Music

Smashed

Falling in and out of love with your first favorite band.

Illustration by Kendra

First Time That I Ever Saw You

The summer of 1993, I would have followed my cousins Tracy and John anywhere. They were siblings, 13 and 14 years old, and I was 12; and though that’s not a big gap in terms of actual chronological time, the dividing line between teenager and every age that comes before it is clear, strong, and immovable. To me my cousins seemed impossibly cool—worldlier and more mature than I could ever hope to be. They dressed cool, they listened to music by bands no one else had even heard of, and they seemed to discover trends ages before they trickled down to me and my friends.

That summer, our whole extended family went on vacation together to Cape Cod. Tracy and John had an effortless way of navigating the beachfront stores, finding perfect accessories for their ever-evolving identities, while I straggled behind, trying to look like I belonged with them, in their world. It is to my cousins’ credit that they never tried to ditch me; with my giant glasses and my abundance of orthodontia, I certainly wasn’t helping their cred, though they made me feel cool by association.

They were going through a grunge/alt phase that summer, so they introduced me to bands like Mudhoney and Sonic Youth, and to songs by bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam besides the ones they played on the radio. But they could also speak knowledgeably about hip-hop, dance music, jam bands, punk, pop—pretty much everything—and when they did so, I paid attention, trying to soak up as much information as I could. I wanted to know everything they knew, to like everything they liked (well, maybe except for the jam bands—sorry, dudes).

Before that trip, I just listened to whatever my older sister listened to—mostly Top 40. Under Tracy and John’s tutelage I basically exchanged one set of secondhand tastes for another—one that was definitely more sophisticated, but no more mine.

Then one day my cousins decided to walk into one of those ramshackle old beachfront record stores—the kind that smell like sand and patchouli and decaying wood and greatness—and while they combed hungrily through the racks, I found myself transfixed by a poster of two little girls that was plastered on the wall.

It advertised a record that had just been released about a month before (and is now—gulp—20 years old). I didn’t know anything about it, or the band, but I remember thinking that their name—Smashing Pumpkins—was kind of scary, since it describes a violent act, but also kind of funny, as it evoked an image of, like, the Monopoly Man looking at a pumpkin and declaring it “smashing.” The funny/scary juxtaposition spoke to me, because I had just entered a phase where I dealt with my anxiety by trying to find the absurdity in everything I feared.

I didn’t buy the CD that day, because I knew my mom wouldn’t react well to the song title “Silverfuck,” but I kept thinking about that photo of those two girls sharing a popsicle. Soon after that I heard the first single from that album, “Cherub Rock,” on the radio, and was immediately captivated by the loud, trippy guitars and the anthemic chorus. I asked John what he thought of Smashing Pumpkins and he said they were “pretty good,” but he didn’t seem super into them, which I liked, because this was something that could belong to me, not to my parents, not to my sisters, not to my cousins. This was something that was mine to love, sight and sound.

Freak Out/And Give In

Having covered the first two stages of falling in love—curiosity, then a crush—I moved on to step three: obsessive adoration. This kicked in when I saw the video for “Today” on MTV. It features the lead Pumpkin, Billy Corgan, as a bummed-out ice cream man who ditches his regular route to drive into the desert, where makeout sessions and paint fights ensue.

It was the first time I’d seen the band outside of promo shots in magazines, and whatever magic their visuals + their sound created when they came together, it worked on me. I felt instantly, deeply connected to them, like they’d been waiting for me, painting that ice cream truck, hanging around in that desert, until I caught up with them.

The song had a singsong melody accompanied by fairly dark lyrics (“Can’t live for tomorrow / Tomorrow’s much too long / I’ll burn my eyes out / Before I get out”), which hit my sweet spot of silly and sinister. The music was quiet and loud, happy and angry—an optimist’s howl attempting to break through a dark and scary chaos. As the guitars swelled I felt a rush of triumph, like I was overcoming something.

“I wanna turn you onnnnnn,” Billy growled. Mission accomplished, thought 12-year-old me. Smashing Pumpkins became my first musical passion, and like all obsessive loves, it burned too hot to last.

