January 26, 2010

The Smashing Pumpkins//1979

Now, my time-travelling friends, let’s go back to 1979, or at least to 1995 when this song was released on mammoth chart-topping double album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins.

I have to say, I was never really a Pumpkins fan. As a kid, I found Corgan’s voice whiney and grating. In spite of that, I always liked this song and the video that went with it. Also, strangely, I think I like the band’s sound now, as an adult, more than I ever did when they were popular. In fact, just writing this makes me want to revisit their entire body of work.

Regardless of how I feel about the band, this album was an incredible success, with five singles, four of which went Top 40. "Bullet with Butterfly Wings," anybody?

Between the lyrics and the video, Corgan and co. paint 1979 as at once brightly youthful and boringly suburban. Populated by “poured cement,” mild drug use, “the vacant and the bored,” lonely afternoons and a general feeling of aimlessness, the teenage angst in the song is kind of beautiful. In a way, it sucks and the narrator feels isolated from/confused by society as a whole. On the other hand, the ties formed between the narrator and other isolated kids in the scene are perfect, intense and interesting.

Of course, in the greater world, outside of the universe of the song, lots of things were happening in 1979. In Iran, the Islamic Revolution swept through the country. China invaded Northern Vietnam. In Montenegro and Albania, a completely destructive 7.0 earthquake struck. In the UK, the IRA was bombing things left and right--Margaret Thatcher also became prime minister. In America, there were riots in San Fransisco over the verdict for Dan White, who shot Harvey Milk. Beyond that, in the states, we got the Susan B. Anthony dollar, Skylab and the death of famed sitcom horse Mr. Ed. I guess we can understand what Corgan was writing about, after all.

As for 1995, when the song was released, the year was a turning point for music and technology. Corgan stated that “1979” was the most personally important song on his band’s new record, indicating that it would be a forbearer for a new sound, “something that combines technology, and a rock sensibility, and pop, and whatever, and hopefully clicks.”

In 1996, just a year later, a girl would be killed in a wild mosh pit at a Pumpkin’s show in Ireland and SP keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin would OD on heroin and die, marking the beginning of the end for the band.

But, for now, let’s not think about that. Instead, let’s think about our friends rolling us through artificially green fields of subdivisions in giant old tires:


We don't even care, as restless as we are.
We feel the pull in the land of a thousand guilts
And poured cement, lamented and assured
To the lights and towns below.

Time Travel Definition:Acording to Wikipedia: "A time slip (also called a timeslip) is an alleged paranormal phenomenon in which a person, or group of people, travel through time through supernatural (rather than technological) means. ...Many time slip witnesses report that, at the start of their experience of the phenomena, their immediate surroundings take on an oddly flat, underlit and lifeless appearance, and normal sounds seem muffled. This is sometimes accompanied by feelings of depression and unease." Learn more.


Neil said...


You mean "Corgan", of course.

g said...

Thanks, Neil. Indeed, I do mean "Corgan." Corrected. Been reading too much Chris Ware, I suppose.

katherine said...

I am so glad you wrote about this song. I LOVED this band in 1995. LOVED THEM.

g said...