Up until just a few years ago, I considered myself to be a pretty big fan of Billy Corgan, both in his Smashing Pumpkins capacity and otherwise. However, it seems that, just recently, the head Pumpkin has changed for the worse by betraying many of his long-standing ideals. Of course, Corgan had already long-since alienated James Iha and D’arcy Wretzky, which were easily replaced during the rebuilding of the Pumpkins a few years ago. Now, however, Corgan’s most loyal and final fellow founding Pumpkin member has finally jumped ship for good:
The SMASHING PUMPKINS’ guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member Billy Corgan has announced that drummer Jimmy Chamberlin has left the group. Chamberlin joined the band Corgan founded in Chicago in 1988 and played on all their albums except Adore (1998). Corgan will continue to write and record as SMASHING PUMPKINS with plans to head into the studio this spring.
To quickly paraphrase the general reaction from the Pumpkins’ fan forum, here is a particularly blunt comment from a fan called “elboriloco”:
Why can’t it be April Fools???
Was it all the “C’mon” songs that drove him away ((Come On) Let’s Go! – G.L.O.W. – FOL)?!?!?!?!?
Was it the Visa spot?!??!?!?
Oh, surely it wasn’t the Visa advert. Perhaps Chamberlin just felt skeeved out when Corgan testified in front of Congress to urge the passing of the Performance Rights Act. Or, maybe it had something to do with Corgan heartily supporting the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger. After all, Corgan’s manager, Irving Azoff, has been moonlighting as CEO of Ticketmaster, but that’s just a coincidence, right? Okay, maybe it was that Visa spot or, quite possibly, that Superbowl commercial, that caused Chamberlin to rethink his association with Corgan. Actually, it was probably all of these things.
Billy Corgan hasn’t always acted like such a gigantic douche. I mean, the guy’s always kind of been a cocky asshole, but that’s sort of expected from lead singers of “alternative” rock. After two decades of phenomenal success in the music industry, however, Billy Corgan, has suddenly become unrecognizable from an ethical standpoint. Hell, it was just five years ago that Corgan outlined his long-standing perspective on “selling out” for a 2004 interview with Newsweek:
Corgan: I’m not romantic about the notion of “selling out.” People who are not in your position deciding what is and isn’t selling out I always thought was a crock of s—. The song I wrote, “Today,” which ended up being a pretty big song–that song literally saved my life. I was completely suicidal, and I wrote that song in a cold bedroom on a day where it was like, “I’m either going to kill myself today, or I’m going to live because I’m sick of thinking about this.” When I played it, it was an intense, extreme feeling. Last year, I was offered heavy, heavy money to license that song. I actually turned down two huge, huge, seven-figure-plus deals last year for two songs.
Newsweek: For “Today” and for which other song?
Corgan: “Tonight, Tonight.” That’s a fundamentally difficult position to be in. At this point, it’s just free money. Song’s already been played. It’s been exploited. The record company’s literally begging me: go ahead and take these commercials. At this point in my life, I don’t feel comfortable. Those songs are the reason I’m alive. If your music is not sacred to the point where it’s a really, really, really heavy decision about whether or not you would allow somebody else to exploit it, then what’s not for sale? [emphasis added]
So, what the hell has happened here? Apparently, these songs are no longer “sacred” to Corgan, who has now sold Pumpkins music in the aforementioned Visa and Superbowl advert spots. Oh, but we haven’t even covered the fact that, in 2008, Corgan actually sued Virgin Records for daring to commercialize his music, but, one year later, he’s totally okay with “crass commercialism”:
March 25, 2008: Former Smashing Pumpkins singer and creative maestro Billy Corgan sues Virgin Records over the label’s unauthorized licensing of his band’s music to Pepsi for a sweepstakes contest called Pepsi Stuff. Corgan alleges that Virgin, by associating the Pumpkins’ songs with “this kind of crass commercialism and exploitation,” undermined the “message of honesty, artistic integrity and alternative non-mainstream culture” that he has spent a career crafting.
January 27, 2009: Hyundai announces plans to air a commercial for its new Genesis Coupe during the Super Bowl pre-game show that “features a soundtrack scored and performed by Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin from rock band Smashing Pumpkins.”
For the record, that Hyundai Superbowl Commercial really is pretty priceless when it comes to illustrating how far Corgan has sunken into the “crass commercialism” that, less than a year prior, he claimed to detest with every fiber of his artistic being. Oh hell, let’s also take another look at that incredibly banal Visa spot, just so we can, through laughter, clear our own consciences before telling Corgan to go fuck himself.
Overally, the absolute worst thing that Corgan has done is to, effectively, set the wheels in motion to screw his own fans over. Some artists have had the balls to speak out against the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger. Trent Reznor has discussed at great length how this merger will negatively affect concertgoers. Reznor labels both of these leading ticket resellers as glorified scalpers, whose practices will only become more reprehensible with newly consolidated strength. On the other end and in support of the merger are Corgan, who wrote another letter to Congress, and motherfucking Bono, who admits to possessing no earthly idea about the merger’s implications. Bono did, however, promise to read up on the subject. (Smooth move, asshole!)
Still, we’ve sort of come to expect this sort of dickery from Bono, who has always done his thing while telling everyone else to do the exact opposite. Bono pretty much knows that a lot of us think he’s full of shit, and he really doesn’t care, which is slightly less douchey than Corgan’s sudden, full-throttle descent into the fine art of fucking over consumers and, for good measure, the radio industry as well. So, when certain former fans of Smashing Pumpkins, upon hearing of Jimmy Chamberlin’s departure, offhandedly proclaim, “It’s Official: Billy Corgan Is Axl Rose,” I can’t really be bothered to argue. Perhaps Corgan can write a third letter to Congress to correct this little injustice as well.