throwback thursday: smashing pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins… Wow. What can I say about them?

If you are reading throwback thursday regularly you already know that I’m old. Besides that you should know intuitively that bands can be really really good some years before you discover them. So if you picked up Machina/The Machines of God and were like ‘what’s all the fuss about?’ then you know what I’m talking about.

If you want to know what all the fuss was about, be 18 in 1991. Sure you might can understand it without that but you can REALLY understand it if you were 18 in 1991 (or I will allow 18 in ‘92 or ‘93 as well).

I have almost too much to tell in this post but I’ll stick to two quick stories – the sad one and then the happy one.

I was 18 in 1991 and in Houston there was a bar called Emo’s (it was related to the much more famous Emo’s in Austin). In the early days of Emo’s, all shows were free if you were over 21 and $5 if you were under. It was an amazing system that I miss…

Anyway, in May 1991 Smashing Pumpkins released Gish on Caroline records. They had released two singles prior to that – one, “Tristessa” on Sub-Pop. Of course then they toured. Well the tour, for some unknown reason, brought them to Houston, TX in June (or maybe July…) of 1991.

My friends told me they were great and I should go. Sadly, my thinking at the time was that $5 wouyld buy me a six pack of beer and who were these Smashing Pumpkins people anyway?

So I didn’t go to the show. SAD FACE!

After the show all my friends came back with the tape (yes TAPE again!) and played it for me. I hated myself for a good long while for missing them then. And I still think about it now as a BIG MISTAKE.

But man, in our cars at 18 in 1991 that Gish record fuckin jammed!! It was a wall of sound that could not be duplicated. It was indie and dynamic in a lot of generic ways but it was more than that. To someone that listened to the Velvet Underground and Metallica it nailed me. Something so perfectly in between that it is really hard to imagine. Mix “Battery” with “Heroin” and you had Smashing Pumpkins.


Anyway, I kicked myself for a good long while and jammed Gish all the time.

Then I moved to Austin and, in 1993, Siamese Dream came out. This time I was not going to miss out. They were playing at the now defunct but historically important Liberty Lunch. I bought my ticket – $10! – and waited for the day to come.

By the time it came, “Cherub Rock” had become an alt-radio hit and everyone was into Smashing Pumpkins. But who cares, the show had been sold out for months and I had ticket!!

The night of the show was pretty crazy. Outside of Liberty Lunch was littered with entry-levellers and looky-loos who wanting to get in. It was a gauntlet of people offering to buy my ticket but I ducked my head and smirked at the chumps and went in.

It’s still one of the best shows I’ve seen in my entire life.

It was all the original line up and with only two records under their belts, they played almost everything. I felt vindicated after having missed them before.

So I want to post a song that will make you revisit a band that you never got or never thought was worthy. And I want to make you imagine Smashing Pumpkins in 1993 when their only two records were Gish and Siamese Dream. I wish I could post the entire set list but that would take too long…

So here is “Siva”. It wasn’t the most hugely popular song by them nor even the most popular on Gish but I feel like it’s got that ripping confidence that sums them up – heavy guitar, soaring solos, obtuse but great lyrics. It is all that is good about Smashing Pumpkins…

If putting Gish in your tape deck was your first introduction to the pumpkins then hearing “Siva” was your first introduction to the a form they would come back to again and again with such success – the late song interlude full of quiet vocals, sparse guitars and shuffling beats that resolves into wailing guitars and out of control drumming. It’s a form I think they fully mastered with “Silverfuck” from Siamese Dream.

I really debated putting a live version of “Silverfuck” from Siamese Dream. They would do a 10 minute version of that song that will melt your face off. For real, check it out on youtube – though you need to imagine being there…

Now go and spend your Thursday jamming Gish and Siamese Dream. ROCK!

Today’s Throwback Thursday comes courtesy of Dan Sharber, who saw Fugazi at the Axiom in 1987.

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  1. I’m old too. I remember Smashing Pumpkins in 1991, when they were a great and relatively unknown rock band. I’ll have to go listen to Siamese Dream now.

    • oldsters unite!! yeah i’ve been jamming that and gish for days now. enjoy!!

  2. iheartthepixies said:

    I am not as old, but I love the Smashing Pumpkins and this post made my day. I am jealous of the show you went to but happy to know that I will be listening to Siamese Dream when I get off of work. Thank you for this post!

    • even young people can appreciate the pumpkins! i was just jamming mayonaise in the car just a few minutes ago. so good…

  3. markwoff said:

    We’ve definitely followed similar paths…
    ’18 in 1993′, I saw them being completely incredible at the Leeds Town and Country Club – an also now defunct venue, sad face. Crowd-surfed five times, including an ecstatic surge for the solo in Cherub Rock, happy face.
    I’m off to listen to Hummer.

    • i’m so pleased this hit everyone in just the right spot! i was afraid my story might be too personal too me but i think everyone has an ’18 in 1993′ type of moment with a band. and there was none better to have it with than the pumpkins. STOKED FACE!
      – dan

  4. Don’t right off the new Pumpkins just yet though! :o

    • i will dutifully give it a listen. corgan is incredibly talented so i would never write him off completely. i just lost interest after melancholia. i tried to get into zwan when that was going on and while it was technically pretty good, i was just meh about it. i hope to be less meh about his stuff again sometime… thanks for the tip!

  5. I can’t remember if my first intro to the Pumpkins was on the Singles Soundtrack (“Drown” totally overlooked and underrated) or when “Cherub Rock” played as a “Buzz Clip” (remember those :). Either way it was just so perfectly loud, harmonious dissonant, and wounded, in other words what any good angsty teenager would be drawn to. I agree that there was a profound tapering off after melancholia at least for me. Still I listen to Siamese Dream still with great joy and appreciation. to me the early 90s (indie) rock revival really built off of the backs of Nevermind, Ten and Siamese Dream. Thanks for sharing!

    • YES! drown is such an amazing song. and that soundtrack is good start to finish i think. i listened to it this morning in fact. you are right on those three records for sure. i might have to pull out ten this week – but the reissue with the bonus tracks so i can make sure to jam state of love and trust too (another singles favorite!).


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