50 geeky facts about Smashing Pumpkins

Only true SP fans will know them all

After teasing fans on social media, Smashing Pumpkins have finally announced that they’ll be releasing a “reunion” album and embarking on a long-awaited, 36-city tour, kicking off this summer. The comeback will be the first time three out of the original four of the Chicago-born band – Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin, and James Iha – have played together since 2000 (the group’s bassist D’arcy Wretzky will not be joining them). To mark the occasion, we’ve put together 50 geeky facts about the iconic band.

1.  Billy Corgan met James Iha in a record store

Billy was working there at the time. The pair struck up a friendship and began writing songs together, with their early material heavily influenced by The Cure and New Order.

2. The initial line-up had Corgan on bass

Smashing Pumpkins’ first gig was on 9 July 1988 at a Polish bar called Chicago 21, and the line-up consisted of Corgan on bass, Iha on guitar, and a drum machine. Corgan only moved to guitar after bassist D’arcy Wretzky joined the band.

3. Billy Corgan played nearly all the instruments on ‘Gish’

He was such a perfectionist that he insisted on playing almost all the instruments on Smashing Pumpkins’s debut album ‘Gish’. He also dubbed over some of Iha and Wretzky’s parts on second album ‘Siamese Dream’, causing tensions.

4. The band met D’arcy Wretzky outside a club

It was outside goth nightclub Chicago Avalon, following a show by the Dan Reed Network, where Corgan and Wretzky argued over the merits of the set.

5. D’arcy says she wasn’t invited on the 2018 reunion tour

Ex-bassist D’arcy, who is not taking part in the comeback tour, has hit out at Corgan and his treatment of the others in the band. In D’arcy’s first interview for 20 years, with Alternative Nation, she said she wasn’t invited on the reunion tour, calling Corgan “insufferable” and “abusive”. In response, the band released a statement claiming D’arcy was invited but turned down the offer.

D'arcy Wretzky

6. The band recorded ‘Siamese Dream’ in Georgia to keep away from drugs

In a bid to keep drummer and heroin-addict Jimmy Chamberlin away from his regular drug dealers, Smashing Pumpkins reportedly relocated to Marietta in Georgia to record their second album ‘Siamese Dream’ in 1992.

7. D’arcy Wretzky and James Iha are exes

Bassist D’Arcy Wretzky and guitarist James Iha used to be a couple, but broke up just before the band played at Reading Festival in 1992.

8. Billy Corgan once dated Courtney Love

Corgan briefly dated Hole singer Courtney Love in the early ’90s, before she began her relationship with Kurt Cobain, but the pair maintained a friendship following the Nirvana’s frontman’s death. Corgan even contributed to the recording sessions on Hole’s 1998 album ‘Celebrity Skin’, and is credited on the music for five out of the record’s 12 songs – including playing bass on ‘Petals’. He lived with Love in her Hollywood mansion in 2006.

9. The band donated all ticket sales from their ‘Adore’ tour to charity

Smashing Pumpkins donated all ticket sales from their North American tour in support of fourth album ‘Adore’ to charity. In total, the band raised more than $2.8 million for local charities, and also funded expenses out of their own pockets. What a charitable bunch.

10. Their touring keyboard player was linked to Prince’s band

The band’s touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin was the brother of two women in Prince’s ’80s band The Revolution – Wendy and Lisa Melvoin.

Smashing Pumpkins photographed in London. July, 1993

Smashing Pumpkins photographed in London. July, 1993

11. The band fired Jimmy Chamberlin over a heroin overdose

While on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins in 1996, keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin died of a heroin overdose, resulting in drummer Jimmy Chamberlin – who had been with Melvoin at the time – getting charged with possession of the drug. The band later sacked Chamberlin over the incident.

12. Chamberlin rejoined Smashing Pumpkins in 1999

In 1999, just before their ‘The Arising’ tour, Smashing Pumpkins announced that a rehabilitated Chamberlin would be rejoining the band. Wretzky left the band in September of the same year during work on album ‘Machina/The Machines of God’.

