To the dismay of music fans in Chicago and beyond, the members of Billy Pumpkin's, er, Corgan's mega-outfit, The Smashing Pumpkins, have finally decided to part ways. On December 2, 2000, the band played its last show at the Metro, the place where it all began for the band. But the 280-minute, 37-song set (which included four encores) is not the end of the Pumpkins in Chicago. That morning, Mayor Richard M. Daley proclaimed December 2 Smashing Pumpkins day in the city. Hopefully, people won't take that literally.
Before signing off, the band endured the usual trials and tribulations of stardom. It fired - and rehired - drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, it parted company with its management when Sharon Osbourne (Ozzy's wife) left the group after a series of battles with Corgan and it took on bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur (formerly of Hole) after original member D'Arcy Wretzky left in September 1999. The Pumpkins' last album, MACHINA/the machines of God (Virgin), was released in February 2000, shortly before the band announced its breakup.
Back in the mid-'90s, the Pumpkins had to perform most of their Mellon Collie tour with drummer Matt Walker and ex- Frogs keyboardist Dennis Flemion because of the heroin-related death of keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin (son of a jazzman who, ironically enough, heads an industry anti-drug concern, and brother of Wendy Melvoin of Prince's "Wendy and Lisa" combo) and the firing of long-time drummer Jimmy Chamberlin in July 1996. Chamberlin was ousted from the band when the other members decided his consistent substance abuse "nearly destroyed everything [The Smashing Pumpkins] are and stand for."
Chamberlin appeared in a New York court and plea-bargained the possession charge he faced down to "disorderly conduct," which required him to undergo rehab treatment for five months. In subsequent tours and recordings, the Pumpkins brought on a number of drummers, including Matt Cameron, Joey Waronker and Kenny Aronoff, to fill in before Chamberlin was brought back in the band in February 2000.
Amid all of this turmoil, and contract disputes with two different record companies, there has been a silver lining to the Pumpkins' clouds. The band did a 14-date tour of primarily smaller (for them) venues where 100% of the proceeds went to a charity in each city. They've received a number of nods for music awards, including ones from MTV and the Grammys, and have won quite a few, as well. In addition, at least one former Pumpkins member, James Iha, has released a solo album, and Corgan has written songs for other artists, including the title track to Hole's Celebrity Skin, and the score for the movie Stigmata.
In addition to MACHINA, the Pumpkin records include Gish, Siamese Dream, Pisces Iscariot and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. They have a 90-minute video of live stuff out called Vieuphoria, and a five-CD singles box set, The Aeroplane Flies High on Virgin. It includes a 36-page book of photos and liner notes, 33 songs (including all of Mellon Collie's singles and b-sides, songs from upcoming movie soundtracks, and a few previously unreleased covers (of Blondie's "Dreaming," and The Cars' "You're All I've Got Tonight." An acoustic version of "Rocket" is also on WXRT's On XRT: Live >From The Archives Vol. 3 collection of in-studio and live performances. A collection of unreleased songs from MACHINA is also rumored to be in the works.
SPFC.ORG Starla Siva
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