Corgan alluded to (one of) the Puffy remix(es) for “Ava Adore” on Twitter . He tweeted about listening to the “Ava Adore” Puffy remix on December 17, 2011.  We don’t know which one of the four remixes on the CD this was.  Maybe the one that is ‘Puffy’s choice’?  Or maybe Corgan is just as unaware of the four different mixes as we were?

Billy tweet Ava Adore remix (small)

It is currently unclear whether any of the Sean “Puffy” Combs remixes for “Ava Adore” and “Perfect” are going to be released as (a) bonus track(s) with the Adore album reissue in 2013.  If we understand Corgan’s reference, we have to conclude there is one high on the list of options.  And we hope they will be released, because they sound freakin’ awesome…

See you again next year with more episodes, have a happy and peaceful Christmas and a rockin’ New Year in the meantime!

Revisiting the Live Compilations No 3

Compiled by Arthur van Pelt
Hosting by Alberto 


I don’t have to play by these rules or do these things… I can actually have my own kind of version.” (1)

Between 2008 and 2010, SPfreaks put together 4 compilations of Smashing Pumpkins live songs and made these available as mp3s. In these months we present a run-down of them. #3 was originally posted on 2009.11.28. For all these live compilations, jewelcase artwork has been created. The artwork is included in the downloads.

The booklets need to be printed @ 240 mm x 120 mm & folded to fit inside a jewelcase. The back inlays need to be printed @ 150 mm x 117,50 mm, then folded 6.5 mm from the sides, to fit inside a jewelcase.

596.18 MB of Smashing Pumpkins renditions of their own songs are here for your listening pleasure:

Tracklist Part I, the acoustic renditions

01. – 03:02 – I’ll Never Change – (1990, exact date and location unknown)
02. – 03:27 – Obscured – (1991-09-??, Hotel room LondonUK)
03. – 04:53 – Snail – (1991-09-??, Hotel room LondonUK)
04. – 05:24 – Suffer – (1991-09-??, Hotel room LondonUK)
05. – 04:01 – Spaceboy – (1993-06-30, VPRO Radio Studio Villa 65, Hilversum NL)
06. – 06:17 – Starla – (1993-07-04, Raymond Revue Bar, LondonUK)
07. – 04:42 – Cherub Rock – (1993-12-12, Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles US)
08. – 06:39 – Hummer – (1993-12-12, Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles US)
09. – 05:35 – Rocket – (1993-12-12, Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles US)
10. – 04:01 – Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness – (1995, MTV US unaired footage, unknown date)
11. – 06:51 – Soma – (1996-01-31, Soma, San Diego US)
12. – 04:22 – Eye (feat. Marilyn Manson) (1997-10-18, Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View US)
13. – 07:58 – X.Y.U. – (1997-10-18, Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View US)
14. – 03:50 – Today – (2000-02-17, Tree Studio, Atlanta US)
15. – 05:07 – I Of The Mourning – (2000-04-03, WKQX-FM Studios, Chicago US)
16. – 03:06 – Blissed And Gone (feat. The Frogs) – (2000-12-02, Metro, Chicago US)
17. – 13:00 – Gossamer – (2007-06-05, Spandau Citadel, BerlinDE)
18. – 03:55 – Bleeding The Orchid – (2007-07-10, XM Live Performance Studio, WashingtonUS)
19. – 07:05 – United States – (2007-07-10, XM Live Performance Studio, WashingtonUS)
20. – 03:05 – Disarm (feat. Josh Groban) – (2008-10-26, Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View US)

