Thursday, June 28, 2007

Billy Corgan is a Lying Fraud and a Con Artist, and I Say That Because I Love Him

(text by maise, awesome Photoshopping by Iris)

I would consider myself to be an average, but staunch, Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Corgan fan. I'm definitely not in the ranks of the snobby elitists who boast having gone to the Pumpkins' very first show at Chicago 21 when it was just Billy and a drum machine. And I'm not one of the avid collectors, scouring Ebay for every piece of Pumpkins' merch created. However, ever since I discovered Siamese Dream, I was hooked, and I have faithfully attended every Pumpkins concert possible (not easy in my impoverished college student days), purchased albums and t-shirts and posters, managed to get to a Zwan concert before their swift breakup, and even attended Billy's HORRIFICALLY PRETENTIOUS and BORING poetry reading (I mean, look at this!) at the Art Institute of Chicago on September 17, 2003. My friends and I devoured every entry in Billy's now defunct autobiography series, "Confessions," and although I never got around to purchasing his solo album, I feel as though I've got enough Pumpkins fan cred to say the following: William P. Corgan, you are a LYING LIAR and a HYPOCRITICAL FRAUD and a GREEDY BASTARD, and I've had it up to HERE. And I say that because I truly love him and believe in him as an artist.

Where do I even begin?

Like all Smashing Pumpkins fans, I was thrilled when Billy announced his intention to "renew and revive" the band in the Chicago Tribune (although I was confused that he would choose to do this at the same time that he released his solo album, thus totally stealing his own thunder). However, since then, troubling details have emerged, and as your average but staunch Smashing Pumpkins fan, I can remain silent no longer.

First of all, it soon became clear that this so-called "reunion" would consist primarily of Billy and Jimmy Chamberlain and would NOT include James Iha or D'arcy. I'm sorry, but how does that differentiate this project from Zwan or even a Zwan reunion? Less fugly cover art? True, Billy Corgan may have been the heart and soul of the Smashing Pumpkins, but James and D'arcy significantly contributed to the look and the sound of the band. I suppose it's valid for Billy, the leader of the band, to just use the name for an almost entirely different lineup, which is what he has done, but his announcement, with phrases like, "I want my band back" seems to suggest that he's announcing a reunion with the original lineup. Although I understand that these types of personal relationships and artistic collaborations are complicated, I felt a bit conned.

But at that point, I was willing to forgive until I learned that the Smashing Pumpkins were not only playing their first show in Europe, but apparently have planned to visit just about every city on the planet other than Chicago. They have snubbed the Metro, and unless a surprise is planned, they are not playing Lollapalooza as rumored. (Lolla having become a major music event synonymous solely with Chicago these days.) As of this writing, they have not scheduled any shows in the Windy City, and their highly touted "residencies" are taking place in San Francisco and Ashville, North Carolina. North Carolina??? It is impossible for Chicago fans not to take it personally at this point. We have always supported Billy and all of his crackpot vanity projects. And he has played the role of "native son" TO THE HILT. From singing the 7th inning stretch at Cubs games, to crowing about the superiority of Chicago over L.A. on the radio, to intoning "Illiniois, Illinois, Illinois" at his poetry reading, Billy has made it very clear that he WANTS to be associated with Chicago. I mean, look at the reunion announcement:

"For over 17 years I have been proud to represent Chicago as an artist through my words and music, and am continually humbled by the undying love that I have been shown from this city as one of its native sons...I had the opportunity to record 'TheFutureEmbrace' CD here in Chicago, and its embers bear witness to this town's unique soul...Plans are still in the works to finish my 'ChicagoSongs' DVD, a group of songs about the city...So I moved back home to heal what was broken in me, and to my surprise I found what I was looking for. I found that my heart is in Chicago, and that my heart is in The Smashing Pumpkins...I know this city gave me the gift of music, and it is my honor to share this love that I have with you from the bottom of my heart."

So yeah, Billy, don't be a stranger!

Meanwhile, I've been concerned that the upcoming Zeitgeist was going to be as heavy-handed and literal as I was worried Year Zero would be, with the Planet of the Apes-meets-global warming artwork and song titles like "United States" and "For God and Country." But the tracks I heard sounded fine.

Until this...oh, this is the last fucking straw.

Apparently, the version of Zeitgeist you will purchase will depend on where you buy it. There's a standard 12-track edition, an edition with the title track (?!) that you can ONLY purchase at Target, an edition with a bonus track that you can only purchase at Best Buy, and an edition with a different bonus track that you can only purchase through itunes. Not to mention the "deluxe edition" with a 72-page booklet and some German "special edition" that comes with a DVD. According to Wikipedia, there are basically eight alternative versions of this one fucking album.

Is there any way to spin this that doesn't make Billy look like a greedy, corporate sellout, fan-screwing asshole? I don't think so. I'm not one of the fanatic "collectors," but I really do sympathize with the fans who want to legally purchase all of the new Smashing Pumpkins music and are now faced with buying three nearly identical versions of the same album. I don't like the fact that if I want the title track to the album, I HAVE to buy it from Target. I don't like that on Billy's "political" album, he's got no less than three exclusive deals with big-box retailers. I understand that the realities of the music business these days mean making certain artistic compromises and that artists have to SELL their music. But Billy has crossed the line into sheer greediness, and if nothing else, has ensured that fans will illegally download the exclusive tracks, if not the entire album.

In conclusion, Billy, I love you. You are a major part of the soundtrack of my life. My husband literally sold his plasma to buy me Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness for a Valentine's present, and that was probably one of the most romantic gestures ever. Yes, I probably will purchase some version of your new album, and if you deign to return to your hometown, I will most likely see your show. But I am very disappointed, and as someone who only wishes you the best, I'm calling you on it.

(Update 7/18: Billy Corgan will finally return to Illinois on tour...NORMAL, IL that is...about 2.5 hours away from Chicago or so. FUCK YOU TOO, BILLY.)


Most of you probably know Iris and me as contributors to Wearing These Chains, the best NIN fansite out there and quite possibly the best website in the world. We're hoping to apply that awesomeness to the wider world of music and of course, continue to lovingly ridicule everything that Trent Reznor does. Just as Happy Days had Laverne and Shirley and Joanie Loves Chachi and Mork and Mindy, so WTC now has Places Parallel.

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