Rhinoceros was the second single after Siva from Smashing Pumpkins debut album, Gish. It was co-produced with Butch Vig and main songwriter/singer/lead guitarist Billy Corgan and released in 1991 through Caroline records in the US and Hut in the UK. It was also released on a 4-track EP called Lull and this was perfect timing for an American audience that was falling in love with Nirvana and other Seattle bands. But Smashing Pumpkins were from Chicago and had little in common with the Seattle sound except for the fact they made a lot of noise.
Billy Corgan’s trapped Spaceman vocals, Metal influences and complex fuzziness saw them riding high on mainstream success as their second album Siamese Dream (1993) also co-produced with Vig, sold 4 million copies in the US reaching No.10 in the US charts and No.4 in the UK. Their next album, Pisces Iscariot released in 1994 was a collection of B-sides and outtakes. It fared badly in the UK but went to No.4 in the US charts – it was success beyond their wildest dreams until Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness was released in 1995. The album exploded and went 10 x platinum hitting the No.1 spot in the US and No.4 in the UK – they had become one of the biggest alternative bands in the world and the line between indie and mainstream had become extremly blurry.
How it all went wrong for Smashing Pumpkins is explained by internal band tensions as leader Corgan felt the need to play most of the guitar and bass parts on the records himself, leaving rhythm guitarist James Iha and bassist D’Arcy Wretzky frustrated. Add drummer Jimmy Chamberlin’s heroin addiction, mix in the massive acclaim with Corgan’s depression and the general mess of drug and alcohol abuse and the band’s days with these four people were numbered. By the time Adore was released in 1998 with a different sound, embracing Electronic music and without Chamberlin, the band saw their audience deteriorating at a great speed – although most bands would appreciate a million selling failure like Adore, the album reaching No.2 in the US charts and No.5 in the UK.
The band officially broke up in 2000 after their final album Machina/The Machines Of God saw Chamberlin return but it was already too late. The band has reformed breifly with original members, split up, reformed with non-original members, Chamberlin in and out and an array of different bass players and guitarists. Corgan has made a solo album, an album under the name of Zwan and also continued with the Smashing Pumpkins name, most recently with an album, Monuments To An Elegy released in December 2014.
With another album due this year it’s been an up and down twenty five years for Billy Corgan and one wonders who were the nine million people that bought Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness that couldn’t find 10 bucks for Adore or Machina/The Machines Of God. In a fickle world and despite the band not maintaining mass popularity, Billy Corgan’s solo version of the band continues with his creative vision.
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