The Untold Truth Of The Smashing Pumpkins

It's difficult to define The Smashing Pumpkins. Is their music considered grunge? Hard rock? Alternative rock? Prog rock? It's unlikely that the band cares what they're defined as, instead choosing to criss-cross the boundaries of musical tribalism and embrace the purity of sound for its core genre-less essence. The proof of this was in their 1995 double album, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness." Feeling more like a work of art that belongs at the Louvre than a commercial rock album, the record defied everyone's expectations, hitting the No. 1 spot on the U.S. Billboard charts (via EW). The success didn't stop there, though, as the band's magnum opus was nominated for seven Grammy Awards in 1996 (ultimately winning one) and even made Spin's 300 best albums of the past 30 years from the period of 1985 to 2014.

The mid-'90s was unquestionably a high point for the band, but they never seemed able to reclaim that momentum, eventually breaking up in 2000 before reforming in 2006 (via AllMusic). Yet, the tale of this outfit from Chicago, Illinois, is far from finished and has numerous chapters over the past three decades. From a famous manager walking out on them to the band being passed on for the "Shrek" soundtrack, here is the untold story of The Smashing Pumpkins.

Billy Corgan believes people never got The Smashing Pumpkins

Having formed in 1988 (via AllMusic), The Smashing Pumpkins have experienced the ebbs and flows of the music industry. They've outlasted grunge, nu-metal, and even indie rock fads as they continue to produce the music they want to make. That said, they aren't often mentioned in the same breath as other bands that formed around the same time, such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Radiohead. According to Billy Corgan, it doesn't faze the group since he believes most people don't seem to get what the Pumpkins are all about.

Speaking to Kerrang, Corgan said, "People don't always like what we do, but we're proud. We're more proud that we've done something new than whether or not people like it." One certainly can't accuse the group of lacking creativity, as they're more than capable of producing a dreamy, nostalgic radio-friendly tune in "1979," a headbanging delight in "Zero," or the electronic-infused "The Imploding Voice." In fact, picking up a Pumpkins album is a lot like buying a lucky packet since we never know what genres to expect.

D'arcy Wretzky and James Iha used to date

While much of the attention around The Smashing Pumpkins centers on frontman Billy Corgan, the rest of his bandmates deserve just as much credit for the group's success. Like most bands that have been together for a long time, the members have had their ups and downs with each other over the decades. In the case of guitarist James Iha and former bassist D'arcy Wretzky, they have a bit more of a complicated history. Responding to fan questions on Alternative Nation, Wretzky confirmed that she and Iha dated for the first four years of the band's inception, from 1988 to 1992.

Undoubtedly, a breakup can cause tension in a band, especially if the couple doesn't part on the best of terms. According to one of Corgan's blog posts detailing the era, the two got on fine after the split. "James and D'arcy arrive together, because even though they are no longer a couple, James still plays the boyfriend role as far as picking her up and taking care of her whenever she needs something," Corgan wrote. Aw. Can't all breakups be this civil and friendly?

The Smashing Pumpkins were almost featured in Shrek

Think of any song from The Smashing Pumpkins discography. Whether it be off the likes of "Gish" or "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," these tracks aren't exactly the kind that anyone would imagine in a family friendly animated feature like 2001's "Shrek." Well, it turns out that someone at DreamWorks must have been a fan of the Pumpkins, because the band was offered the chance to appear on the soundtrack.

Answering questions on his Instagram account (via Exclaim), Corgan revealed the following: "We were offered the end credit song for 'Shrek,' but the offer was withdrawn and given to Smash Mouth." He added that the track chosen from the Pumpkins catalog would have been "Untitled." Smash Mouth responded to Corgan's claims on their official Twitter account, writing: "Actually, we said no, and Michael Austin from DreamWorks kept calling. That went on for over a month. We assume multiple bands [were] asked. If it feeds Billy's ego to think they [were] first, let him think that." Ah, all this beef over appearing on the soundtrack of a film about a green ogre and a talking donkey in a fairy tale parody.

