The Smashing Pumpkins were one of the most successful bands of the early 1990s alternative movement who hailed from Chicago. They first formed in 1988 with a line-up of vocalist Billy Corgan, bassist D’Arcy Wetzky, guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. The band has had several other members come and go over the years. However, three-thirds of the original line-up are now back together, except for Wetzky. Instead, Iha is now the bassist and they have Jeff Schroeder on guitar.
The Smashing Pumpkins music has always had a more dream-pop sensibility to it, with their sound often being considered to have elements of shoegaze and gothic rock. Corgan has always been the main songwriter and generally oversees the direction of the music. Their first big success came in the form of their second album Siamese Dream which was released in 1993. They followed this up with the double album Melin Collie and the Infinite Sadness in 1995 which reached number one on the Billboard 200. They were a very commercially successful band throughout the 90’s but personal problems between the band members led to them splitting up in 2000.
Corgan and Chamberlain reformed the band in 2006 without the other members and recorded a new album titled Zeitgeist. Chamberlain left in 2009 after which Corgan continued to release material under the Smashing Pumpkins name with a rotating line-up of musicians. Chamberlain then re-joined in 2018 along with Iha and the line-up with Schroeder has remained since.
# 10 – Drown
Kicking off this Smashing Pumpkins songs list is a song from the soundtrack to the film Singles released in 1992 which was a romantic comedy set in Seattle during the early ’90s grunge era. This song was written shortly after the release of the debut album Gish and sound wise could be considered something of an icebreaker song as it shows the first signs of the more rounded sound of Siamese Dream. It starts with a feedback-heavy intro before using the quiet/loud formula that the band is known for between the verse and chorus.
# 9 – Soma
Next is a track from Siamese Dream that was originally titled “Coma.” Although the song is credited to both Corgan and Iha, Corgan claims that the guitarist only wrote some of the track’s chord structure and that he wrote the rest of it himself. It apparently has forty overdubbed guitar tracks. The lyrics deal with that of a troubled relationship and are said to be inspired by Corgan’s split from his wife.
# 8 – Tarantula
This track was the first single from the comeback album Zeitgeist released in 2007. The song’s title reportedly came about as a tribute to the German rock band Scorpions with whom Corgan had recently collaborated with. The song is said to be influenced by bands such as Scorpions and UFO. During the song’s writing process, Corgan was particularly thinking about how Scorpions’ guitarist Uli John Roth would have played it. It reached number one on the UK Rock Charts.
# 7 – Landslide
Next on the list is a cover song originally by Fleetwood Mac that was featured on the compilation Pisces Iscariot released in 1994. Like the 1975 original, this version is an acoustic number and something which Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks gave her blessing to. The cover proved to be popular and received much airplay on rock radio, reaching number three on the Modern Rock Tracks charts.
# 6 – 1979
Although many would expect it to be higher on the list, at number six is one of the band’s biggest hits that is a classic tale of youthful adolescence taken from Melin Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The song is exquisitely melodic and unbelievably almost did not make the final cut of the album due to Corgan not feeling that it was good enough. Naturally, it was a massive commercial success, reaching number one in several different charts in America and other high positions across the world.
# 5 – Rhinoceros
Here we go all the way back to the band’s first album Gish released in 1991. It is one of the few tracks from the first album that is included in their live sets today and one of the most celebrated in their back catalog. It is one of the best examples of the band’s shoegaze/dreampop side, having a very spacey sound to it. It was released as a single and its highest chart position was number twenty-seven on the US alternative rock songs chart.
# 4 – Stand Inside Your Love
Here is a song from the band’s final album of their first stint as a band released in 2000 titled Machina/The Machines of God which is not generally considered to be one of their better albums. This track, however, is one of the standouts on the record. The song was reportedly inspired by Corgan’s relationship with his then-girlfriend Yelena Yemchuk. It managed to chart high in many different places, with its highest being number two in the US alternative rock charts.
# 3 – Tonight Tonight
At the number three spot, we have what is possibly the band’s most famous song which is another cut taken from Melin Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Upon its release it was received extremely well both critically and commercially, charting high in several countries, including number one in Iceland. The video that was released for the song was also very popular, winning several awards. Musically, the band is going places here, with this track’s use of stringed instruments taking the band’s sound beyond that of the standard rock formula.
# 2 – Today
Just off the top spot is another of the band’s best-known tracks from Siamese Dream. Once again written by Corgan, the lyrics are much darker than what the upbeat sound of the song would suggest. They deal with the account of one specific day when Corgan was having suicidal thoughts. “Today” was the second single to be released from the album and one that Corgan was initially reluctant to put out. However, it proved to be a wise decision as it became yet another radio hit that charted high on several of the American rock charts as well as overseas.
# 1 – Bullet with Butterfly Wings
At the number one spot on our top 10 Smashing Pumpkins songs list, we have the lead single to be taken from the album Melin Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It was the band’s first song to reach the top forty, reaching number twenty-two on the Billboard 200. The track was initially conceived during the recording sessions for Siamese Dream. It was yet another song that charted high in several different places and won a Grammy Award in 1997 for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Updated May 21, 2023
Top 10 Smashing Pumpkins Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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