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27 Comments

  • KelseyL February 18th, 2013 3:52 PM

    Thank you for perfectly articulating Smashing Pumpkins fandom as a young girl. Oh man, reading this brought back some good memories. For me SP was a perfect mix of nostalgia for something I couldn’t pinpoint and hopes for the future (which, as a young teen, was finding a boy to stare dreamily at as we listening to Drown or Today). The first song of theirs that I heard was 1979 off a mixtape that my dad had made (he’s always had pretty good taste) – I think I must have been 8 or 9 and I remember being captivated by Billy Corgan’s soft snarl. Thank you so much for writing this!

    • Moxx February 18th, 2013 4:55 PM

      yes to every word you just said. just yes.

  • Tyknos93 February 18th, 2013 3:53 PM

    I get this so much. The only thing is I like way too many things now. So if I get bored with something I begin obsessing over something else and it is of no consequence to me.
    I miss that feeling of hanging onto every word or waiting years for a new release or waiting for hours to catch a glimpse of your favorite artist after a show.
    Its one of my problems with the internet. You can just cherry pick the best things someone has done without ever growing to love the less than stellar aspects. Sure I know of more things now than I have in the past, but I don’t think I could truly love it and subscribe to it in the same way as someone in the past.

    I’m rambling. Nice article. ^This is probably the entire plot of Midnight in Paris or something.

    http://blazoningpens.blogspot.com/

  • Mela February 18th, 2013 4:11 PM

    Nerdy 12 year old me used to write fictional stories involving me and SP. Yeah, I think I cornered the obsessive market.

  • Isabelle97 February 18th, 2013 4:14 PM

    ” Why are we eager to disown our younger selves? Maybe we’re trying to avoid getting lost in nostalgia, trapped in our own memories. Maybe we’re ashamed of how angsty we used to be. Or maybe we just remember how much it hurt to go through those times.”

    This^

    • clairedh February 18th, 2013 6:44 PM

      Seconded. That paragraph resonated so much with me too.
      My teenage obsession was Brand New. I loved them (and the boys in my school who loved them too (I seriously owe them in terms of getting me into amazing music) and used their lyrics on my msn and myspace to show just how cool and “something(deep? interesting? I honestly don’t know anymore)” I was. Six years on I still listen to them and, man, I really did not understand anything they were singing about when I was 15.
      That’s my favourite thing about growing up – getting to revisit the songs, movies, books, ect. I loved when I was younger and gaining a totally different message now I have a different perspective/more experience.

      • abigail emma June 11th, 2013 9:19 PM

        gotta love brand new.

  • Tihana February 18th, 2013 4:24 PM

    This article made me sooo happy because it’s the first time I’ve noticed Pearl Jam mentioned on Rookie.^^

  • Samara February 18th, 2013 4:29 PM

    When I saw the Siamese Dream illustration and read the title I got so unbelievably excited – an article on the Smashing Pumpkins on Rookie is something I’ve prayed for since the magazine started up seriously (wow I sound super lame). I’m 18 and in that teen obsession phase with SP that you’ve described; I can start to feel myself getting a bit disillusioned with them but they have basically been the soundtrack to my teenage years. <3 <3 <3 <3 this article, I love how you describe:

    I fell in love with Smashing Pumpkins because I felt like Billy Corgan was the only person on earth who understood what I was going through, because he wrote about sadness and confusion and love and darkness and anger and did so in a perfect storm of sarcasm and angst, that 1-2 combination of “fuck off” and “please love me” that felt very familiar to teenage me (and, I imagine, many other people).

    ^ exactly!

  • goma February 18th, 2013 4:43 PM

    I’m wasn’t even alive most of the time the Smashing Pumpkins were around, but the other day I asked my dad what music I listened to when I was I the womb/nursing and he said the Smashing Pumpkins! And then I listened to Today when reading this article, and it sounded so familiar!

  • Moxx February 18th, 2013 4:51 PM

    You put into words something I find really difficult to put into words (I want to say-I really admire you for it!).
    I started reading this but I’m going to save the other half for later, because I know that this particular feeling swallows up your whole day.
    It’s just the sort of story subject which pulls THAT feeling behind it. I can’t decide if that feeling is good or bad, but I love it. Thank you for writing this article… and do you know what I mean? It’s sort of sad and sweet, a sort of nostalgic heartache feeling.
    I felt this feeling the first time I listened to Tonight, Tonight. It’s like a warm sort of nausea, but not nausea, more like a dreamy emotion. I don’t know what stage I am in in relation to this band, because I’ve had to put it all on hold because of other things, and I don’t know if it will feel the same when I come back.
    aaaaaaaaaaaa I can’t even make sentences. Just thank you for saying the things you’re saying and saying them the way that you are saying them.

