Billy Corgan

Basics
Name - William Patrick Corgan Jr.
Birthday - March 17, 1967 (St. Patrick's Day)
Place - Elk Grove (a Chicago suburb), Illinois
Parents - Bill Corgan (a jazz musician) and Martha Corgan (flight attendant)
Height - 6'3" (1.9 m)
Weight - ~200 lb (~90 kg)
Occupation - Was the lead singer & songwriter for The Smashing Pumpkins, the foremost "alternative" band of the 1990s.
Sign - Pisces
Relations - Chris Fabian (Ex-wife), Yelena Yemchuk (dating)
Children - None

Instruments - Vocals (technically ;-)), Guitar (extremely well), Piano
Musical influences - Black Sabbath, Bauhaus, Pink Floyd Favorite musicians - My Bloody Valentine, Chainsaw Kittens, Skunk, Mercury Rev, Thin Lizzy, The Frogs, John Lennon, Judas Priest, David Bowie, Blondie, the Cure, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Phil Lynott, Radiohead, Spiritualized, the Frogs, Garbage
Favorite albums - Beatles' "Rubber Soul", Black Sabbath's "Master of Reality"

Bits of interest
"For Martha" (from the Smashing Pumpkins album Adore) is written for his mother, and Bill played a wonderful solo on the b-side "The Last Song."
Billy is left-handed, in that he writes with his left hand. However, he plays the guitar right-handed. This is because he thought it easier to do the fret-work with a strong hand. Also, right-handed guitars are much easier to find.

A fan of stream-of-consciousness writing, or at least, he likes WRITING that style. There are several short stories and their ilk on the official Pumpkins page, and the liner notes to Pisces Iscariot and The Aeroplane Flies High Box Set were written this way.

Billy (thankfully) hasn't gone into other fields besides music (see: Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna).

He has produced albums for the Frogs, and of course the Smashing Pumpkins. He was helped out with Marylin Manson's album, Mechanical Animals. He was a co-writer on 4 songs on Hole's 1998 album "Celebrity Skin". He was largely responsible for the making of 2 soundtracks (under Billy Corgan, not Smashing Pumpkins), the Ransom soundtrack, and the Stigmata soundtrack.

While working with Marilyn Manson, they performed Smashing Pumpkins' "Eye" and Manson's "The Beautiful People". The two tried to start a new drug fad by claiming that sea monkey powder could get you high. Manson claimed Billy can't answer questions during an interview, because Billy snorted too much sea monkey powder. Corgan just looked into space.

The "Smashing" in "The Smashing Pumkins" is an adjective, as Billy suggested (much to the groups' later grief with all of the ensuing jokes). There are many suggestions about the source, but it seems that the name came from Billy just wanting a band name with an adjectival form of "Smashing."


Chronology
Childhood
When Billy was 3, his father got divorced, and Billy Corgan was sent from one family member to another for care. He rarely saw his father due to his touring schedule. At age 9, his father remarried and Billy had a new step-brother, Jesse. Jesse had mild cerebral palsy, heart problems, Tourette's syndrome, and a chromosomal disorder. Billy was usually left to take care of Jesse, and this responsibility helped him to grow up quickly. A great deal of of his musical inspiration stems from these teen-age type sufferings. The song Spaceboy (from Siamese Dream) was dedicated to Jesse. Billy's responsibility for his brother Jesse also lead him to became a father figure for Jesse. Billy took Jesse along to his baseball team practices when he was in middle school. At the games, the other kids made fun of Jesse, the "retarded kid".

At age 11, his father divorced (again), and Billy lived with his former stepmother. Neither of his biological parents took the responsibility of looking after him, even though they only lived an hour from him, in different places. His stepmother generally took care of him most.

In addition to his troubles with raising Jesse, Billy was further separated from other kids because of a large red birthmark on his left arm and hand. He has never forgotten how kids treated him differently: "When you're that young, anything that simple can set you apart."

In addition to his birthmark setting him apart from the other kids, Billy was also "literally twice as tall as everyone" in grade school. Even today he is a very tall and big (though proportional) guy. Up until he was fourteen years old, Billy played in little league baseball and led everyone in home runs. He was "league superstar." At the age of fifteen, Billy quit baseball. Part of the reason was that he felt the other kids were catching up to him, both physically and proficiently. Also, his parents wouldn't enroll him "because it costed (sic) forty dollars."

So as the summer passed without baseball, Billy visited a friend. He walked into his basement and saw his friend playing a black and white Flying-V guitar. Actually, not so much as actually playing, but making some noise on it. To Billy, this was like a "light bulb going off and at that moment it all made sense: this is what I was supposed to do."

