The Band

the smashing pumpkins
Billy Corgan was born March 17th 1967 and was frequently shuffled from relative to relative, but finally ended up staying with his stepmother and then his father. Billy always felt like an outcast,"my hair was always too long or too short, my clothes were always too funny or not funny enough." "It's been that way throughout my life," he says . At the age of fourteen, he finally found an escape for all his emotions in music. Billy's father, William Corgan Sr, who was a musician was a big influence on his music, he showed him the difference between real playing and ego. He started playing electric guitar and got together with a band called the Mark (both Billy and the drummer of the band bore starberry birthmarks). In 1987, billy and the band moved to St. Petersburg Florida. The Marked didn't really have anything going for them at all as a band. They eventually broke up after about nine months of what Billy calls a 'living hell.'

He then moved back to Chicago with no band, no money, and no future. Billy was undaunted and determined to start another band that would play all types of music and be a true reflection of his mental state. He set about trying to find the right people of the band eventually in 1987 came across 18-year-old Japanese American named James Iha. The two didn't particularly hit it off as people, but were serious about music. James was already in a band at the time called "Snake Train", but he knew that there prospects were about as promising as" The Marked".The two of them started writing songs and even played together in many Polish bars. Now he had a solid base for his band, Billy held onto the belief that they'll find the missing elements.

One night not that long afterward, Billy bumped into a women outside Chicago's Avalon Nightclub. They got into a huge argument during which he discovered her name was D'Arcy Wretkzy, she was 19, was a classical trained violin and oboe player and had been playing bass for the past five years. D'Arcy had grown up in South Haven, Michigan, but after high school had traveled around Europe, living in Germany and then playing in a band in France. On her return from France she got stranded at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, with no money and no real sense of direction, and decided to stay in Chicago rather than return to Michigan.

As soon as Billy found out that D'Arcy was a bass player he asked her to join the band. He didn't care how well he could play, he just wanted to get things moving. Like James, D'Arcy was already in a band at the time, but she immediately decided to go with Billy.

With a drum machine completing the line-up, the Pumpkins started rehearsing together. They went through dozens of possible names and eventually settled on the "Smashing Pumpkins." Billy like the idea of "smashing" meaning both aggressive and brilliant, but they didn't give much thought to the "pumpkins" part. They certainly had no idea how many times they would have to answer journalists' questions about Halloween. "It could have been any vegetable," Billy would respond.

The Pumpkins eventually made a demo tape, which was good enough to earn them their first show at the Avon in Chicago, where they played in front of 50 people. Joe Shananahan, the owner of Chicago's must prestigious venue the Cabraet Mentio, also liked their demo and offered them a support slot at his club on condition that they found a human drummer.

A friend of Billy's recommended Jimmy Chamberlin, who grew up in Joliet, on Chicago's south side. Jimmy, who by now was 21, came from a musical background. Jimmy's most recent musical stint had been in a ten-piece show band called JP and the Cats, who traveled around a fair bit, doing long stints at Holiday Inns, the party town's like Reno.

Their first single was "I am One" and appeared on the Limited Potential in 1989 and immediately sold out of its limited edition. They then released 4000 copies of their second single "Tristessa"/La Dolly Vita" The Pumpkins began recording in Madison, Wisconsin, in December 1990 and it took 4 months to record their album "Gish". Gish was released in May of 1991, and it contained a new version of "I am One" and "Tristessa". The album was very powerful and included some intense songs like "Siva" and "Bury Me" and the beautifully gentle "Rhinoceros". The Pumpkins knew that they had stumbled upon something great. The Pumpkins recorded a video for "Siva" and "Rhinoceros". Their sales where fueled by the Grudge Revolution and sold over 700,000 copies, but the Pumpkins were overshadowed by Nirvana.

A certain amount of tension had been at the heart of the Pumpkins music and sometimes, during the Gish tour , this manifested itself in the way the various band members interacted on stage . Billy refused to draw any correlation between the tension in the music and any conflict between the band as individuals.

