Smashing Pumpkins are a Chicagoan institution among much of the city’s rock and roll haunts, such was their hulking influence during the nineties. Billy Corgan and the band transcended the gap between ‘art’ kids and ‘rock’ kids and found a home in the sardonic hearts of America’s youth.
However, before the Smashing Pumpkins 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 his homestead Chicago after a brief stint in the sunshine state Florida as vocalist and guitarist of the band The Marked. Corgan then met up with James Iha and the pair, like so many other artists, started writing music together with the help of a lowly drum machine.
The two of them soon found some gigs in the city and then they found the missing piece of the puzzle, their bassist D’Arcy Wretzky, and they soon became 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 poky walls. The producer of the show, Lou Hinkhouse, had heard of the band and been shook by the buzz of this brand new band—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 infancy, with only a few shows under their belts, Corgan gleefully agreed to Hinkhouse’s proposition with the view to gain some more exposure for the group. 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. It marked Smashing Pumpkins as one of the most promising bands of the nineties. Of course, they would dominate the alternative rock scene for years to come.
Take a look below at The Smashing Pumpkins’ earliest TV performance back in 1988.