.

Billy Corgan Blasts the Critics

"There's definitely the moment where you go, 'What happened?' Maybe they don't love you anymore."

December 24, 1998
Billy Corgan
Billy Corgan
Tim Mosenfelder/ImageDirect

Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins can't think of one new rock album that turned him on in 1998. "You don't want to know what's in my CD changer," the singer, guitarist and songwriter warns before running down his current hit list: Best of Mountain; Songs From the Trilogy, by Philip Glass; a '77 live album by Rainbow; a disc from the Lynyrd Skynyrd box set; a UFO best-of album; Maria Callas singing Madame Butterfly. "I'm reluctant to talk about what the next Pumpkins record is going to sound like," Corgan cracks, "but I will tell you that it's going to sound a lot like Mountain."

Six months after the release of the band's latest record, Adore, Corgan is working on a new Pumpkins LP. He has written fourteen songs and, with guitarist James Iha and bassist D'Arcy, will soon cut tracks with Flood, who co-produced the group's 1995 megaseller, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. In spite of what Corgan calls "the cumulative toll" of the past year, particularly the tepid public response to Adore, the Pumpkins are far from the breakup point.

It has been a mixed-blessing '98. To date, Adore has sold about 830,000 copies in the U.S. – far less than Mellon Collie and the Pumpkins' 1993 smash, Siamese Dream (4.2 million copies each). A planned series of free outdoor Pumpkins shows in the U.S. fell through, and Corgan's songwriting contributions to Hole's Celebrity Skin became a bone of public contention between Corgan and Hole's Courtney Love.

500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream

But it was a good year on tour. In Europe, the Pumpkins played well-received shows in unconventional venues; the band also did charity gigs in fifteen North American cities, donating more than $2.7 million in proceeds to organizations like Hale House, in New York, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation in Chicago.

Corgan declines to talk about the Hole album; he hasn't listened to the final product ("Bad taste in my mouth," he says). He will talk only off the record about Marilyn Manson's Mechanical Animals, which he was involved with in an early advisory capacity. But Corgan speaks frankly about his disappointments, the lessons learned and the immediate future. He says that the best thing to come out of Adore is "a reaffirmation that I love music. And I love to perform. But I gotta do it my way."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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