High School
Billy saved all of his money and asked his father to buy him an electric guitar, even though he hadn't had any interest in music beforehand.

When Billy began to learn guitar, he didn't take lessons and still does not know how to read music. He practiced his scales and progressions for hours, every day, alone in his room. Even when he visited relatives, he took his guitar so he could practice. He grew up to be a "four-track-cassette making geek".

In high school in 1985, Billy formed a band called An Evil Day With Hexen. A video tape exists of them playing, but nothing but a small clip shown by VH-1 has been released. Also in high school, he wrote for the school paper on music reviews. I included two of his articles at the end of this writeup.

Pre-Pumpkins
He graduated the "living hell" of high school (at Glenbard North High School, in Carol Stream, Illinois) in 1985, and in 1986 (at age 18), formed The Marked. The name came from his birth mark and one on the drummer's hands. The Marked moved from Chicago to St. Petersburg, Florida, because Chicago already had enough gothy type bands. Billy would later call the band a prototype to the Pumpkins (albeit a far less sucessful version). They played for about 9 months, but went nowhere. Eventually, Billy went back to Chicago. He was broke, and stayed with his Dad.

Billy began to work at a local used record store. Once he was financially set, he moved into an apartment. He met many new people, and one of them was future Smashing Pumpkins bandmate, James Iha. Billy invited James to join a new band, but James was already in another band that he had, The Feds. Eventually, James decided to join Billy's band.

Now with James, Billy decided to play some live shows, the first being at a Chicago Polish bar called Chicago 21 (I have also read that the first place was called "Track"). James played bass while Billy played guitar and they used a drum machine. The show was not a success. However, Billy still played other shows, even if they were awful (and by all accounts, even the bands', they were).

After a show at the Avalon in Chicago, Billy ran into a D'Arcy Wretzky. Billy thought that the show was very fake and corporate with all of the "jumping around onstage" and the rest. D'Arcy thought the show was great, and disagreed wholeheartedly. Supposedly, his first words to her were "You're full of shit." When he found she was a bassist, he asked her to be in his band and, later, she accepted.

The Smashing Pumpkins' first real gig was as an opening for Jane's Addiction (at the Metro 10-05-1988), for which Jimmy Chamberlain was hired.

From there, the story of the Smashing Pumpkins is covered at the appropriate node :-)

Pumpkins
In 1992 he married Chris Fabian, a museum artist. He later dedicated Soma (on Siamese Dream) and Muzzle (on Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness) to her. While they were married, he described her as "The best friend you could have for the last ten years." After she filed for divorce in 1996, though, "She didn't even like my first album, the bitch". Hell hath no fury like an alt-rockers' scorn. After an interview with Playboy in '97, he met Yelena Yemchuck, a photographer. Later, she did the photographs for Adore. They started dating, and are still dating (she's said not to believe in marriage, though it seems to me that Billy has every reason not to believe in marriage, either). In 1996 (18 May), Billy was featured in an episode of the Simpsons (arguably this is the Knighthood of culture - 3F21 Homerpalooza). The transcript is at the bottom of this writeup.

On Halloween, 1998, the Pumpkins opened for KISS and the best piece of stage banter I've heard in a long time came from Billy: "Happy Halloween .. (pause) (hushed) .. from the Pumpkins. That sounds so wrong ..."

On May 25th, 2000, Billy Corgan announced (on KROQ) that the Smashing Pumpkins would break up at the end of the year. His rationale was partly because he was tired. Also, while "there's nothing wrong inside the band ... it's hard to keep trying to fight the good fight against the Britneys." Later that year, the album MACHINA II / the friends and enemies of modern music was released as an internet-only album, given to fans to be spread amongst themselves (Virgin Records didn't want to release the album). 25 LP sets of 2x12" records and 3x10" records were made and given to fans. The Smashing Pumpkins played their last ever gig at the Metro in Chicago on the 2nd of December 2000.

Post Pumpkins
Since then, he has been working with a new band called Zwan. It will be touring this summer in various places.
Most recently, he appeared on "New Order"'s last album, Get Ready. He sang on "Turn My Way", and he's been playing guitar on tour with them too, in Japan's Fuji Festival, and in North America in Moby's Area: One Festival.




Billy was a writer for his school paper at Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream, Illinois. He usually stuck to writing articles related to music, bands, and the music industry. The following two articles are from 1984 ("Bands ... Big break" is dated June 6, 1984). I think it's very impressive that he saw U2 coming from so far away.

