100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #36 The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979

Released : 1995

Writing about what you know might be the easiest piece of advice you can give to someone as a booster to their creative process, but it ignores the obvious; by the time you reach a certain stage in life, you end up knowing lots of stuff which simply isn’t good for you.

By the time Billy Corgan was writing the songs that would eventually be pared down to The Smashing Pumpkins third album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness for instance it was plain that his band had succeeded Nirvana as torch carriers for American alternative music. The job came with mucho record sales but also character assassinations done dirt cheap, with in the pre-Mean Tweets era Bob Mould describing the quartet as the grunge Monkees whilst Steve Albini likened them to REO Speedwagon.

In retreat, Corgan went back to a time of his life at the borders of adolescence and teenhood, the junction between innocence and it’s often brutal truncation. Originally excluded from the album’s overblown playlist by producer Flood, 1979 was in every sense the mainstream rock song which their unwilling peers had forecast they would end up resorting to. They said that like it was a bad thing; Corgan’s wispy vocals, the naggingly addictive riff and it’s stripped back intimacy only served to make them even more popular. Sometimes you know yourself well enough to gladly reach back to the happier times when you didn’t.

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