There can be no doubt of Billy Corgan’s talent or the impact he and the band The Smashing Pumpkins have had on alternative music. A fantastic songwriter, poet and guitarist, he is duly regarded as a legend. Throughout Smashing Pumpkins’ tumultuous career, he has always remained its leader. Over the years, Corgan has weighed in on every facet of American life, attended cricket matches and even tried his hand at wrestling.
However, in more recent times, Corgan has cultivated somewhat of controversial a public image. This might be a wily PR move, and if so, fair play. The most confounding thing about Corgan is that he seems to be a walking contradiction.
He has expressed what is deemed as “progressive” values at points, and at other times blurted out things that could not possibly have come from the mouth of the man who claimed the former. In terms of politics, though, that is not for us to wade into, we’re more concerned with music.
Regardless of how you deem the larger than life frontman, or if you find it necessary to invoke separating the art from the artist, Corgan has historically been full of humourous and slightly disparaging takes on peers. Courtney Love, D’arcy Wretzky, Bradford Cox and even Smash Mouth. Given the latter’s performance at the 2020 Sturgis Rally, they’re fair game.
One of the most iconic Corgan lashings was sent in the direction of indie hero’s Pavement. In 2010, Corgan took to Twitter to announce his disdain for the Californian group and their reunion. Corgan labelled Stephen Malkmus and co. “sell-outs”.
The tweet read, “Just found out (Smashing Pumpkins are) playing with Pavement in Brazil”. He continued, “It’s gonna be one of those New Orleans-type funerals. I say that because they represent the death of the alternative dream, and we follow with the affirmation of life part.” The irony of the statement was that at the time, Corgan was the sole member of The Smashing Pumpkins, as pointed out in The Guardian.
He didn’t stop there with his ire. He wrote, “Funny how those who pointed the big finger of ‘sell out’ are the biggest offenders now.” He claimed, “Yawn. they have no love … We’ll be the band up there playing NEW songs because we have the love.”
It turns out that Corgan held a grudge about the ‘Cut Your Hair’ legends since 1994. That year Pavement released magnum opus Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. The final single from the album ‘Range Life’, describes going “out on tour with Smashing Pumpkins.” In the song, Malkmus then says, “They don’t have no function, I don’t understand what they mean, And I could really give a fuck”.
Allegedly, Corgan was so incensed that he had Pavement dropped from Lollapalooza’s line-up. At the time Corgan backed himself, and with regards to Pavement’s song, he said: “I think it’s rooted in jealousy.” He then delivered a damning and skewed verdict: “People don’t fall in love to Pavement… they put on Smashing Pumpkins or Hole or Nirvana, because these bands actually mean something to them.”
In trademark style, Pavement leader Stephen Malkmus remained calm and collected. In 1999, “A lot of people claim we dissed (Smashing Pumpkins)”. He maintained, “We never did. I only laughed about the band name, because it does sound kind of silly … I like their songs – well, most of their songs anyway … I just dissed their status. I never really cared for the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle or being indie.” Malkmus gave a definitive take on the subject. In 2008 said, “Billy’s gotten over it”. Clearly not.
Wonder what Corgan’s take on Pavement’s upcoming reunion at Primavera 2022?