No matter how you look at the alternative rock scene from the ’90s, two of the biggest names that will consistently come up are Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins. However, it seems that the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan may be a little jealous towards Nirvana for preventing his band from reaching greater heights of success.
Back in May of 1991, the Smashing Pumpkins released their debut record, Gish. While the record wasn’t exactly a commercial smash at the time, it would go on to become the highest-selling independent album of all time for a few years, turning the group into a massive underground success.
However, as Billy Corgan explains to Soundlounge (via Alternative Nation), the group’s bright future happened to lose a bit of its shine when Nirvana released their groundbreaking record Nevermind in September of that same year.
“To give you context, our record Gish, which was on an independent label called Caroline, at the time was the largest-selling independent record ever released,” explained Corgan. “I think at that point we had sold about 350,000-400,000 copies, which even today, is still a big number.”
“Then a little band called Nirvana came out and sold a bazillion copies. Then Pearl Jam sold a bazillion copies, so the standard of what was a successful record, literally changed on us overnight.”
“We went from being like, ‘Wow, you guys are doing great, big future’ to like, ‘You’re not going to quite make it’,” he continued. “Wow, what happened? Alternative radio around 1991 – I think there were seven stations in America. And by the mid-’90s, I think there were 100-something stations.”
“And here we are, still playing alternative rock. It was a cultural movement, it was a music business movement, it was really a hostile takeover of the systems that existed,” Corgan continued. “Suddenly it was being populated by people who didn’t really care about the perfect photo and the perfect posture. It just felt so different.”
“But yeah, we’re a bunch of misanthropes, but suddenly we were staring down the barrel of, ‘You better come up with a big record.’ We wrote everything before, we practiced like crazy, I think we practiced for four months.”
“We knew it was this, or back to Burger King.”
Of course, while the Smashing Pumpkins would indeed be a huge success with the releasing of their follow-up albums Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, it doesn’t seem as though Billy Corgan exactly holds a grudge. If anything, he seems to be rather happy to have been involved in such an iconic and influential music scene, and frankly, we’re glad he was a major player at the time as well.