The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins (1988-2000, 2006-present): a Grunge band from Chicago, Illinois, USA.


ormed in 1988 The Smashing Pumpkins was founded by Billy Corgan (lead vocals, guitar) and James Iha (guitar). The act soon included, under the original line-up, D'arcy Wretzky (bass guitar) and Jimmy Chamberlin (drums). The Smashing Pumpkins dismissed the punk rock roots of their contemporaries, choosing to boast a diverse, densely layered, and guitar-heavy sound, featuring elements of gothic, heavy metal, pop, psychedelic rock, progressive rock and electronica in later recordings.

The act was started after the breakup of punk rock band the Marked, singer and guitarist Billy Corgan left to return to Chicago, where he got a job in a record store where he formed the idea of a new band he wanted to name The Smashing Pumpkins. While working at the store, he met guitarist James Iha. Using influences of psychedelic music and the help of a drum machine, they began writing songs, influenced by The Cure and New Order. Their first live performance was on July 9, 1988 at the bar Chicago 21. The drum machine was soon after replaced by jazz drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who came recommended by a friend of Corgan's. Their first recorded performance was in 1989 on the compilation album Light Into Dark, featuring several Chicago based alternative bands.

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With a cost of only $20,000, their first album, Gish, would arrive in 1991. In order to gain the consistency he desired, Corgan often played all instruments excluding drums, resulting in tension in the band. The music fused heavy metal guitars, psychedelia, and dream pop, garnering them comparisons to Jane's Addiction.

With the arrival of 'alternative rock' in the American mainstream pushed in large part by the popularity of grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins were in the right position for commercial success. The Smashing Pumpkins were often grouped with the grunge movement, and within this environment of internal pressure for widespread popularity, the band relocated to Marietta, Georgia in late 1992 to work on their second album, Siamese Dream (1993). Once again, Corgan played nearly all of the guitar and bass parts on the album, which served to anger other members of the band further and the music press began to portray him as a tyrant. Chamberlin, for his part, was often absent for recording sessions. Corgan's depression, meanwhile, had deepened to the point where he contemplated suicide, and he compensated by practically living in the studio. Despite all the problems, Siamese Dream received a ten on the Billboard 200 chart.

In 1994 'Virgin' released the B-sides/rarities compilation Pisces Iscariot reaching four on the Billboard 200; higher than Siamese Dream by

During 1995 Corgan wrote 56 songs for what he described as "The Wall for Generation X". The resulting recording became Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a double album of 28 tracks, taking over two hours to play; the vinyl version featuring two extra songs. The platter debut at 1 on Billboard.

In 1996 the act undertook an extended world tour to support of Mellon Collie; Corgan's look during this period featuring a shaved head, a long sleeve black shirt with the word "Zero" printed on it, and silver pants became a signature look remembered years later. The concerts were not all joyous: while playing a gig at The Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland and despite the band's repeated requests for moshing to stop, a seventeen-year-old fan named Bernadette O'Brien was crushed to death. A personal tragedy then struck on the night of July 11, 1996, when touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin and Chamberlin overdosed on heroin in a hotel room in New York City. Melvoin died, and Chamberlin was arrested for drug possession. A few days later, the band announced that Chamberlin had been fired as a result of the incident. The band chose to finish the tour, and hired drummer Matt Walker and keyboardist Dennis Flemion to fill the missing positions.

Recorded following the death of Corgan's mother and his divorce, Adore (1998) represented a change of style from their previous guitar-based rock, veering into electronica. The act also left their alternative punk rock look behind to adopt a less flashy appearance. Although the album received favorable reviews and was nominated for Best Alternative Performance at the Grammy Awards, it only sold about 830,000 copies in the USA by the end of the year; four times as many worldwide.

In 1999 the band surprised fans by reuniting with a rehabilitated Jimmy Chamberlin for the short The Arising tour, which showcased both new and classic material. The lineup didn't last for Wretzky left during work on the concept album Machina/The Machines of God (2000).

On May 23, 2000, in a live radio interview on KROQ-FM (Los Angeles), Corgan announced the band's decision to break up at the end of the year. The final recording, Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music, was released in September 2000 in a limited pressing on vinyl with permission and instructions for free redistribution on the Internet by fans. That pressing was very limited with only twenty-five copies, each hand numbered and given to friends of the band along with band members themselves. The album was released under the 'Constantinople Records' label, a label created by Corgan, when 'Virgin' refused his request for free Internet download to anyone who have purchased the previous recording, Machina/The Machines of God.

In 2001 the compilation Rotten Apples was released.

Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin reunited in 2001 for Corgan's next project, the short-lived super-group Zwan. Mary Star of the Sea, the group's only album, was released in 2003. After cancelling a few festival appearances, Corgan announced the termination of the band in 2003.

In 2006, The Smashing Pumpkins came back to life with only Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin at the helm, guitarist/keyboardist Jeff Schroeder would join the next year. Zeitgeist (2007) would arrive next.

Teargarden by Kaleidyscope was a 44 track album, released for free over the Internet one track at a time; the first track, A Song for a Son, was released in December 2009 to moderate press acclaim, the final track arriving in 2014. In March 2010 Ginger Reyes left the band, prompting an open call for auditions for a new bassist. In May, Nicole Fiorentino announced she had joined the band as bass player.

Oceania, which Corgan labeled as "an album within an album" would arrive in 2012, keeping ion mind that Teargarden by Kaleidyscope was still being released.

On March 25, 2014 'BMG' became the new record label for two new albums, titled Monuments to an Elegy (2014) and Day for Night, respectively. Before recording began, Mike Byrne soon left the band, to be replaced by Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe on the new album. Likewise, Fiorentino would not be recording on the album either.

2018 saw James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin return while Day for Night was delayed.

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Nation USA
City Chicago, Illinois
Promotional Address Unknown
Genre Grunge
Reformations 2
Web Unknown
Active Years 1988-2000, 2006-
E-Mail Unknown
Last Modified 2021-01-17
RRCA File Code N/A
Diskery ID 1699

Artists Linked With This Article:

Jane's Addiction Motley Crue Nirvana
Pearl Jam The Cure

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