When it comes to heavy metal music, Smashing Pumpkins and Led Zeppelin are outliers of the field. Both bands have a very singular genre-defying sound that proves difficult to package into one area. However, with Smashing Pumpkins frontman, Billy Corgan, continually espousing his love for the heavier side of rock, there is no doubting that it forms an undercurrent to his output, and it is very notable that his loose definition of the genre is one that has Led Zeppelin at the forefront.
Speaking with Artist Direct, Corgan stated: “Heavy metal is obviously way more mainstream than it used to be. For the most part, musicality is really embraced in heavy metal. A lot of us’ alt people’ have stolen vigorously from that musicality,” he added. “Then, of course, those guys go and name check Radiohead as their influence and they fail to mention Mercyful Fate—it’s a band that makes his list with their album Melissa an album which nearly severed friendships! This album so freaked out the drummer in my high school band that he forbid me to listen to it in his presence. Super prog.”
The list in question is a rundown of his favourite heavy metal records, placing firmly amongst them is Led Zeppelin’s 1975 album Physical Graffiti. Featuring on the classic album are monumental tracks like ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Trampled Under Foot’ as things got notably louder for the four-piece. “It’s hard to call Zep’ metal’ but they did create different blueprints that are still being used in Riffland. I love this record because it is so damn dark,” Corgan ventured.
Despite Corgan’s well-intentioned praise for Led Zeppelin, being one of the best ‘heavy metal’ bands is not a eulogy that they would welcome. As Robert Plant once quipped when asked about the genre, he pointed to a camp Judas Priest poster and announced: “If I’m responsible for this in any way, then I am really, really embarrassed.”
Plant later added: “Hard rock, heavy metal these days is just saying, ‘Come and buy me. I’m in league with the Devil — but only in this picture because after that I’m going to be quite nice, and one day I’m going to grow up and be the manager of a pop group.’”
In 2015, Jimmy Page even refused to be part of Eddie Trunk’s show That Metal Show owing to. The title alone, with Trunk confirming, “Jimmy Page would not appear on That Metal Show because it was called That Metal Show. He refuses to do anything with the word ‘metal’ in it. Now, That Metal Show was way beyond metal, as anybody who watched it knew. We did all kinds of stuff, but he wouldn’t, he wasn’t having it. It was crazy.”
Regardless of whether it is a metal record or not, its impact on Corgan has been profound. When the band’s most famous song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ appeared in court in a plagiarism trial, the Smashing Pumpkins frontman even sprung to their defence dubbing the incident “the dumbest thing ever”. And a technique he himself looked to borrow was the topline guitar rhythms which he praised stating: “When you think of Led Zeppelin music [Jimmy Page’s] guitar is almost like a lead vocal, so you can almost have like two lead vocals, which is kind of the insanity of Zeppelin.”