Tracklist Part II, the electric renditions

01. – 07:28 – Sun – (1989-03-16, WZRD-FM Studio, Chicago US)
02. – 04:16 – Rhinoceros – (1991-07-19, Club Babyhead, Providence US)
03. – 03:21 – Today – (1992-08-31, Kleine Markthalle, Hamburg DE)
04. – 09:44 – Starla – (1993-08-14, Metro, Chicago US)
05. – 13:15 – Silverfuck + Bye June – (1993-08-24, Melody, Stockholm SE)
06. – 02:54 – Disarm – (1993-09-00, Westwood Studios, LondonUK)
07. – 07:21 – Pissant + outtro – (1993-10-05, First Avenue, MinneapolisUS)
08. – 04:42 – Window Paine – (1993-12-11, Bogart’s, Cincinnati US)
09. – 08:06 – I Am One – (1994-08-28, Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View US)
10. – 06:22 – Mayonaise – (1996, exact date and location unknown)
11. – 06:34 – By Starlight – (1997-01-08, GM Place, VancouverCA)
12. – 40:13 – Silverfuck – (1997-02-01, Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte US)
13. – 04:58 – The End Is The Beginning Is The End – (1997-06-27, Glastonbury Festival, GlastonburyUK)
14. – 09:20 – The Aeroplane Flies High – (1997-07-04, Eurokennes Festival, Belfort FR)
15. – 14:01 – For Martha – (1998-05-28, BotaniqueGardens, Brussels BE)
16. – 08:58 – Crestfallen – (1998-06-19, Circular Quay, Sydney AU)
17. – 08:50 – Blank Page – (1998-08-04, Fox Theatre, Atlanta US)
18. – 12:05 – X.Y.U. – (1998-10-31, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles US)
19. – 05:47 – Zero + outtro – (2000-01-24, Vredenburg, Utrecht NL)
20. – 04:17 – Pug – (2000-05-24, Community Theatre, Berkeley US)
21. – 07:46 – Ava Adore – (2000-10-27, Valby Hallen, Copenhagen DK)
22. – 10:34 – Cash Car Star + covers medley – (2008-02-05, Hallenstadion, Zurich CH)

Notes on this release. (also included in the artwork as a leaflet)

It’s starting to become a tradition, creating these Smashing Pumpkins Live Compilations… And with pleasure this third one was made, let me tell you. I consider this renditions release as the best so far (and the other 2 were already hard to top!), with a stunning amount of 42 Smashing Pumpkins live tracks that highlight every aspect of Pumpkins playing live. At first I mixed the (semi-) acoustic tracks with the more rocking electric tracks, but that didn’t really create a good listening atmosphere, to my humble opinion. So for that reason, I split up the release in 2 parts. But how did I decide about every one of the 42 tracks? Let me explain about a few of them.

Part I, track 1 is a joke, obviously. The irony of the title “I’ll Never Change” just asked for being the starter of this release…  This rather unknown Smashing Pumpkins song was taken from Mashed Potatoes. “Obscured”, “Snail” and “Suffer” from that London Hotel room session couldn’t be missed when we talk about acoustic renditions of Gish era songs. And when it is hard to decide which one should be added, you just throw them all in, right?

“Cherub Rock” and the other 2 titles from the 1993-12-12 gig were chosen for the integration of a cello in the sound. It works quite well, and I hope you guys listening to it, think the same. “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness” was chosen for it’s rarity, I think not many fans know about the existence of unaired 1995 MTV footage that is out there. It was taken from the David Mead Compilation digital-only boot that can be found sometimes on torrent sites.

Also I wanted to pick some Smashing Pumpkins tracks that were done live with other artists (that can be considered a rendition also, right?), that’s why “Eye”, “Blissed And Gone” and “Disarm” are on the list for Part I. All in all, Part I gives a great overview of the acoustic brilliance that the Smashing Pumpkins achieve playing live. Again, just my humble opinion. But I hope you guys have a great listening experience, and appreciate my choices again so far!

Part II is focused on the electric songs, and I didn’t give a shit throwing in some same titles when I thought it would be appropriate for renditions’ sake. That’s why you will find “X.Y.U.”, “Disarm”, “Starla”, “Today” and “Silverfuck” in 2 redone versions. I wonder who will survive the famous 40 minutes version of that last track…  Oh, talking about “Today”, the electric version is maybe not the best recording quality, but do you notice how old that song actually is? And what about the instrumental middle part? Awesome!

