Article by Arthur van Pelt and Vaughn Bayley
We have reached episode 10 of this series focusing on the rare and unique. Still enjoying it, dear readers? Because we are! There is so much to find in the worldwide memorabilia archives of Smashing Pumpkins, it is almost unbelievable. And when it comes to describing it and giving it context in the musical history of an alternative rock band that has already been around for 25 years, it is a great honor. Wait! Did we say 25 years? We did, didn’t we? Why didn’t we see a celebration of that remarkable feat? How many bands can say they have reached their 25th Anniversary? Hmmm… Or maybe neither the band nor its management has read the article about the founding year of Smashing Pumpkins yet?
Either way, today we are checking out another Smashing Pumpkins CD album (anyone remember Gish two weeks ago?), on the basis of its test pressing. But before we go there, we are going to take a gander at a French live promo CD from 1995 called Live in Chicago 23.10.95. This promo itself is undoubtedly very rare (it came with a limited batch of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness CDs in France only), but its acetate is even more so; thus far we have only seen 2 or 3 copies enter the collectors’ market. But first of all, here is an image of the standard promo. This will surely make a lot of collectors drool, right?
And not without reason; this French cardsleeve promo, which contains five live songs, is highly sought after. It hardly ever gets listed on eBay these days, so the prices soar when it does make an appearance. What does this mean for its acetate, the in-house promo pressing pictured below, that was manufactured by Hut Recordings in the United Kingdom?
Both the French promo CD and the UK acetate CD of Live in Chicago 23.10.1995 (note that the date is not mentioned on the Hut Recordings pressing) contain five of the six opening tracks of the October 23, 1995 concert in the Riviera Theater, Chicago (IL).
Why was it decided that this exact Chicago concert should be used for a promotional CD that was added to the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness release? First, Chicago is the home base of Smashing Pumpkins. Secondly, the date of the concert; October 23, 1995 was the release date of the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness album. Finally, the opening of the concert gave the band access to some of the Smashing Pumpkins biggest hit singles, and three of the five songs included on the promo are to be found on the album; “Tonight, Tonight”, “Zero” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”. Note that all three of these songs became singles for the album in 1995 and 1996, starting with “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” when the album was released!
The recording lacks one of the first six songs played at the concert. Also a track from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, “Jellybelly” was played as the second song at the concert, but was left off this promo. And of course, we can’t help but wonder why. Was it something as simple as difficulties with the recording? Or are there deeper mechanisms at work. We know that Billy Corgan had originally considered “Jellybelly” as a first-release single for Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, believing it was more typical Smashing Pumpkins fare than “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”. Could it be that “Jellybelly” does not appear on the live CD as a sign of commitment to “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”? While we can’t be certain, this is our best guess.
It is not very likely that the acetate pressing of Live in Chicago 23.10.1995 will hit the market very often, because of its extreme rarity. When it does however, expect it to be very expensive; we have seen it go at auction for several hundreds of US dollars.
We have already discussed several test pressings (“Tristessa” on vinyl, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and “Untitled” on CD, among others). But we also know about a test pressing CD for the Adore album, pictured above.
For an in-depth article about the Adore album, we would like to refer you to Wikipedia. What is noteworthy about this Smashing Pumpkins album, is the number of people who collaborated with the band to create it. For example, because Jimmy Chamberlin had left the band in 1996, and no appropriate replacement was found in the meantime, three drummers were used in finalizing the album. Joey Waronker can be heard on “Perfect”, “Once Upon a Time” and “Pug”. Matt Cameron drummed his way through “For Martha”, and Matt Walker is known to have performed the percussions on “To Sheila”, “Ava Adore”, “Daphne Descends”, “Tear”, “The Tale of Dusty and Pistol Pete”, “Annie-Dog”, and “Behold! The Night Mare”. On top of this, brothers Dennis and Jimmy Flemion of The Frogs, who are known to have worked with Smashing Pumpkins on many occasions before, can be found doing additional vocals on two songs: “To Sheila” and “Behold! The Night Mare”. These are only a few of the people that collaborated with the band, consisting, at the time, of D’Arcy Wretzky, James Iha and Billy Corgan.
What Wikipedia does not mention however (nor does any other online source dedicated to the Smashing Pumpkins), is the fact that the Adore album was the first Smashing Pumpkins album where, in different countries worldwide, several types of more or less non-standard ‘goodies’ were added to its commercial release.
Before the release of Adore, the most common promotional item to add to a Smashing Pumpkins album release was a long box (Gish in the US), one or two bonus tracks (“Pissant” on Siamese Dream in Japan, “Not Worth Asking” and “Honeyspider II” on a 7”, added to the Pisces Iscariot 12” vinyl in the US) or a sticker, as came with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in a few countries. Only one promotional item really stands out in this pre-Adore era: Earphoria. Earphoria is a very limited promotional CD that was delivered as a soundtrack to the video release of Vieuphoria in October 1994. Note that Pisces Iscariot was released at the same time, and in December 2002, Vieuphoria was reissued on DVD and Earphoria was finally given a commercial release. To Earphoria, we could (and probably should) dedicate a sole article in future…
With Adore, the Smashing Pumpkins marketing machine came up with even more promotional items. In Japan, Tower Records added a special Adore canvas bag to pack the album. In Taiwan, the CD album (still packed in a jewelcase with the initial black and white Adore artwork) came in a special cardboard sleeve with stunning artwork in color. It is pictured above. Collectors will find it interesting that this Taiwan-only cardboard sleeve contains a few flaws: the track “Perfect” is not mentioned (but still found on the CD), and “Blank Page” is mistakenly written as “Black Page”. At the same time, in Hong Kong, a bonus video CD with “Ava Adore” and “Perfect” was used to increase the sales of the album. And adding bonus items to an album became even more of a tradition with Machina / The Machines of God; a snakeskin bag with an extra booklet in France, a Machina-style black mug in Singapore, a black textile badge in The Netherlands, Belgium and France, and for a short time, a bonus five-track EP called Still Becoming Apart (which included 4 previously unreleased tracks) in the US.
To be honest, however, there is nothing really special about the test pressing CD for the Smashing Pumpkins Adore album (except for it being unique, of course), since it contains the same songs that were commercially released. So far, we have no clue whether it ever went into the hands of the band, let alone whether Billy Corgan (who, in the end, approves the Smashing Pumpkins’ releases) ever saw this test pressing on his desk. However, we can say that the song “Tear (flat 1630)” is most probably the same recording and mix as the song “Tear” that was put on the commercial release of Adore two months later. This will hopefully be researched sometime soon though.
Dear readers and fans of this ‘extreme collecting’ series, this series is off on a holiday for a little over a month. We hope to return with even more rare Smashing Pumpkins memorabilia in March. See you then, and in the meantime: happy hunting, happy collecting!