"We don't know what the f*ck you want from us"

That was Billy Corgan's 'rant' (though I would call it a lament) from the Tuesday night concert at the Chicago theater; the show received confused and otherwise tepid reviews from the local news sources; I had my chance to check it out for myself tonight (now last night). After watching the near two-and-a-half hour show, I think I may have some answers for Billy.

First of all, Corgan was in a much better mood tonight, but made it clear that he was under the weather - coughing a bit between songs and taking a bit of a breather at one point to talk about the Cubs and the Sox (amusing, to say the least!). As the show progressed, I started realizing that the problem has never been Billy Corgan, or The Smashing Pumpkins, it has been the fans. Like any great, generation-defining rock band, the Pumpkins meant a huge deal to the people who grew up with them.

I fell deeply in love with my first boyfriend to the soundtrack of Pisces Iscariot, Siamese Dream, Gish, and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness; as a matter of fact, I had my heart broken for the first time by him to those as well! I grieved the for the death of my grandfather to the sounds of Adore, and helped my best friend over a huge loss of her own driving around at all hours of the night, talking and listening to the Twilight to Starlight disc of Mellon Collie. Dan and I bonded over the Pumpkins when we first met, and even walked in to the banquet hall to be announced for the first time as husband and wife to 1979.

All those songs have vivid memories, emotions, mental pictures, and a whole lot of baggage attached to them; judging by the reactions of the crowd at the show, everyone else had their own strings attached to them as well. The Chicago Theater rocked when the Pumpkins were playing old materials, but the energy waned and the crowd sat down as the material got newer or more obscure. I was sitting there listening to the material I didn't know, and would find myself waiting for it to end in the hopes of hearing one of 'my songs' - then I'd come to the realization that the music was actually really good but it just wasn't getting the emotional response out of me that I had come there to experience.

Everyone got old; we were there to have those emotions served up to us on a platter. Just like how everyone my dad's age seems to hit the bathroom at the Rolling Stones concert when the post-1980s tunes come out, or Keith Richards has his token songs, we all just want to get nostalgic at this point. I looked around the crowd and saw virtually nobody under the age of 23 - the majority were actually into their 30s and older; for many people in this demographic, we've hit the point where we're no longer picking up new music like we used to. Sadly, we've stagnated and love the things that moved us back when we were busy becoming the individuals we are now; we used that music to help define us, and once that identity was put firmly into place, it was hard to knock down that scaffolding and move on. Also, for a lot of us, we're at the point in our lives where things aren't nearly as dramatic as they seemed to us as teens; it's not such an emotionally-charged situation where the sights and sounds around you become the backdrop of amazing or horrible memories later on. When the going gets tough now, we just return to the 'comfort food' music anyway.

I know this isn't everyone, and I have a lot of respect for those who keep finding new bands to love, but there's a reason our parents started having oldies channels on the radio about the time they hit their late 30s, early 40s; for those of us who were children of the late 70s-late 90s, we're getting there.

So Billy - to answer your question - we want you, and us... 10-20 years ago. You are still an amazing musician, but we have gotten soft on you. Never think that your lack of sales has anything to do with your lack of talent; I still believe you're one of the true musical geniuses of my generation and I think all your work (even up to now) demonstrates that. Sadly, you are stuck in the no-man's-land of musical greats between the era where you made it big, and the revival where our kids are old enough to find 'our music' cool. Hang in there Billy - you will have that young crowd again, and maybe they'll even be dragging us there with them, the way I brought my father tonight (and to the Adore tour way back when) - you have much much more to give the music world before you give up in frustration.


Julie said...

...and we want him to stop ruining Courtney Love's songs. Oh, wait. That was 10 years ago too.

Soupy said...

Very well said!

R. Zach Thomas said...

17 years old, listening to "Mellon Collie" and "Siamese Dream" in my room, lonely and with a crush. Mom comes up to tell me to do my homework, I sneak cigarettes out the window.

yeahdog said...

Ahhh smoking cloves!