1984 is one of Van Halen's better albums
By Bill Corgan - Features Editor

Up until this date, I have only purchased two Van Halen albums, numbers one and three. As many know, Van Halen's first was a masterpiece, a classic show of what rock 'n' roll can be. Albums four and five, whose titles I shall not even mention, were great disappointments. So, along comes 1984, yes, the year and the album. I figured to myself, oh no, I'm going to get another dose of boring cover songs coupled with some on the spot guitar riffs.

Wrong, wrong, wrong! 1984 got me right between the eyes. Emotions such as shock, relief, happiness, and general applause greeted my worn psyche.

Eight songs characterized as five Van Halen songs and three cooked keyboard songs. Side "un" (I love to write in French) opens with Ed fooling around on his Oberheim. Quickly follows is the first Van Halen number one song ever, "Jump," which by now is causing your brain to phosphorescent mustard, but is worthy of a gold star.

Then the album begins--"Panama" wails in with David Lee Roth cackling the Jack Danieled dosed voiced and Edward with some accelerating pyrotechnics. I can't figure out what "Panama" is about, save for David Lee Roth and his overgrown hormones. Fingertips catch the ear on "Top Jimmy," about the ultimate rock and roll singer who sings "So good that the roof fell in and he didn't even stop the show." I'm positive that this is D.L.R.'s mirrored image of himself and his acceptable vocal conditions.

The album ends with Van Halen doing what they do best, out of control rock and roll. "Girls Gone Bad" sums this up with Edward casting every spell and trick in the book. The final, "House of Pain," which is slightly indiscussible in this newspaper.

1984 is THE best Van Halen album in a seemingly long eternity.

This album proves by far that Edward Van Whalin' is THE best rock guitarist. Oh joy of joys, at last, real rock and roll.



New bands wait for big break
By Bill Corgan
Features Editor

For out last issue, I thought I would stray from my normal record reviews and do something a little different. There are many new or fairly new bands that have yet to reach national attention, but are worthy of it. This month I'd like to discuss five bands that I think are on their way to national prominence and success.

Leading the pack is U2, a band that has had some exposure through its cable and MTV videos, but has really not cracked with a major hit. The band's latest album, War, perfectly summed up the U2 sound. Backed by guitarist The Edge, lead singer Bono pounces upon stage and people with songs filled with valor and sincerity; specifically "Gloria" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday." Watch out for U2, because the chemistry is there, they just have to have to hit the right chord...

R.E.M. is a band that will probably never break the mainstream radio market, but I don't think they care. Their sound is one of Doors-like mysticism and musical similarity to Creedence Clearwater Revival. My favorite song from R.E.M. is "South Central Rain (I'm Sorry)" which reminds me of what playing real music is like. Songs like these hit home. They're simple but poignant in their manner and sincerity. R.E.M. is a good thing to latch on to...

I think what typifies all these bands is sincerity and desire, sincerity of tone and the desire of success. For your own ears, check them out.

(c) 1999 billycorgan@glowstar.com



From The Simpsons: Homerpalooza

Billy: (to Homer Simpson) Hey Cannonball, I like your statement. When life takes a cheap shot at you, you stand your ground. (extending his arm for a handshake) Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins.
Homer: (shakes Billy's hand) Homer Simpson, smiling politely. You know, my kids think you're the greatest. And thanks to your gloomy music, they've finally stopped dreaming of a future that I can't possibly provide.
Billy: Well, we try to make a difference.

Billy: Hey Homer, looks like our next stop is your hometown, Springfield.
D'Arcy: Is it true that we have to bring our own water?
Homer: We have a little rule back home. "If it's brown, drink it down. If it's black, send it back."

Jimmy: The hometown show's the big one, Homer.
James: Yeah, all the people who called you a weirdo in high school get to see what a successful freak you've become.
D'Arcy: Hey, I wasn't a weirdo. I was in the audio/visual club.

Homer: I'll miss ya Pumpkins, but I just can't share your bleak world view. I've got too much to live for.
Billy: We envy you Homer. All we have is our legions of fans, our millions of dollars and our youth. (stops to think for a second, then smiles and yells) Woo hoo! Let's go buy fur coats!



Sources
http://www.angelfire.com/bc/billycorgan17/ EXCELLENT & frighteningly thorough
http://www.spfc.org/band/faq.html
http://www.starla.org
http://www.spfc.org/
http://www.snpp.com/episodes/3F21.html
http://www.canoe.ca/JamMusicArtistsN/neworder.html

Fellow noders: CloudStrife (for "fur coats, tour updates)

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