Furthermore, “Sun” in an even longer early live version than on the Light Into Dark release, many Adore era songs since I had the idea that this era was not highlighted enough on the previous two Live Compilations, and may I point you already to the angry grunting metal version of “Ava Adore”? Man, I love that version, it’s perfect! “I Am One” from the 1994-08-28 gig was chosen for the very different rant. Even little parts of an early “Zero” can be heard, and Billy Corgan was definitely not that much into God and cornflakes as he turned out to be later in his career.

And now I want to put a little spotlight on “Pissant”. “Pissant” was released on the Siamese Dream album in Japan only, on the “Cherub Rock” single and on the b-sides album Pisces Iscariot too. Meaning, the song “Pissant” is not that well-known, and it wasn’t played live many times either. Only the few visitors to a handful of gigs had the chance and the pleasure to get to know this song in a live rendition. This 1993-10-05 recording of “Pissant” shows the Pumpkins weirdness during the introduction of Jimmy during the song, and the outtro that I just had to add… And with the blues-rock version of “Window Paine” directly following it, damn, this is good!

Final thingy I want to explain, is the song “X.Y.U.”, why I put it twice on this release. The almost acoustic version is already very rare, and good too, but when the Smashing Pumpkins played as “The Beatles” as opening act for Kiss in the Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, on 1998-10-31, they decided to redo “X.Y.U.” almost completely. Be prepared for an almost new song! It is one of my favourite Smashing Pumpkins live tracks of all times. The quality is quite decent, since it comes from the Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music (60m cassette). Info found online about this famous demo/boot cassette:

From a 60m cassette given by BC to an online fan in April 2000, with instructions to “circulate these”. The compilation was originally to be a 90m tape, but it got screwed up, so he dug up the Gravity demos instead, and made this 60m tape the next day. Two tracks were cut, on the end of each side… “Well, tough shit.”

I’m sure this Renditions Live Compilation is no “tough shit” but “extremely enjoyable shit”. Have fun!

Download this excellent selection of Smashing Pumpkins songs performed live here.

(1) the quote is again noted down from Billy Corgan’s mouth.

SPfreaks Contest Update – Your World of Mellon Collie

Announcement by The SPfreaks Team

MCIS box set cover art

December 15th was the deadline for the contest that we started on October 7th. We asked you to write an essay called “The World of Mellon Collie”, and add a decoupage set to the essay. The essay was to be between 1,000 and 2,500 words long. Members of the SPfreaks Team were not eligible to enter the contest.

The contest has been highly anticipated since early October, and we noticed multiple positive responses on the Smashing Pumpkins forum, Twitter, and above all, Facebook. However, in the meantime we were unable to have a band member of Smashing Pumpkins participate in the judging of our contest.

As a result, we will now judge the contest submissions within the SPfreaks Team. Accordingly, we will be able to announce a winner much earlier than previously expected. Instead of between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we will now have a winner announced by Friday the 21st! The winner will also be contacted at the email used to submit their entry.  So keep your eyes peeled on this blog,  and we will see you again on Friday!

Internet Killed the Video Star

Article by Corenski Nowlan

 JIha

I used to think that James Iha was a girl. There. I said it. Not a particularly attractive female but none the less not packing man parts. I was twelve (the highly hormonal age) when the music video for “Today” was playing in high rotation. James Iha’s cross dressing raised recess debates among the kids in my sixth grade class who were cool enough to watch Much Music (or were allowed to by their parents). In my defense, I was a notch above my classmates on the gender identification scale, because I did point out James’ flat chest, and dirt-stache. Recognizing masculine cheeks bones and jaw lines was beyond me. I settled the argument when I purchased Siamese Dream (on cassette!). Upon review of the liner notes, we determined that Billy, James, and Jimmy were man names. D’Arcy was the only girl name, and obviously she was the hot blonde…

