It might not seem like it based on musical styles, but Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan grew up as a massive fan of Canadian prog-rock icons Rush. He’s not the only one in the band either: both Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain professed their fandom when they were interviewed for the 2010 documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, during which both musicians shared their strongest memories of Rush and the influence they had on their own playing.
Corgan, in particular, leans hard into his personal memories of the band throughout the documentary. This includes Corgan admitting (and perhaps humbly bragging) that he learned how to play the entire side one suite to 2112 on guitar, something that he recalls with a slight laugh of disbelief. But it was another Rush track that hit closest to home for Corgan: ‘Entres Nous’, the opening track for side two of 1980’s Permanent Waves.
‘Entres Nous’ was originally written by Neil Peart as a sort of nod of appreciation between him and the band’s fans. “When the lights come on behind us and I look out at the audience and see all those little circles, [I sense that] each of those circles is a person,” Peart explained in the book Merely Players. “Each person is a story. They have circumstances surrounding their lives that can never be repeated. All those people have a whole novel about their lives, the time they were born, how they grew up, what they did, and what they wanted to do, their relationships with other people, their romances and marriages. And they are individuals. That’s what I respond to.”
But for Corgan, the song illustrated the removal he felt from others, including peers and even his own family members. “I have this memory of sitting in the basement with my mother,” Corgan recalled in the documentary. “I actually said to her, ‘I want to play you a song.’ It was very hard to ever get my parents’ attention or anything, so it was a big deal: ‘Will you please sit here and I want to play you a song.’ And I play ‘Entres Nous’.”
“I gave her the lyric sheet because I wanted her to understand that this song is connecting with me on some level,” Corgan added. “When I was sixteen years old, I wasn’t as emotionally open. I was very withdrawn. So something about that song allowed me to say, ‘Somehow this song is almost like it’s written for me.'”
Although Peart’s relationship with his own audience grew slightly pricklier and more complicated over the years, as illustrated in the song ‘Limelight’, Peart never stopped trying to make that connection. “Words can carry different weight for different people, of course, but those who do have the sensitivity to pay the kind of attention to lyrics that I put into them, it’s wonderful to connect that way: to feel that you’re not playing down to anyone.”
Corgan certainly took notice. “The thing I loved about Neil was that he took very complex, metaphysical themes, and he was able to put them in a way that everyone could understand,” Corgan concluded. “Whether he was ripping off Shakespeare or quoting his own heart, he was able to do it in a way that never felt snobby. It always felt like he was in the room talking to you.”