13. An ex-Hole bassist played with Smashing Pumpkins on tour

Smashing Pumpkins recruited former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur for the ‘Sacred and Profane’ tour in support of their ‘Machina/The Machines of God’ album, replacing D’arcy. She appeared in some of the videos supporting the release of the record.

14. Corgan had a brief stint in New Order

Following the break-up of Smashing Pumpkins in 2000, Corgan went on to sing backing vocals on New Order’s 2001 comeback album ‘Get Ready’, and joined them on their US and European tours.

15. Iha released a solo album while still with Smashing Pumpkins

In 1998, while still a member of Smashing Pumpkins, James Iha released solo album ‘Let It Come Down’. The album, which peaked at 171 on the 200 Billboard, featured an acoustic sound – a departure from Iha’s work with the Smashing Pumpkins. This was partly result of him writing songs in hotel rooms while on tour with Smashing Pumpkins, and not wanting to disturb other guests. His second solo album, ‘Look to the Sky’, was released in 2012.

16. Corgan founded a short-lived supergroup

Corgan founded supergroup Zwan in 2001, which consisted of himself, ex-Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, Matt Sweeney from Chavez, and David Pajo of Slint. The band didn’t have much success, though, breaking up after just one album. Corgan has been reported as saying he “detests” the other members of Zwan, adding: “You’ll never see Zwan. I’ll never go anywhere near those people.”

17. Iha joined a more successful supergroup

Iha also joined a supergroup – A Perfect Circle – after the Smashing Pumpkins split. So far, Iha has worked on four albums with the band, which also includes guitarist Billy Howerdel and Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan. The group’s albums have collectively sold millions of copies.

James Iha in A Perfect Circle

18. Chamberlin started a band called the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex

After the break-up of Smashing Pumpkins and Zwan, Chamerblin formed his own band – the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex. The band last released a song called ‘Paranoia’ in April 2016.

19. Smashing Pumpkins aren’t a no-show band

Throughout the Smashing Pumpkins’s 13-year existence up until 2000, the band cancelled only four shows.

20. They have two Grammy Awards

The Smashing Pumpkins were nominated for a Grammy 13 times, winning on two occasions – in 1997 and 1998, both for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Smashing Pumpkins in Chicago

21. They played themselves in The Simpsons

The band once starred as themselves in a season seven episode of The Simpsons, called Homerpalooza. In the episode, Homer goes on tour with fictional Hullabalooza festival, and ends up partying and hanging out with Smashing Pumpkins, alongside Cypress Hill and Sonic Youth.

22. SpongeBob has starred in a Smashing Pumpkins video

The actors behind the voices of SpongeBob Squarepants and Karen Plankton – Tom Kenny and Jill Talley, who are married in real life – starred in the Smashing Pumpkins’s video for ‘Tonight, Tonight’. The video was also inspired by one of the first sci-fi movies: Georges Méliès’ 1902 silent film A Trip to the Moon.

23. The band played their final show in the same place as their first

Smashing Pumpkins played their mammoth four-and-a-half hour, 36-song final concert at The Metro in Chicago on 2 December 2000. This was same venue where the original four-piece – Corgan, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin, and D’arcy Wretzky – played their first show. Guests were given a recording of the band’s first concert there.

24. ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ was Smashing Pumpkins’ most successful album

Smashing Pumpkins’ third record – containing hits like ‘1979’, ‘Tonight, Tonight’, ‘Zero’, and ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’ – was their bestselling album. The colossal two-discer – spanning 28 tracks over more than two hours – sold more than 11 million copies. To date, it remains their only album to top the Billboard 200.

25. Corgan called it “‘The Wall’ for Generation X”

He felt it paralleled Pink Floyd’s hugely successful 1979 album, which addressed anxieties felt by the baby-boomers of the early ’60s to the late ’70s.

