5 Classic Smashing Pumpkins Songs and Why Billy Corgan Says He Won’t Be Pressured Into Playing Them

“I don’t play any songs I don’t want to play. I don’t care if they’re classic or not.”

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The Smashing Pumpkins’ leader Billy Corgan recently declared he won’t be pressured into playing the “hits” on his band’s current world tour. He added, “If I don’t want to play it, I just don’t play it.”

However, Corgan admitted, “It’s not a bad thing that [fans] want to hear songs that they love.” Though he’s cautious against living “in the past,” adding, “It’s the death of any artist.”

For many fans, nostalgia is the motivating factor in buying concert tickets. It’s a way to revisit their adolescence. Most people primarily listen to the music of their youth, and when well-known bands from long ago hit the road, it’s the now-older fans with the income to spend money on a bit of nostalgia.

Still, Corgan insists the audience wants to “see you today.” He said fans don’t want to see some “aging relic.” Perhaps, but the stubborn fact remains the arena is full because of songs Corgan wrote 30 years ago.

The Smashing Pumpkins may or may not spend the summer playing their greatest hits, but if the Chicago band skips a few, the list below has you covered.

A quick note to Billy Corgan: As “Cherub Rock,” “Zero,” and “I Am One” are strategically left off this playlist, can you pretend they are not hits and rock these glorious jams regardless?

“Today” from Siamese Dream (1993)

Corgan sings the uplifting ballad with sarcasm to cope with overwhelming depression. “Today” became an alt-rock anthem, and Corgan transformed the shoegaze bliss of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless into an accessible radio hit.

Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known
Can’t live for tomorrow
Tomorrow’s much too long
I’ll burn my eyes out before I get out

“Tonight, Tonight” from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)

By The Smashing Pumpkins’ third album, Corgan expanded his art rock into a 28-track epic double album. You might think 28 songs is excessive, but there isn’t a track worth leaving off Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. For the reissue, the band added 64 bonus tracks, showing how prolific Corgan was during this period. It could have been a triple album, still without filler. “Tonight, Tonight” hasn’t lost its luster.

And you know you’re never sure
But you’re sure you could be right
If you held yourself up to the light

“Disarm” from Siamese Dream (1993)

“Disarm” musically foreshadows where The Smashing Pumpkins ended up on Mellon Collie. Over somber strings and looming bells, Corgan addresses his tumultuous childhood. However, unlike most angst-ridden songs from the ’90s, Corgan airs his grievance toward his parents tenderly, and it sounds like “Disarm” may have come from the child hiding somewhere inside the adult.

Disarm you with a smile
And cut you like you want me to
Cut that little child
Inside of me and such a part of you

“Bullet with Butterfly Wings” from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)

This is the best angst anthem of the ’90s. Period. Critics had tired of Corgan’s antics by this point in his career. But his contrarianism was also part of the draw. Is “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” self-loathing? Yes. Do people want to hear rich rock stars complain? Probably not. But if you’re going to rage, it’s best to do so with a killer riff like this. (Also, see “Zero.” Come on, Billy, just play “Zero!”) No pressure.

The world is a vampire, sent to drain
Secret destroyers, hold you up to the flames
And what do I get, for my pain?
Betrayed desires, and a piece of the game

“1979” from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)

As aging bands fight against becoming legacy acts, fans dig out their old, faded concert T-shirts from 30 years ago because of nothing but nostalgia. “1979” is a defining song for The Smashing Pumpkins, and it’s about leaving the innocence of youth for adulthood. Corgan understands the emotions tied up in lost innocence; he wrote one of the decade’s best songs about his own coming-of-age moment.

Justine never knew the rules
Hung down with the freaks and ghouls
No apologies ever need be made
I know you better than you fake it, to see

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