  • jenaimarley February 18th, 2013 4:57 PM

    My uncle, who accidentally introduced me to Siamese Dream as a young girl, took me to see the new version of the band a few years ago and I kind of had the same experience: obsessive love, falling out of that, and then re-admiration. I’ve moved on but I still love ‘em.
    Thanks Pixie! This is great.

  • Adrienne February 18th, 2013 9:27 PM

    “I didn’t feel my usual post-concert euphoria. I wasn’t drowning in pure bliss—there was a drop of something new in the mix, or maybe some ingredient had been removed, but I felt a little off. I felt a little less. It was that feeling where you still love someone but you’re no longer in love with them.”

    This is so true. I had that same exact feeling two weeks ago when I saw a second concert of my favorite band. I used to obsess over them so much but now I just don’t feel the same way. I had experienced “post-concert euphoria” when I went to my first concert of theirs last year but the other day I was just like “mreh”. Maybe part of the reason is that they had gotten so big that their concert wasn’t as intimate. I mean, I’m super happy that they’re getting recognized and all that, but again some of that closeness was lost. I still love them and support them, but as Pixie so aptly put it:

    “Falling out of love with your favorite band is a strange kind of heartbreak. It’s hard to accept that some loves are temporary, and that something that once defined our identities and helped us feel safe and understood can’t do that for us anymore.”

    Thanks Pixie, for helping me feel less guilty and for helping me understand more about this weird phase.

  • PlainLo February 18th, 2013 9:47 PM

    This is amazing! I felt pretty much same way about the Chili Peppers, though I went through a an angry stage (“how did I ever like these people?”) before accepting they were part of who I was/am. Now they feel like that relative you like, but only speak to every once in a while. Isn’t it odd how you can feel so close to people you never really knew?

  • nicholo94 February 18th, 2013 10:55 PM

    Michael Jackson was my obsession, although he is just a solo artist. This article totally described how I feel when I fall in love with a new band

  • SWIZZLEFAIRY22 February 19th, 2013 12:35 AM

    This is exactly how I felt about Paramore in 2008. I heard ‘Misery Business’ and became hooked on everything about them. Hayley Williams fiery hair, quirky style and carefree attitude made me want to be just like her. I obsessively listened to their album and demos and dyed my hair auburn to feel a little different. Once they released their third album, the magic began to fade. There brief break made me heartbroken at first, but I developed a lot in that time.I am still fan, but I’m not a Stan. Thanks for sharing.

  • Elizabete February 19th, 2013 9:40 AM

    This is really nice.

    I find myself getting nostalgic and listening to first favorite bands very often. I always cry then even if the song is super happy. I used to be OBSESSED with j-rock when ~12/13, especially An cafe, I even sent birthday cards to Miku and Teruki, haha. I also found a fellow Latvian fan online with whom we did role plays on Skype where she was mine fav member and I was hers, totally awkward, but still the best thing Iv’e ever used Skype for.
    K-pop obsession that followed was fun too, but I didn’t have a friend to share the fun with ;_;

    http://melodyfairitale.wordpress.com

  • Mary the freak February 19th, 2013 12:19 PM

    what an amazing article!! It’s quite funny because my Star Trek buddy today introduced me to smashing pumpkins.

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • tangentiallyswedish February 19th, 2013 1:13 PM

    this certainly applies to a lot of us! as im still a teenager, i haven’t out-grown my first band crushes yet and can still think back to the first times i heard them and get that feeling, but maybe that will be gone in a few years. i suppose im still finding the music that later will be defining for my teenage years, as well, which i will enjoy.