Billy Corgan's reunion with his Gish guitar

Musicians are precious about their instruments. Some even believe a guitar could hold the same power as a totem, having a direct effect on their playing ability. For Billy Corgan, tone is everything, and he loved the fuzzy sound he got from his 1974 Fender Stratocaster for 1991's "Gish" album, as per a Smashing Pumpkins official YouTube video. Unfortunately, the guitar grew legs during a tour and disappeared.

"[I] played the show, walked offstage," Corgan explained. "I was down in the dressing room, and here comes the friend/roadie: 'Somebody just walked out the back door with your guitar.'" Initially, Corgan offered a $10,000 reward for the guitar's return before bumping it up to $20,000, but all he received were a bunch of phony leads. Many years later, an estate was being sold off along with a guitar that hung on the basement's wall. Corgan was alerted to the possibility of it being his long-lost guitar and investigated. Upon looking at the guitar, he knew it was his — just to be certain, he jammed a lick off of "Gish." Finally, the old friends were reunited.

The Smashing Pumpkins are in a better place today

When Billy Corgan announced the band's breakup to KROQ in 2000 (via Billboard), it was clear that the separation was necessary, and they needed some breathing room. Time, though, does heal all wounds, and most of the members have found their way back to each other since then (except for D'arcy Wretzky, who feuded with Corgan over her return to the Pumpkins, as per Alternative Nation).

Drummer Jimmy Chamberlin told NME that this version of The Smashing Pumpkins is much different from before, and they're getting on better than they did in the past. "For the first time, the band is in alignment in every way: musically, socially and familially," he said. "The band has come together in a way that's compassionate. There's a lot of compassion, grace and appreciation for one another." Chamberlin credited this change to the fact that they're all in a different place in life with children and families that help keep them in check. Who knows, maybe Wretzky and Corgan will be able to patch up their differences and reunite the classic lineup in the future.

The band fired the drummer after the accidental death of a touring member

In 1996, tragedy hit The Smashing Pumpkins camp. According to an E! Online report, Jimmy Chamberlin and touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin injected themselves with heroin in a hotel room and collapsed. When Chamberlin awoke, he tried to revive Melvoin but to no avail. The drummer called the police, who declared Melvoin dead upon arrival. To top off a terrible situation, the cops also arrested Chamberlin for possession of narcotics.

Reeling from the incident, the remaining members of The Smashing Pumpkins had no other choice but to part ways with Chamberlin. The band released a statement, saying (per E! Online): "We have battled with Jimmy's struggles with the insidious disease of drug and alcohol addiction. It has nearly destroyed everything we are and stand for. We have decided to carry on without him, and we wish him the best that we have to offer." The band secured the drumming services of Matt Walker and Jimmy Flemion for the rest of their tour dates. However, after having gone to rehab, Chamberlin was welcomed back to the group in 1999 (via Diffuser).

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Billy Corgan blames James Iha for the breakup

For a band brimming with so much chaos and turmoil, their initial split was drama-free — Billy Corgan's comments suggested The Smashing Pumpkins had simply run its course, and it was time to do something else. Admirable, right? Well, a few years after the breakup, Corgan decided to spill the beans about the real decision on a now-deleted blog post from his official website. CNN covered the story and quoted Corgan, who wrote: "The truth of the matter is that guitarist James Iha broke up the Smashing Pumpkins. Not me, not drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, but James. Did it help that bassist D'arcy Wretzky was fired for being a mean-spirited drug addict who refused to get help? No, that didn't help keep the band together, not at all."

Corgan added that close associates had told him and Chamberlin to part ways with Iha and continue the band; however, he couldn't do it because he and Iha had started the band together. The frontman admitted that his feelings were also hurt by the fact that Iha didn't say goodbye to him and Chamberlin after the band's last gig.

Sharon Osbourne resigned as manager because of Billy Corgan

At one point in their career, The Smashing Pumpkins were managed by none other than Sharon Osbourne. Apart from being a well-known TV personality and the brains behind the highly successful Ozzfest, Osbourne managed musical icons such as Black Sabbath, Motörhead, and her husband, Ozzy, as per her official website. However, she cut her ties with the Pumpkins in the most dramatic fashion with one of the best press statements ever (via NME). Osbourne said the following about her resignation: "It was with great pride and enthusiasm that I took on management of the Pumpkins back in October, but unfortunately, I must resign due to medical reasons — Billy Corgan was making me sick!"

