It starts with an electric scratching sound : a pick run over an amplified guitar string.
A few chords on the same guitar gently come together in a simple, melancholic riff.
A tape recorder starts. Billy Corgan's unique voice speaks a sentence. *click* An other one. *click* The same riff plays while Billy speaks. *click* An other spoken sentence. *click* Billy says :
"The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)"
The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right) is one of my favourite Smashing Pumpkins songs. One of those 8+ minute epics I can't get enough of. It's a B-side off of their landmark 1995 double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It can be found on the eponymous box set, on the Thirty-Three single and on their greatest hits CD. It was recorded in May 1996 at Charing Cross Studios. Music and words by : Billy Corgan. Produced by : Billy Corgan and Flood.
Someone hits a pedal. The guitar takes over your speakers. The bass and drums kick in, giving it depth. Cymbals. The riff is loud, powerful, and yet it is sad. If your sound system is loud enough, you're vibrating along with it.
The guitar is clean again when Billy starts singing the first verse, backed by subtle drumming. Then the drums pick up and once again the distorted guitar blows out in your speakers while Billy's loudly sings the chorus :
"I'm disconnected by your smile
Disconnect a million miles
And what you promised me
I hope will set you free
I'm disconnected by your smile"
The main riff of the song is repeated throughout. It is very simple. Billy Corgan wrote it in 1994 at Gravity Studios. It is during those sessions in the middle of the Siamese Dream tour that the band put together most of the groundwork for MCIS, including this song, which was titled "Disconnected" and only had the main riff, which is called (quite imaginatively) 'the Disconnected riff'. A simplest version of the riff can be found in the 23 minute Pastichio Medley* from the Zero single, also part of the same box set.
We're three minutes into the song now, and it slows back down. Spoken sentences over the guitar again. They're having fun with dials and buttons : some voices are distorted, or slowed down. Billy is singing softly and Jimmy jamming peacefully.
On the chorus the guitar once again goes full force with Billy's singing, which leads into the solo, which is also simple and takes up the second half of the song, over the Disconnected riff and the drums. Billy sings loudly during the rest of the song, sings the chorus while soloing, and the last verse.
"This is a Mellon Collie riff that I could never seem to find a place for. [Producer] Flood didn't like this one much ("too heavy metal"-a common complaint), and I never finished it until right before it was recorded. Essentially a new song with an old riff, with spoken word bits courtesy of my friend. The solo, funnily enough, was quickly thrown down because I had to go to a funeral. It was supposed to be a reference for where to pick up when I came back. But when I returned, I was surprised by how much I liked it." -Billy Corgan, Guitar World 1/97
The song reaches its climax at the end of the seventh minute : drums going wild, heavily distorted guitar solo, Billy singing, and always that mesmerizing Disconnected riff.
And the sound goes really quiet, with a new final riff, very simple, played over a clean electric guitar. Billy's voice is distant, rerecorded several times over. He makes quick, weird sounds with his guitar and sings very softly :
"And in my heart I know you're there
And in my heart I know you care
And in my heart I know you're gone."
Noded for Orpheum's quest.
* You can find it at about 13:10. To me it's one of the highlights of the medley, along with Rubberman, which is at 11:25.
Don't be like me! Don't forget to mention your sources! :
- The Smashing Pumpkins Fan Collaborative (at spfc.org),
- Siva - The Smashing Pumpkins Website (at http://blamo.org/sp - a great source for all things Pumpkin, I highly recommend it),
- the best search engine in the world helped me a lot, notably to find
- the song's tabs, which were best transcribed by Eric Agnew,
- my own copy of The Aeroplane Flies High, and the song itself of course. :-)