Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
William Patrick "Billy" Corgan, Jr. (born March 17, 1967 in Chicago, Illinois) is vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter best known for his work in the the now disbanded alternative rock band, The Smashing Pumpkins. The Pumpkins were one of alternative rock's biggest acts, known for their complex, layered sound, for Corgan's scathing guitar and self-described whiny vocals, and for making use of elaborate and evocative fantasy imagery. The Smashing Pumpkins produced five major albums, including the widely acclaimed and commercially successful albums Siamese Dream (1993) and the follow-up double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995).
While working at a record store there, he met up with guitarist James Iha. He then met bassist D'Arcy Wretzky at a local show and soon formed The Smashing Pumpkins. The trio soon began to play together at local clubs, with only a drum machine for percussion. The band tried to book a show at the Chicago venue called The Cabaret Metro. Metro Owner Joe Shanahan refused to let the band play until they found a human drummer.The band was introduced to jazz fusion drummer Jimmy Chamberlin by a mutual friend. Chamberlain didn't think much like the band at first but thought they had potential so he played with them. The Metro show was the new band's first show. The Metro would also be the venue for the bands final show more than a decade later. The new band fused diverse threads such as psychedelic rock and heavy metal into a distinctive sound on their inaugural album, Gish (1991).
The Pumpkins signed to major-label subsidized Caroline Records to record Siamese Dream. The Pumpkins became known for their elaborate production techniques, layering dozens of different tracks over one another with a wide variety of effects. Siamese Dream's "Soma" uses over 40 guitar tracks alone. The band became known for internal drama during this period, with Corgan frequently characterized in the music press as a control freak who reportedly went so far as to unilaterally erase other band members' studio tracks and rerecord his own performances over them. The reality of the situation was Corgan had developed a deep depression and worked overtime for both Gish and Siamese Dream, recording some of the guitar and bass tracks for the former and almost all for the latter. Guitarist Iha and bassist Wretzky were losing interest in the band during that time period due to a messy break-up. Corgan even went on record saying if Siamese Dream didn't sell well, he would break up the band. The album was well received by critics, and the songs "Today" and "Disarm" became smash hits, with the accompanying music videos receiving heavy airplay on MTV.
Their 1995 followup effort, the massive 2 disc set Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, was even more wildly successful, spawning a string of hit singles and eventually a box set (The Aeroplane Flies High, 1996) of songs recorded during the Mellon Collie sessions which were cut from the album. The album was nominated for seven Grammy awards that year and would eventually sell several million copies, making it the best selling double album of all time. With the expanded resources now at their disposal, production values became even more elaborate, and the band branched out beyond their hard rock roots, featuring, for example, dense orchestral accompaniment on "Tonight, Tonight", ethereal pieces leaning towards rock-electronica ("1979"), and a soft piano intro track. The album also included a number of more traditional metal-driven guitar-based tracks, such as the first single, "Bullet with Butterfly Wings", and "Zero".
During the album's tour, the band was plagued by Chamberlin's heroin addiction. On July 12, 1996, Chamberlin and touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin overdosed in a hotel room. Chamberlin survived, but Melvoin did not. The Pumpkins were forced to fire their disgraced drummer. They completed the tour with Filter drummer Matt Walker and Frogs keyboardist Dennis Flemion, but the band missed the intense energy that Chamberlin's drumming provided.
Their next effort, 1998's Adore, was undertaken with drum machines and studio drummers in place of Chamberlin, and consisted mostly of subdued material. Corgan's mother Martha passed away from cancer during the making of the record, and in the absence of Chamberlin—Corgan's longtime creative foil—the proceedings took on a halting, confused tone. Adore earned high praise from some critics, but other critics and most fans thought the band strayed too far from its strengths.
Chamberlin was reunited with the band in 1999, bolstering its confidence but not returning it to commercial prominence. 2000 saw MACHINA/The Machines of God, a concept album on which the band deliberately played to their public image; critics were again divided. An accompanying bonus album, MACHINA II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music, was distributed among fans and released for free in MP3 format on the Internet. After the recording of MACHINA, bassist D'Arcy quit the band and was replaced by former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur. The Smashing Pumpkins split up later in 2000 and played their last show on December 2 of that year at the Metro in Chicago.
In 2001, Corgan formed Zwan with Chamberlin and guitarists Matt Sweeney and David Pajo , with former A Perfect Circle bassist Paz Lenchantin joining in 2002. Zwan's focus on sunny, melodic pop-rock surprised fans and critics, and its album Mary Star of the Sea (written in and inspired by Key West, Florida), garnered generally positive reviews. In March 2003, Corgan and Chamberlin performed with Jazz vocalist Kurt Elling at "The Waltz", an annual benefit for homeless and abused teenagers. Together, they performed a version of Jimi Hendrix's "Freedom". During an interview with WGN-9 on September 15 that same year, Corgan announced that Zwan had officially disbanded.
Corgan is currently pursuing a solo career and is to have his first solo album "TheFutureEmbrace" released on 20th June 2005 internationally and a day later in the US. On February 17, 2004, Corgan posted a bitter message on his blog in which he blamed guitarist James Iha for the sudden breakup of The Smashing Pumpkins four years prior. He also referred to bassist D'arcy Wretzky as "a mean spirited drug addict." In another recent post, Corgan insulted his former Zwan bandmates, claiming they had been obnoxiously self-conscious about their "indie cred" to the point of hurting those around them. Poking fun at their indie stance, he called them "poseurs". Sounding both enraged and hurt, he declared them to be "filthy", opportunistic, and selfish.
Even through two band break-ups, Corgan and Chamberlin remain very good friends to this day. Corgan has made a guest appearance on Chamberlin's solo album Life Begins Again under the name The Jimmy Chamberlin Complex .
In addition to performing, Corgan has produced albums for Ric Ocasek, Hole, The Frogs, and Catherine. He wrote the song "Eye" for the movie Lost Highway (1997) and has produced three soundtracks for the movies Ransom (1996), Stigmata (1999) and Spun (2002). He has performed vocals and guitar for New Order and Marianne Faithfull. Billy was also featured on Blindside's 2004 album About a Burning Fire, in the song Hooray, It's LA.
- Billy Corgan's Official Site
- Billy's MySpace
- Billy-Corgan.com - huge site with plenty of downloadable media.
- BillyCorgan.Info - latest news.
- Starla.org - Index of Smashing Pumpkins Websites
- Corgan Media.com - Current News, Huge SP/Zwan Downloads Database
- Waltz Benefit 2003 - Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin, and Kurt Elling
- The Zwan/B0lly Database
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