Strange, gothic, and dark, the Smashing Pumpkins were one of the top bands of the ’90s. Though they competed with names like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the underground rock scene did not influence them as much as their competitors. They blended a multitude of rock subgenres like progressive rock, heavy metal, dream pop, goth, and psychedelia, using distorted guitars and Billy Corgan’s lyrical angst. They have a complicated past of entering and exiting members that shaped the band’s sound through the ages.
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But, how did one of the most influential rock bands of the ‘90s gain such a unique name? What does the name mean? Is the word “Smashing” a verb or an adjective? Let’s dive in and find out.
According to lyricinterpretations.com, there are multiple origins to the band’s name. All versions are equally comical and ridiculous. In the Smashing Pumpkins’ extended music video, “Vieuphoria,” frontman Billy Corgan mentions that the name was “from God” and it was “God’s Joke.” Whether divine intention or not, I wish Corgan would let us in on the joke.
In another weird version of this origin tale, the band mentioned in an early newsletter that the name came as a dream vision with Gene Simmons of the band KISS. Simmons told them that Joe Strummer (the vocalist of the Clash) is a pumpkin—drunk and smashed.
Former bassist of the band, D’Arcy Wretzky, said in a 1993 interview with Addicted to Noise magazine that Corgan had the band name before anyone else had a vote. She mentions that Bob English, a friend of the band, coined it. This one is the most believable, but you can still have your favorite of the three wacky versions.
Incidentally, The Smashing Pumpkins may not signify what you have in mind. It’s not the image of a pumpkin lying crushed in pieces on the ground, goo spattered everywhere. According to a TikTok video that they uploaded this year, the word “Smashing” acts as an adjective rather than a verb. Thus, the name gives way to an excellent or wonderful-looking pumpkin, not a squashed broken one. See the TikTok that the band posted below.
Photo credits by Linda Strawberry of Napalm Records