  • Maggie February 19th, 2013 3:47 PM

    “By jove, what smaaashing pumpkins!”
    -The Monopoly Man

    I remember that feeling of browsing CD aisles in middle school and just feel DRAWN to a random album cover and having this weird prescience that one day the CD would be yours. Except for me it wasn’t as cool as Smashing Pumpkins, it was Dixie Chicks

  • roxy189 February 19th, 2013 7:28 PM

    Thank you so much for writing this! I know exactly how you feel, as I had been listing to AC/DC until I was 14 because my cousin did, and then finally I discovered Led Zeppelin on a whim. I discovered them in a unique way – I read their biography and as I was reading it I began to listen to their songs. I was blown away. Still a fan today, as I’m only 16, I’m probably as obsessive as you were though in a different way (I took up occultism because Jimmy Page did!), but it was really interesting to read the different stages of a band obsession and while reading I got the feeling that I am not alone when it comes to obsessing over something. Great article!

  • GhostMonkeyGrrrl February 20th, 2013 2:32 AM

    I’m 20 years old. Been a hardcore Pumpkins fan since introduced at the turbulent age of 15. Yeah, unapologetically obsessed to this day. So what if Billy is a n*bhead? Coco Chanel was a Nazi sympathizer but people gloss over how awful she was and only focus on the House- he isn’t nearly as bad as that! It’s the feelings of the music and what they evoke in you. Even if the lyrics are disagreeable based on their manifest intentions, it’s still about your interpretation. We all should grow up and grow out of things but if you go back and listen to Siamese Dream, it’s still an amazing album and an integral part of who you are, despite you or the Pumpkins not being the same or whatever. Btw, I saw Oceania live and it was epic. Billy can still melt faces and the new lineup is tight. Maybe you’re ashamed slightly of who you once were, but don’t be. You were a Pumpkins fan at 13- that’s awesome!

  • GhostMonkeyGrrrl February 20th, 2013 2:37 AM

    Actually, my first favourite band was Arctic Monkeys and I was so disappointed by the venue. I still love the first two albums though.

  • alex lores February 20th, 2013 8:31 AM

    Right now I’m obsessed with the band fun. And theyre sorta getting famous which makes me happy for them but then again I’m a selfish bitch and I want to be the only one who knows of them.
    Or at least a small amiunt of people who knows them so we can secretly fangirl like it was two years ago.
    Then again I’m happy theyre getting known nate, jack, and andrew deserve it
    Sorry fangirl rambiling! Other than that this article was amazing :)

  • lishbish February 21st, 2013 1:32 AM

    HOLY POOPS THIS ISN’T FUNNY THIS IS ALMOST EXACTLY MY LIFE STORY
    No seriously, I was obsessed with the Pumpkins until my freshman year and I drew that heart EVERYWHERE. Reading this made me nostalgic and a little sad :( Excellent article, though.

  • Dakota Wright February 21st, 2013 1:55 PM

    Pixie, thank you. Thank you. Let me explain:

    The Smashing Pumpkins have been my favorite band since I was about 15 (I’m 20 now), and I have felt what you have felt—including the experience of a high school boyfriend just as obsessed as I was. I have seen what you saw of SP, through the destruction and various incarnations, although the fact that I was an infant in the days of SP’s prime meant that some of it had to be through secondhand research. As the Pumpkins reassembled, fell apart, and Billy embarked on various solo projects, I’ve found that I have continually connected with his music. I would be lying, though, if I called it an easy journey.

    At times I take a step back and wonder if I’ll ever outgrow them, just as I have outgrown poems I once loved, or novels that lost their luster. Will I wake up one day and flip on an SP record, only to find the magic gone? It’s something I have contemplated in many aspects of my life, but your “first favorite band” is the perfect backdrop for a discussion of youthful disillusionment. What you said about intensity is so true—although I can’t say I’ve ever drawn the SP heart on any of my belongings, I get that obsessiveness. By definition, it can’t last forever.

    That’s growing up: disowning and owning yourself again, and figuring out what to cut and what to keep. Progressing and morphing as a person is such a beautiful and necessary thing. To quote SP, “You may go, but I know you won’t leave. Too many years built into memories. Your life is now your own.” I am a ~woman~ now, but I carry my youthful love of SP with me everywhere.

  • hoggster November 7th, 2013 5:29 PM

    My first band obsession was Green Day, was so in love with them and eventually with Billy Joe Armstrong, I still love them in a way but it’s neer quite the same when you’re older is it? <3