Throughout his life, depression has been something that The Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has always had to fight. When the band recorded their seminal album, Siamese Dream, his mental health was hanging on by a thread.
The record turned out to be a masterpiece, but its creation was a torturous ride as Corgan’s battle with depression spiralled out of control. Producer Butch Vig, who was also at the helm for Nirvana’s Nevermind, later told Far Out that Siamese Dream is the proudest moment from his production career simply because of the difficult circumstances surrounding its recording.
“I have to say Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream. I’m very proud of it because that was a really difficult record,” he revealed. “It was before Pro Tools, Billy and I set the bar really high in terms of how sonically we wanted it to sound.
“I had to deal with all of the dysfunctionality of them as four people together, but I think the record still sounds really good. It has a sound to it that we kind of came up within the studio, and to me, it still sounds as powerful now as it did when I recorded it.”
‘Today’ was the first song that Corgan penned for the album and managed to cure him of a bout of writer’s block, an issue which only fed his depression further. It was the first step of Corgan managing to escape the black dog, and if you didn’t know the context behind the track, you’d be mistaken for taking the opposite message to the one he intended.
“I was really suicidal,” Corgan later admitted about the dark place he was in when he wrote the track. “I just thought it was funny to write a song that said today is the greatest day of your life because it can’t get any worse.”
Corgan has been open about his mental health, which he believes stemmed from the trauma from the abuse he suffered growing up from his stepmother, and his transparency on the topic is powerful. “I didn’t know what to do, anybody who has experienced this I’m totally empathetic, I was having massive panic attacks,” Corgan admitted about his lowest hour to Howard Stern in 2018. “I would be in the shower, and my heart would start racing, and I was like, I’m losing my mind. Now I understand. It’s the worst.”
He added, “As somebody who has stood right on the edge of taking my own life, I am not only firmly against it, I would say that it is never worth it.”
‘Today’ proved to be the catalyst that helped Corgan snap out of his downward spiral and begin to return to his true self, although it was a long road. Even now, the singer has to keep a stern eye on his mental health to stop the dark cloud from creeping up on him and reverting to his darkest days.