A week later, Osbourne opened up to Reuters (via NME) about what had exactly led to her departure. She revealed that Corgan had insisted on wearing a dress for a promotional item, but she was against it, believing it was a desperate attempt to be controversial for the sake of it. Upset by her reaction, Corgan proceeded to ignore her for several days. Osbourne didn't like this, presuming it to be a petulant game, so she put in her notice. Moral of the story here? Don't give Osbourne the silent treatment!

Billy Corgan hates the music industry

When it comes to the media, Billy Corgan has had a career-long love-hate relationship with it (well, he does rub up people the wrong way, and you probably wouldn't want to meet him). There have been many instances where interviews have gone off the rails, or Corgan has responded in a not-so-friendly manner about questions to do with The Smashing Pumpkins, though he has softened his stance in recent years. That being said, he isn't afraid to air his true feelings on topics, refusing to err on the side of caution or spare feelings. In fact, his poor publicist must tremble every time he opens his mouth to speak to a media personality.

In a conversation with Radio X, Corgan detailed his frustration with festivals and their desire to push younger musical acts that aren't ready to be headliners. However, he attested that there was a larger culprit at play for this. "I'm cynical about the music business," he said. "I think the music business is one of the worst businesses on the planet. It takes great artists and makes idiots of them. It asks us to do things we really shouldn't be doing." For Corgan, the music industry should be doing more to support and ensure that younger artists are ready for the bigger stages, rather than just flinging them up there and hoping for the best.

Billy Corgan says the band can exist without him

The only constant member in The Smashing Pumpkins is Billy Corgan. No matter which incarnation of the band, he's the only one who's been a part of every cycle. It makes sense, though, especially when considering that his unique nasally voice is one of the band's greatest defining qualities. Plus, he's openly admitted that control of the band was important to him in the early days, and he shaped the direction, as per The Creative Independent.

Corgan, though, doesn't even think the band needs him, believing they'll be able to exist if he ever decided to step away. "I've said this before," he told Chicagoist, "I think it would be dumb to end the Pumpkins ever again because the Pumpkins live without me anyway." It's an interesting proposition. While most rock bands have replaced lead singers and gone on to still be successful in their own right, would the Pumpkins survive without him? He may have relinquished a degree of control and become more collaborative nowadays, but there's no disputing that his creative mind is one of a kind.

Billy Corgan left a band with Wayne Static to focus on The Smashing Pumpkins

While The Smashing Pumpkins have experimented with different genres, they've yet to tackle evil disco: a style made famous by Static-X. This might not have been the case had Billy Corgan stayed in his band with the late Static-X vocalist-guitarist Wayne Static. In an interview with Ultimate Guitar, Static revealed all about his storied history with Corgan.

"He was in my band, and he also had the Pumpkins," Static said. "He was doing both bands. My band at the time in Chicago was pretty big. I had a band called Deep Blue Dream, and we were selling out shows at all the local clubs there, and the Pumpkins were just kind of this little startup band that didn't even have a drummer yet." Static added that after the Pumpkins added Jimmy Chamberlin to their ranks, they started to blow up, and Corgan had to make a choice about which band to prioritize. While Static was disappointed to lose him as a guitarist, he believed that Corgan made the right choice in the end, considering the global success the Pumpkins went on to have.

The label didn't want Mellon Collie to be a double album

Try as they may, The Smashing Pumpkins haven't been able to top the success and legacy of "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," which is still the only Pumpkins album to debut at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard charts, as per Audiofemme. It was an ambitious project, to say the least, but it paid dividends in the end, as it's constantly cited as one of the greatest albums of its era, even ranking 26th on Rolling Stone's 50 greatest grunge albums. However, the story could have been much more different had the band listened to their record label's advice.

Chatting to Audiofemme, Billy Corgan explained how when he told Virgin Records the plans for a double album, the execs tried to get him to change his mind. He added that the label even tried to push certain producers to work on the album, but he had only one person in mind. "Flood was my personal choice," Corgan said. "His work with Depeche Mode, U2, Nitzer Ebb, PJ Harvey — he's a great human being and a great producer. He'd suggested Alan Moulder since they were very close friends, so that's how we ended up with the triumvirate of me, Flood, and Alan."