It was a different time. There was no Wikipedia. No internet domestically available and the general public really, really adored the Smashing Pumpkins. The band could do little or no wrong especially when it came to their music videos. In the second half of the 90’s, the media’s love affair with the band dwindled but what did not change was the acclaim that their music videos amassed. Adore, and Machina / The Machines of God were not received favorably by critics or fans, but music videos for the songs “Ava Adore”, and “The Everlasting Gaze” are fan favourites from the band’s catalogue. They achieved a lasting legacy that is arguably larger than that of the songs, or of the albums that spawned them.

This is the reason why the image of James Iha in a dress was not permanently and irreparably imprinted on pop culture. To clarify what I mean, I present Exhibit A – the Hanson brothers. When the video for “MMMBop” dropped, it was universally accepted that the lead singer of this new teenie-pop band was a prepubescent girl. I would wager that anyone who was in a middle school or high school in 1997 probably heard at least one presumably hetero-boy decree, “that chick from Hanson is hot!” I knew one guy in high school who had a straight up crush on Taylor Hanson. He was a cousin of mine, and judging from late night, drunken jokes by old acquaintances, it is apparent that he has not yet lived down this ill informed infatuation. Hanson will always be remembered for the gender ambiguity represented in their first music video. Always. I mean like, it’s the first thing most people think of when they think of Hanson, even fifteen years later.

When the lineup for the super group, Tinted Windows was announced, I still heard people express, “the singer is that guy from Hanson, who looks like a girl,” or something to that general effect. James Iha though? He was James Iha from the Smashing Pumpkins, no attachments of androgyny in anyone’s remembrance. It should also be noted that Taylor wasn’t purposely trying to look like a girl. So why have such gender confused connotations stuck with him, but not James? I assert that it is because the Smashing Pumpkins’ music video library is so awesome, that everyone forgot about how unflattering that dress was on James. Baby blue and one of his shortest ever haircuts; really? Hard to believe that the man is now an up-to-the-minute fashionista of the New York art scene.

Of course I’m bordering on the playful, ludicrous side. Apart from young children, no one really thought James was a woman. Additionally, cross dressing was actually a thing in 90’s music videos, popularized by Nirvana, perfected by Marilyn Manson. No one pokes fun at Dave Grohl, same as they don’t at James Iha. Now, Taylor Hanson… unfortunately I wasn’t joking about. With that said, I humbly concede, in full awareness that I have exhausted the gag. I will, however, say that glam-rock James from “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, zombie James from “Zero”, or vampire-count James from “Ava Adore” are ultimately more compelling personas than summer dress James from “Today”.

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The Smashing Pumpkins arguably perfected the art of the music video, proving that it could indeed be an art form, and not just a corporative-mandated commercial. The band boasts one of the most eclectic collections of clips that any group has ever produced. They have invoked the guises of hippie, hipster, glam, and goth. Their videos range in quality from good to bad to downright incredible. Grainy, atmospheric, low budget indie pieces like “Siva” are reminiscent of decades past. Flashy, futuristic, digitally over-edited pop culture run amuck hodgepodges like “The End is the Beginning is the End” is the bastard child that every 90’s band seems to have (sad to admit that as it’s one of my favourite songs). Then there are gems like “Tonight, Tonight”, which are genuinely gorgeous works of film making, and do what great music videos should do; act as a visual companion to enhance a song’s message and meaning.

There were people who made mantra, the lyric, “video killed the radio star,” (The Buggles 1979) alleging videos were making music secondary to image. The cultural impact of the visual medium is up for debate, but in terms of my favourite band there is a truism at work that cannot be denied; the original Smashing Pumpkins lineup is more memorable than the new lineup, and it is partially because of music videos. The classic lineup is beloved not only by fans, but by the public at large. Anyone nostalgic for the 1990’s is susceptible to bouts of giddiness should they see that tire from the beginning of “1979” start a rollin’. James Iha, D’arcy Wretzky, and Jimmy Chamberlain are every bit as synonymous the average person’s vision of the Smashing Pumpkins as Billy Corgan. If you watched MTV or Much Music in the 90’s, you probably have a mental composite of the band that is made up of screen shots from their various music videos.

