Smashing Pumpkins are a Chicagoan institution among much of the city’s rock and roll haunts such was their hulking influence during the nineties. They transcended the gap between ‘art’ kids and ‘rock’ kids and found a home in the sardonic hearts of America’s youth. But before they reached the masses, they reached the hearts and minds of those Chicagoans with their earliest TV appearance on the local show The Pulse.
Back in 1988, Billy Corgan had returned to Chicago after a brief stint in the sunshine state Florida as vocalist and guitarist of The Marked. Corgan met up with James Iha and the pair started writing music together with the help of a lowly drum machine, something Corgan was used to with The Marked. The two of them soon found some gigs in the city and then they found their bassist D’Arcy Wretzky to become a trio. The Smashing Pumpkins were then complete after Corgan was finally convinced to employ a drummer and Jimmy Chamberlain came on board.
It seems that The Pulse was true to its name and had the heartbeat of the city’s music scene pounding through its walls. The producer of the show, Lou Hinkhouse, had caught wind of the band and their buzz but he hadn’t heard their music yet. When he finally got a demo in his hands he was “blown away” by the tape and contacted a fresh-faced Billy to ask if he would perform on the show’s ‘Basement Jam’ segment.
Though the band were still in their very early infancy, with only a few shows under their belts, Corgan gleefully agreed to Hinkhouse’s proposition. The band would perform nine tracks on the show and showcase a whole heap of their as yet unmastered talent. They performed ‘There It Goes’, ‘She’, ‘Under Your Spell’, ‘My Eternity’, ‘Bleed’, ‘Nothing and Everything’, ‘Jennifer Ever’, ‘Death of a Mind’ (which later became ‘Sun’) and the unstoppable song ‘Spiteface’.
Corgan later said that during this time for the Pumpkins they were finding influences around the “sad rock” sphere. Championing bands like The Cure they were keen to pursue the melancholy moments of life with the same vigour that seventies rock had given to sex and drugs. What resulted from that decision was a whole new genre in itself.
Take a look below at The Smashing Pumpkins’ earliest TV performance back in 1988.