How the Smashing Pumpkins Became the Antidote to Alt-Rock Slackerism

Yasi Salek is accompanied by the bell senior staff writer and 60 songs explaining the 90s host Rob Harvilla to talk about the bleak alt-rock heroes the Smashing Pumpkins. In the first part of a two-episode dive into the band’s discography, they discuss their origins, discuss Billy Corgan’s songcraft, and more.


bandsplain is the newest addition to the Ringer Podcast Network. Each week, host Yasi Salek and an expert guest dive deep into the full catalog of your favorite artists. (And we mean their whole catalog.) This week Yasi . welcomes the bell‘s Rob Harvilla to talk about the Smashing Pumpkins. In the clip below, they discuss Billy Corgan, and in particular his connection – or lack thereof – with punk music.

Yasi Salek: So here I wanted to get your opinion and continue to get your opinion. But one thing that’s really interesting about Billy Corgan is that his musical sensibility was forged in the fires of Boston, and Cheap Trick, and Queen, and Jimi Hendrix and all that.

But here’s the thing, I guess, and I guess I’ll say it early on: The Smashing Pumpkins don’t have a punk background. And it’s funny because, duh, but it’s also the main thing that sets them apart as we get into the ’90s, and it’s this unquoted “rise of grunge” and whatever, and everybody hates them too .

Much of it can be summed up in the fact that unlike almost every other band that gained popularity in the ’90s, they don’t have a punk background. They were not inspired by punk. I can’t really speak for the rest, but I mean, they’ve talked about it. Billy Corgan really loved those bands mentioned above: Led Zeppelin and so on and so forth, and he loved the Cure, Bauhaus and more goth and shoegaze stuff.

And he says this: “In ’88 I listened to The Cure and Bauhaus. That’s another important stage in one’s life when you break away from the music of your adolescence. A lot of people were drawn to the Dead Kennedys and all that sort of thing. I was drawn to Echo & the Bunnymen; that seemed to strike a chord with me. I sold all my Black Sabbath records and finally bought them back. Did I force myself to listen to the Dead Kennedys because the man in the street in combat boots thought they were cool? No. I threw them in a corner and continued to listen to what appealed to me.’

Rob Harville: I think you are absolutely right that there is no punk in him. I think there is no punk, musically. But more importantly, I think there is no punk attitude. There is something very specific about the Guitar Hero rockstar origin story that requires a lot of time alone. There’s a dichotomy where you have this megalomania and this charisma and you have the desire and the ability to lead tens of thousands of people on a show, millions of people buying your records. But you should start by sitting alone in your room and playing the guitar because you are mad at your father. There is this isolation that is specific to that. And why I say with attitude that there is no punk, because the whole idea of ​​punk is that anyone can do it. And Billy Corgan strongly believes that’s not true. He is annoyed by the idea that anyone can do it.

A year: He is definitely “gatekeeper, girl boss”.

harville: Precisely. The virtuosity was very important and we go into the Pavement of it all. But one of the roots of that is just the idea that not caring, not being good at your instruments, slacking off. The fact that you don’t care what you do, which is central to your charm, just isn’t Billy Corgan’s way of working. That’s not the way Alice Cooper worked, or Kiss worked, or ELO worked, or the Cure worked, or whatever.

You have to take care and you have to be really good. And to be really good, you have to sit alone in your room for X years. And what that does to your personality, on top of this terrible family situation that already makes you feel isolated and abandoned in the world.

That’s just the whole thing for me with Billy Corgan is just the two halves of him. The person who just leads these legions of fans and has the desire and the ability to do that, coupled with this person who feels like no one understands him, no one cares, no one is behind him. Like he’s all alone. And I – again, the punk rock idea. You can hear punk rock in some of the things he does but just the idea that anyone can do it and you just pick up a guitar and you don’t fucking know what you’re doing but it’s awesome just that basic punk idea just isn’t the basic idea by Billy Corgan.

This excerpt has been edited for clarity. Subscribe to the bandsplain feed on Spotify and listen to the entire episode here.

Host: Yasi Saleko
Guest: Rob Harvilla
Producer: Dylan Tupper Rupert
Editor: Michael Hardman
Production Assistant: Casey Simonson and Kelli Kyle
Executive Producers: Gina Delvac and Yasi Salek
Theme song: Bethany Cosentino and Jennifer Clavin

Subscribe: Spotify

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