There was a time in our younger days when there simply was no bigger band than Smashing Pumpkins.
Depending on who you ask, double-album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Saddness is either one of the greatest triumphs of the mid-'90s alt-rock boom or one of the most self-indulgent, overrated albums of all time. Love it or hate it, though, this much isn't up for debate: It was the biggest album in the band's career, being certified nine times platinum and earning the band seven Grammy nods.
Mellon Collie, as well as its predecessor Siamese Dream, represents the apex of the group's popularity and success, helping to define an entire generation of sound, and, as such, both are often listed on just about every "best albums of the '90s" list one might ever come across.
But due to drug problems, personal conflicts, and a number of crazy career decisions by bandleader Billy Corgan, the star of what could have been the biggest band on the planet for another 10 years (easy) instead fizzled out prematurely.
So as we get ready for Smashing Pumpkins' big gig this week as headliners in KDGE-102.1 FM The Edge's annual How the Edge Stole Christmas bash, we decided to take a look back at some of Corgan's more questionable career decisions while trying to wrap our heads around his band's fall from grace. Check them out after the jump.
Attempting to Reunite the Smashing Pumpkins via Newspaper Ad
Five years after Corgan fired Pumpkins bassist D'arcy Wretzky for being a "mean-spirited drug addict," and his relationship with Pumpkins guitarist James Iha soured and caused the band's eventual breakup, Corgan decided the best way to get the old band back together was to take out full-page ads in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times expressing his intentions. As one might have guessed, only former Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin (who, let's not forget, Corgan also once fired in 1996) reacted positively to the ad -- and yet the pair still proceeded with the reunion.
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Hiring Look-Alikes to Replace Former Bandmates
With 50 percent of the Smashing Pumpkins opting to not take part in the so-called reunion, Corgan had no choice but to hire replacements. Oddly enough, bassist Melissa Auf der Mar was replaced by Ginger Pooley, making her the third straight female bassist hired by Corgan. Which could all just be coincidence, or possibly the fact that Corgan has a thing for female bassists, except for the fact that guitarist James Iha was also replaced by a fellow Asian-American Jeff Schroeder. It's not that we're trying to come off as anti-diversity, it's just that one gets the funny feeling Billy is secretly hoping nobody will be able to tell the difference -- which if you think about it, kinda makes him the racist/sexist.
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Never Getting Around To Getting Shit Finished
It's not as if most artists have ideas and aspirations that they never get a chance to live out -- in fact, it's probably quite the opposite. But it is still a pretty big giggle for us that there is an entire Wikipedia section dedicated to projects Corgan at some point bragged about that never came to fruition. From solo acoustic albums to MTV Unplugged appearances, Pumpkins DVDs, an animated series, a novel, a second Zwan album, and an autobiography, his documented public failures are numerous.
Moving in With Courtney Love
After a phone call we had with Love earlier this year which made us contemplate ending it all, it's nearly impossible for us to have any sympathy whatsoever for a person who decides to cohabitate with the bat-shit-crazy rocker, even if it was, as the pair claims, to help her revive her ailing music career. What's even crazier is that Corgan managed to stick it out for nearly two years. That in itself speaks volumes about either his stubbornness, kind-hearted nature, or, more likely, his own brand of crazy. In any case, it couldn't have been productive for his career.
Lame Public Disses and Feuds
Whether it be through his Twitter account, personal website or blog, or interviews with too many outlets to keep up with, Corgan has at one time or another dissed just about every former bandmate he's ever worked with as well as several other rockers he's had beef with. From calling Wretzsky a "mean-spirited drug addict" to saying that Iha was an embarrassment to insisting that his former Zwan bandmates were poseurs, it is obvious he has no qualms about bridge-burning. His latest/lamest feuds, however, are with Courtney Love, who pissed him off by including songs he co-wrote on the latest Hole album, and with Pavement, who he called "the death of the alternative dream" on his Twitter feed. Did he learn nothing from Trent Reznor about the innate lameness of Twitter feuds?
Giving Up On Releasing Albums
Following the disappointing reception of the most recent Smashing Pumpkins album Zeitgeist, Corgan made the statement that the low album sales were the result of fans only listening to the album's singles and skipping over the rest. As such he decided that from then on out Smashing Pumpkins would exist as a solely "singles" band. Their current project, Teargarden By Kaleidyscope, is a planned 44-track work being released one at the time over a projected four-year period, all for free via the band's website. OK, we admit, this is kind of an interesting concept given the current state of the industry, but still, totally overreacting to one bad album by deciding to never charge for your band's music again? That's a little bit crazy, right?