As the Gish tour wore on , the pressure of the road began to tell on all four Pumpkins. James and D'Arcy had decided to curtail their long-term romance, Jimmy was increasingly turning to drink and Billy was starting to worry about when they would find the time to record an album that would surpass Gish in the way that he knew the next release should. The situation reached ahead in August, at England's 1992 Reading Festival.

When the 18-month tour finally ended , things got worse instead of better. It was a time Billy would later be reluctant to discuss in interviews : his girlfriend left him , he lost his apartment - his world basically collapsed.On top of all this , the band was due to go in the studio and record their new album just two months later. Billy looked to the rest of the band for help, but felt he didn't get any. Privately, he believed they were using the money from sales of "Gish" to insulate themselves from writing the follow-up. Billy tried to write new songs, but couldn't. He started to think that no one would miss him if he died. He became so depressed he was suicidal.

When he was at the lowest point of his life, he managed to write "Today" which became the central song on the new album. Siamese Dream was released in 1993 and despite the depression that was evident during the writing of the songs, it was a more upbeat and lively album than Gish. The Pumpkins then made a video for "Today", and also a video for the songs "Rocket" and "Disarm" which helped rocket (no pun intended) Siamese Dream to the top of the charts. The success of Siamese Dreams made them head liners at the 1994 Lollapalooza music festival. and also gave them a spot in the band line-up at the 1994 MTV Music Awards. They were nominated for 2 awards at the MTV music awards, including best Alternative Video but unfortunately, they did not win.

With the success of Siamese Dream, the Pumpkins decided to release a collection of b-sides called Pisces Iscariot. The CD was a collection of some of the softest and most beautiful songs that the Pumpkins ever wrote. The CD also contained covers of the Fleetwood Mac song "Landslide" and the Animals song "Girl Named Sandoz." The CD did very well, and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard charts.

Billy began working on a double album, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness". Half the album was written on piano and the other half on guitar. Billy knew that this album was either going to be a huge success or a gigantic failure. The CD was very unique and started out with a piano solo as the first track. The album contained a great mix of hard rock and gentle songs. With loud songs like "Tales of a Scortched Earth", "Zero", "Bullet with Butterfly Wings", "X.Y.U", etc. the album showed the strength and power of Billy's voice and the band's playing. Other songs like "1979", "Beautiful", "Cupid de Locke", "Tonight, Tonight", etc. showed a more soft side to the Pumpkins' music. It also contained a song by James "Take me down," that showed Billy wasn't the only talented singer in the group. The album was hailed by most critics as garbage, but by most fans as a true masterpiece.

The Pumpkins shot a video for their first single "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" which was a big hit. After the success of Bullet, the Pumpkins began working on a video for "1979" (which had to be reshot when one of the members of the production people drove off with the only copy) which became a smash hit for the Pumpkins and got an incredible amount of video and radio play. "Tonight, Tonight" was released after, and became the Pumpkins' biggest video ever, getting an insane amount of TV play because of it's nostalgic tribute to the classic film, "Voyage to the Moon." Videos were also made for "Zero" and "Thirty-Three" and the song "Muzzle" was played very often on the radio. All of these things helped make Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness the best selling double CD of all time and won the Pumpkins 7 MTV music awards and a Grammy.

Just as the Pumpkins were basking in the lime light, tragedy struck the band with the heroin overdose of the Pumpkin's keyboardist Jonathan Melvoid. Jimmy Chamberlian had been there with Jonathan and was shooting up heroin with him. The Pumpkins were aware that their drummer had drug problems, but were assured by him that he had gotten himself together and was clean. Jimmy was promptly kicked out of the band, and they found a temporary replacement drummer, Matt Walker from the band "Filter"and Dennis Flemion a keyboardist from the "Frogs".

The Pumpkins did not let this tragedy ruin the band, and went on to do many other projects. The Pumpkins did two songs for the Batman and Robin soundtrack, including the hit "The End is the Beginning is the End." The Pumpkins then released a box set of all of the Mellon Collie singles called "The Aeroplane Flies High," which also included many new songs. James Iha decided to do a solo album called "Let it Come Down," which was released on Scratchie Records (co-founded by James and D’Arcy) in Febuary of 1998.