Artist and Musician Biographies


In this video,The Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight, Tonight

Of all the alternative bands to achieve mainstream success, the Smashing Pumpkins are perhaps least influenced by traditional underground rock. In fact, lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Billy Corgan (1967), who is the son of a jazz guitarist, admits that his inspiration was the result of growing up listening to 1970's album rock including bands like Cheap Trick and Black Sabbath. But although these bands might seem to have little in common with the melodic, Goth-rock and abrasive psychedelic mixture of the Smashing Pumpkins, they reflect their desire to strike a balance between pop splendor and the intensity of early heavy metal. Other bands that influenced the Pumpkins include Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles.

Originally a duo, the Pumpkins formed in 1988 in Chicago, Illinois with guitarist James Iha (1968), Billy Corgan, and a drum machine. Within the year they added the shy and willowy D'Arcy Wretzky (1968) on bass, and swing band drummer Jimmy Chamberlin (1964). After just four live performances they were offered the opening slot for Jane's Addiction.

Now recognized as one of the hottest up-coming bands in Chicago, by 1990 they had signed to the independent label Caroline to record their debut album Gish, produced at Butch Vig's studio in Madison, Wisconsin. Despite critical acclaim, the album's success was overshadowed by the dominant presence of the exploding Seattle grunge scene.

However, by 1993 the Smashing Pumpkins broke into the mainstream with their sophomore release "Siamese Dream". With smooth melodies detonating into wailing dissonant guitar assaults on songs like "Today", and "Disarm", the Pumpkins effectively delivered a multi-faceted and irresistibly hard rocking alternative sound unmatched by the relentless barrage of grunge's in-your-face themes of frustration.

Following the 1994 headlining slot at Lollapalooza, The Smashing Pumpkins released a four LP length CD titled "Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness." After a record breaking seven million in copies sold, "Melancholy" became the best-selling double CD in history. By 1996, however, tragedy struck the band when keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin died of a heroin overdose. This also prompted the firing of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin.

In spite of the problems within the band, their success continued with multiple Grammy nominations, excessive critical praise, and numerous musical accomplishments. But, as with most highly creative and innovative bands, the Smashing Pumpkins have more recently been experimenting with new sounds and styles. Their 1998 release "Adore" exhibited a more techno-based reinvention of the Pumpkins original sound, and more positive, hopeful lyrical quality, a trend that has continued in their music.

The band's driving force Billy Corgan, who really believes in the deliberate erasure of stylistic boundaries and the obliteratation of a conceptions of static genre, has been involved with numerous side projects including soundtracks for blockbuster movies such as "Ransom", "Batman and Robin", and the production of Hole's 1999 release "Celebrity Skin."

After 12 years together as a band, however, the Smashing Pumpkins called it quits in 2000.

Page author: A.E.