Since the reformation of the band in 2007, the Smashing Pumpkins have been plagued by bad press simply due to the absence of a couple of first generation members. In 2009, the criticism was perpetuated by the departure of another legacy member, Jimmy Chamberlin. Since then, Billy Corgan has been the only familiar face, even though Jeff Schroeder has been in the band for nearly six years. The newest album, Oceania, and its supporting tour, have been positively reviewed more than anything Corgan has done since the mid 90’s, but is it helping to change public perception? A common phrase associated with the new lineup is “rent-a-band.” There’s Not-James Iha, Obligatory-Hot Girl on Bass #… (ah, well we lost count of bassists, but who cares she’s hot!), and Not-Jimmy Chamberlain, who’s like a sixteen year old kid that worked at McDonald’s or something. Or so the legend goes…

MelissaInternetVideoStarMember changes are nothing new to the Smashing Pumpkins. Chamberlin had his infamous hiatus in the second half of the 90’s, but to be fair the video for “Ava Adore” is so damn awesome that no one really noticed Jimmy wasn’t in it. Am I wrong? In 1999, Melissa Auf Der Maur made personnel swapping look effortless, as she replaced D’Arcy without reappraisal. For me, the transition was so flawless due to the splendidly stunning videos for “The Everlasting Gaze”, and “Stand Inside Your Love”. Then skip ahead to “Tarantula”. Enter Jeff and Ginger. Meh. “That’s the Way (My Love Is)”? Passe. “G.L.O.W.”? It’s alright. “Superchrist”? Pointless. “Owata”? Oh, what a beautiful fright… like “Try, Try, Try”, “Owata’s” real downfall was that it did not feature the band. At least Billy appeared in “Try, Try, Try”, but his scenes were randomly thrown in and not visually cohesive. It felt tacked on. So what’s wrong with the Zeitgeist-era videos? I am apparently one of the rare fans who actually really likes the album, but the music videos are nothing special. Not terrible, just not as good as the earlier videos, or as artistically inspired. So are the new videos toss-aways, or have they not been given a fair chance? The older videos were overplayed on TV and in the DVD players of fans who have the video collection. Is the quality of the videos the issue, and if so, is that due to budget restraints? Quality directors, props, etc are expensive. The Smashing Pumpkins no longer have major label backing, not that the big guns put forth much in the way of funds for music videos these days. There’s no money in it. No revenue from advertisers, because music video stations are all but dead. Can we blame the internet, and in particular YouTube? When I was a teenager, I would turn on Much Music, and a VJ would tell me that a new Smashing Pumpkins video was coming up. That could mean it would be the next to air, or it could be another half an hour, or hour away. If I wanted to see the video, I had no choice but to continue watching their network, and sit through whatever tripe the programming gods saw fit to subject me to (*cough*… Hanson). Technology has empowered people with the ability to watch what they want, when they want.

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of options when it comes to watching the new Smashing Pumpkins. There’s lots of live material, but it makes me envious of the crowd, and a little angry about how economically and geographically disadvantaged I am (I’m sort of poor, and a ten hour drive from any major concert destination). It pains me because I so badly want to see the current lineup in action. My exposure to the new members has been minimal. I still vividly remember the old band. I love them because they are permanently etched in the inner reaches of mind. I cannot let go of them because I have consumed copious amounts of media displaying James, D’Arcy, Jimmy, and Melissa, every bit as prominently as Billy. The Smashing Pumpkins were not just rock stars, they were pop icons. They were one of those scarce few bands to whom image was as important as the music, without the image overshadowing the music.

