Album: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
. . .
And so Siamese Dream was a smashing success, making it to #10 on the U.S. charts and #4 in the U.K. charts, and Billy Corgan became the latest of that early-90s trend of reluctant rock stars, who railed against the success they were having. All I can say is thank the gods for Oasis, who blew that shit right out of the water, but in the years before that, it was a real trend: artists selling millions of records getting really pissed off at the people who bought their records, even as they were taking full advantage of the artistic freedom all of those sales brought them.
For Smashing Pumpkins, it seemed to culminate in Lollapalooza 1994, back when Lolla was a tour, not a destination, when Smashing Pumpkins were elevated to the headliner following Kurt Cobain’s suicide. In any event, during the show I saw at the Shoreline Amphitheatre near the end of the tour, they had a total meltdown. I wrote about it at length for a long-gone Fresno underground paper called Kade Magazine, and the resultant piece, “Where The Wild Things Are: A Report from Lollapalooza 1994” is one of the greatest things I will ever write, and you should stop reading this, and read it right this second. I’ll wait.
That said, I’ll give Billy Corgan this: he really leaned into the expansiveness of his music with the follow-up to Siamese Dream, 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. While both Pearl Jam and Nirvana added weird experiments or harshness (as well as some of their greatest songs) to Vitalogy & In Utero, Billy Corgan was all “you like that? Here’s nearly two fucking hours worth! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!” This, BTW, was after 1994’s odds-and-sods Pisces Iscariot, so it wasn’t like we’d been waiting for two full years for any Smashing Pumpkins. And in my case, I’d bought a couple of great live bootlegs at those record swaps they used to have at SF State. One was their raucous 1993 Chicago show and the other was a bunch of acoustic songs their 1994 European tour.
And so, gentle reader, I will confess this: when it came out in October of 1995, Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness was too much. TOO MUCH!! And one of the reasons I know it was too much that nearly all of the songs I ended up loving were on the first disc, and when I was feeling uncharitable about it, I would call it “Melancholia and the Infinite Sameness,” and put (What’s The Story) Morning Glory instead. That’s just where I was at the time. So I put the songs I liked on mix tapes and that was that. Much of it I haven’t listened to in over 25 years, and there is probably a bunch of songs I would like now that didn’t hit me then.
Anyways, that’s not to say that there aren’t a few songs I absolutely love on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which — after the instrumental title track — comes soaring out of the gate in a hailstorm of strings and Jimmy Chamberlin drum rolls. It’s an instant high, which, of course is followed the quiet part ™, featuring an arpeggiated guitar and Corgan singing quietly:
Time is never time at all
You can never ever leave
Without leaving a piece of youth
And our lives are forever changed
We will never be the same
The more you change the less you feel
Believe in me
And then again, as Chamberlin and the strings get to building, “Tonight, Tonight” goes instantly into crescendo mode.
That life can change
That you’re not stuck in vain
We’re not the same
Tonight, so bright
As they hit that chorus, they’re at the top of tallest mountain, and Billy Corgan is screaming “toniiiiiiiiiggggght” at the whole world, and, what the hell? It seems and feels almost, inspirational? Is that even allowed with a Smashing Pumpkins song? After all, the very next year Homer Simpson would tell Billy Corgan: “My kids think you’re the greatest. And thanks to your gloomy music, they’ve stopped dreaming of a future I can’t possibly provide.”
But “Tonight, Tonight” belies all of that, rising and rising and building and building until at the very peak, it’s a glorious miasma of strings, drums and Corgan’s voice.
We’ll crucify the insincere tonight (tonight)
We’ll make things right
We’ll feel it all tonight (tonight)
We’ll find a way to offer up the night tonight
The indescribable moments of your life (tonight)
The impossible is possible tonight (tonight)
Believe in me as I believe in you
Fan-fucking-tastic, and of course, it was matched with a great video with a look based on Georges Méliès’s classic silent film A Trip to the Moon, interspersed with the massive ghostly figures of The Smashing Pumpkins on clouds in outer space singing the song. Yeah, it’s all excessive. That’s the point!! It was great enough to win a shitton of awards at the 1996 VMAs, though as the fourth single from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, “Tonight, Tonight” only ended up at #36, meaning that the relative pop successes of “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “1979” were flukes, not harbingers.
“Tonight, Tonight” Official Music Video
“Tonight, Tonight” Live at the 1996 VMAs
“Tonight, Tonight” Live at Les Eurokeenes 1997
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