A long time ago, rock and roll used to be loud and exciting. Its songs championed partying, excess, girls who partied and had excessive mammaries and bottoms. It fostered a fast lane lifestyle which was too fast for some of its musicians, but they were having too much fun to care. One day out of the distant west came the new “Seattle sound” of rock. It was called grunge. It took rock by the head, and it made you listen to its emotions, its angst. Then, from somewhere in between east and west came a man, or was it a group? Something different. Something smashing…
#81 “Rhinoceros” by The Smashing Pumpkins. This track is one of the Pumpkins’ first hits to graze mainstream culture. Featuring a psychedelic sound to a nearly plodding tempo, the dreamy song eventually leads into the loud/soft dynamic that characterized The Smashing Pumpkins’ later work. Prominent guitar and bass lines steal the show, and the way that electric sound screams down the fret board is reminiscent of the music that inspired Billy Corgan in the 80’s.
The album “Gish” on which this song was recorded, created a lot of strain for the band. It also exposed the first inklings of stress that would eventually plague them. Billy Corgan took on a lot of the work himself, recording nearly all of the bass and guitar parts, displacing the other band members who assumed those roles. One may think that such drama is expected within a group named after clashing squash (now, there is a band name).
As the band evolved, it shed nearly all of its members until reforming with only its intrepid leader Billy, which begs the question: were the band members Pumpkins, or is the name referring to a greater concept? Is there no truth in beauty? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know.
The Smashing Pumpkins remained a driving musical force through the rest of the decade, hitting a peak in the mid 90’s. They forged ahead with their continually evolving sound into cerebral and sometimes controversial territory until disbanding. While Billy still chugs along to this day with new Pumpkins in tow, it’s the days of he, D’arcy, James, and Jimmy that many remember best.