The new SP

The fact is, there’s not a lot of official media featuring the new members. Thanks to repeated viewings of If All Goes Wrong, I’m pretty comfortable with Jeff, and I was comfortable with Ginger. I’m not really familiar with Nicole and Mike. Never saw them  live. They haven’t appeared in any music videos. There’s no DVD which features them. Back in the 90’s the full band used to do interviews together all of the time. That’s not the case with the new lineup. Billy almost exclusively handles all television appearances radio, and print interviews. I’m not one of those people who bemoan the new band, and are resentful that they are not the old band. I’m very much the opposite; I love everything they’ve done since the reformation. I want to like the new members, I just have not had an opportunity to really get used to seeing them, and thinking about them as being the Smashing Pumpkins.

Consider this an open letter to the band. Showcase this new incarnation! Make music videos. Please! Make me love Jeff, Nicole, and Mike! Depict them as so epic that it erases my memory of the old members. If it’s a matter of money, try on the crowd sourcing phenomenon, or recruit help from the uber-talented, obsessively dedicated SP fan base. Perhaps I am being foolishly nostalgic, but I believe in my favourite band. They’ve abandoned a medium which they helped to define. The medium is not as relevant as it once was, but I believe that it could be redefined, and I believe the Pumpkins could be the band that does it. So here’s to wishing that “The Celestials” or “Panopticon” get the old school music video treatment they deserve.

Timid Steps in Charming Harmonious Balance

Review of James Iha (live 06 December 2012, Bitterzoet, Amsterdam) by Sven Schlijper
Also published in Dutch on KindaMuzik.net, translation to English by Vaughn Bayley
Additional live show photos by Jeroen Savelkouls

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As the guitarist for The Smashing Pumpkins, James Iha took his place on the stages of the largest concert halls and festivals in the world.  Following the break-up of the Chicago band in the year 2000, the guitarist returned to the public eye with A Perfect Circle, and lent his string-strumming skills and composition talents to the likes of Vanessa and the O’s and Tinted Windows.  It may now be fourteen years after his solo debut Let It Come Down, but the follow-up, Look to the Sky, has finally landed.  The album brings Iha to Europe for four concerts, among them, a performance at the Amsterdam Bitterzoet.

Iha does not have so much experience gracing the stage alone; this year, he will perform about twenty of them.  In the limited time available at these performances, the singer-songwriter does his best to entertain the audience with droll anecdotes, demonstrating that he has a clear sense of humour: often, he is the butt of his own jokes.  With a giggle from the crowd and a concert halls complete with tables and chairs, Iha knows exactly how to create a cosy atmosphere and where to land his softer numbers.

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As if singing to himself, Iha opens the performance at the Bitterzoet with the single ‘Be Strong Now’.  A little more courage and bravado could certainly not have done any harm; as if apprehensive that the microphone would devour his vocal chords, Iha whispers his lyrics.  After a choice selection of recent material that still reflects the soft, romantic focus of his debut, the audience jump to their feet for nothing more than a cover (‘Dancing Barefoot’ by Patty Smith) that Iha sings with relish.

Iha’s songs lean heavily on sweet melodies and rippling rhythms; furious explosions of power chords are nowhere to be seen.  The fragile figure makes it clear that he was responsible for the typically ingenious harmonious intertwining and the often surprisingly recalcitrant elements synonymous with The Smashing Pumpkins and concerts with A Perfect Circle.  If you need to put James Iha in a nutshell, this is what you include.

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Expanding in public view is never easy for anyone, but a concert is anything but torture for James Iha.  The longer he surrounds himself with his own songs, the more he feels at home and trusts himself; The Smashing Pumpkins number ‘Mayonaise’, which Iha co-authored, is given a glowing rendition.  Paying homage to David Bowie in the form of his ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll with Me’, Iha and his two band-mates loosen the reigns a little.  By way of a closing statement, Iha makes it clear that as he sees it, rock does not reach its zenith with shock and awe, but by putting harmonious charm in the front line.

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