26. The iconic cover art on Smashing Pumpkins’ third album was a last-minute decision

The cover art for ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ was originally meant to be a photo of the band in Victorian clothing. But plans were scrapped when the photographer quoted a price too high for the band. Instead, artist John Craig, who was already working on the internal sleeve, was drafted in to created the iconic cover art. The collage features a woman’s torso from Raphael’s painting ‘Saint Catherine Of Alexandria’; her head is from another painting, Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s ‘The Souvenir (Fidelity)’.

27. Corgan owns a tea house

He opened Madame ZuZu’s, a ’30s-style tea house and art studio, in Highland Park, Illinois, in 2012.

28. The “Pumpkins” part of the band’s name was chosen at random

“It could have been any vegetable,” says Corgan. Talking about the band’s name, which he chose even before the group had formed, Corgan is quoted in Randi Reisfeld’s book This Is the Sound: The Best of Alternative Rock as saying: “It has nothing to do with Pumpkins or Halloween. It just came to me – there’s no related story.”

Smashing Pumpkins

29. The “smashing” in “Smashing Pumpkins” is not a verb, but an adjective

In the same book by Randi Reisfeld, bass player D’arcy Wretzky said: “Smashing is not a verb, it’s an adjective. It’s not like we like to smash pumpkins or anything. And we are not amused by pumpkin jokes anymore.” Corgan added: “I like the idea of smashing being aggressive as well as… wonderful.”

30. Corgan is obsessed with wrestling 

A self-described “wrestlemaniac”, the lead singer founded a wrestling company called Resistance Pro Wrestling in 2011. He went on to be president at Toronto-based Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, and bought National Wrestling Alliance in 2017.

31. He used to wash dishes for a living

Before finding fame with Smashing Pumpkins, Corgan had a spell working as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant. Apparently he quit his job, and stopped playing in the Glendale heights district basketball team to protect his fingers for playing guitar.

32. Corgan used to play in a gothic-rock band called The Marked

After playing in a string of bands at high school, Corgan’s first major band was goth-metal group The Marked. Corgan moved from Chicago to St Petersburg in Florida to play in the band. But, after failing to achieve success, The Marked broke-up and Corgan moved back to his dad’s house in Chicago, where he says he was “holed up in my room for about two years.”

33. He’s played with Wayne Static from Static-X

Corgan played in Wayne Static’s first band Deep Blue Dream in 1987 and 1988. He paid tribute to the Static-X lead singer when he passed away in 2015.

34. The band were initially compared to Jane’s Addiction, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam

In the early 1990s, critics compared Smashing Pumpkins to Jane’s Addition, Nirvana, Pearl Jam. But Corgan was not hugely receptive to these associations. “We’ve graduated now from ‘the next Jane’s Addiction’ to ‘the next Nirvana’, now we’re ‘the next Pearl Jam’,” he said in a thorny 1993 interview with MTV.

35. D’arcy was thrown into jail for horsing around

In 2011, D’arcy spent 6 days in jail for failing to control several of her horses, which escaped from her farm in Michigan and ran wild.

Smashing Pumpkins

36. ‘Spaceboy’ is about Corgan’s brother

The track ‘Spaceboy’ from ‘Siamese Dream’ is about Corgan’s younger brother, Jesse, who has a genetic chromosomal disorder.

37. Corgan dedicated a song and his record label to his mum

Corgan also wrote a song about his mum, called ‘For Martha’ on fourth album ‘Adore’; she died from cancer in 1996. Corgan named his label, Martha’s Music, in her memory too.

38. Corgan has battled depression throughout his life

Corgan has been open about his struggles with depression. Prior to recording ‘Siamese Dream’ Corgan began to see a therapist after he had a nervous breakdown, an experience which had a knock-on effect on his lyrics. In an interview with Last Call With Carson Daly in 2012, the frontman admitted he had considered suicide “about three, four, seven times”.

39. Iha has his own clothing label

With long term friend Isao Izutsu, Iha founded his own clothing label label Vaporize (f.k.a. ‘Vapor’) in 2001. He recorded his first solo song since the break-up of Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Never Ever’, for use at the brand’s first runway show. Iha also did some modelling at fashion shows himself, too.

James Iha at a fashion show

40. Since Smashing Pumpkins, Iha has composed a number of film scores

Iha has worked on the soundtracks for three films: Because of Winn-Dixie soundtrack (2005, track 5); Linda Linda Linda (2005); and Kakera: A Piece of Our Life (2009).

41. Chamberlin was the CEO of a top tech company

In 2011, Chamberlin started to invest in tech companies and, between 2011 and 2015, was the CEO of LiveOnc Inc., which has partnered with Yahoo, YouTube, and Vans. He is supportive of the digital world, and has said: “Artists are looking for a destination … [and] digital gives them the opportunity to realise some of those destinations and package them in a way that allows them to be creative.” He has also praised U2 for their iTunes-wide album ‘Songs of Innocence’, saying the band “moved the ball forward for everybody.”

42. Iha and D’arcy have their own record label

In 1995, Iha and D’arcy founded Scratchie Records, an independent record label, with Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne and Ivy), Kerry Brown, formerly of the band Catherine, and D’arcy’s brother-in-law Jeremy Freeman.

Smashing Pumpkins

43. Only 25 copies of the band’s pre-split album were cut

Just 25 physical copies of the Smashing Pumpkins’ sixth album ‘Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music’ were made – it was released just before the band broke-up in 2000. The vinyls were mostly given to friends of the band, and came with instructions to distribute the tracks on the internet free of charge.

44. Smashing Pumpkins wrote a Grammy-winning song for Batman

In 1997, the band wrote a song for the 1997 film Batman & Robin, called ‘The End Is the Beginning Is the End’, which won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance. In an interview with MTV, Corgan described the experience as “freeing”, adding: “I wasn’t talking about myself or trying to represent the Smashing Pumpkins. I was trying to represent Batman”.

45. ‘Siamese Dream’ is Corgan’s “middle finger” to indie

Speaking to NME in 2011, Corgan described ‘Siamese Dream’ as as the album that has “come through the best”, adding that it was “my big middle finger to the indie world”. Corgan, who said the album included songs about suicide and child abuse, added: “As dark a record as ‘Siamese Dream’ is, there’s a lot of fun in it – it’s almost like we’re kind of laughing at how stupid the whole thing is.”

46. Smashing Pumpkins own the rights to his iconic Zero Skateboards shirt

During Smashing Pumpkins’ 1996, Corgan started wearing his iconic longsleeve black shirt with the word “zero” embroidered on it. The shirt was originally made by Zero Skateboards, which stopped producing the clothing around the same time that Corgan started wearing it regularly. Smashing Pumpkins later bought the rights for the shirt and, in 2011, Corgan auctioned one of his original zero shirts to raise money for the Japan earthquake relief fund.

Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins

47. Corgan’s dad plays a guitar solo on ‘The Last Song’

This was released as part of Smashing Pumpkins’ 1996 five-disc boxset ‘The Aeroplane Flies High’. Corgan told Guitar World: “I never intended to have a guitar solo, but my father was hanging out with me at the studio, so I asked him to play on it. Every time I hear this song, I burst with pride to hear my father’s great – and very influential to me – guitar-playing.”

48. Jimmy Chamberlin knows his woodwork

Before joining Smashing Pumpkins, Chamberlin, who met Corgan through a mutual friend, worked as a carpenter.

49. Corgan wrote more than 50 songs in 1995

In a 1996 interview with MTV, Corgan, the band’s main songwriter, revealed that he wrote a whopping 56 songs in the previous year, some of which ended up on the band’s third album ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’.

50.  ‘1979’ was almost excluded from the band’s third album

Producer Flood deemed the chart-topping track from third album ‘Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness’ “not good enough”. This inspired Corgan to finish the song overnight – “in about four hours” – winning round Flood, who decided to put it on the record after one listen.