Music

Smashed

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

Over the next few years, I begged my mother to take me to the mall so I could buy every Pumpkins album I could find (luckily she never noticed the swear on Siamese Dream)—and when I couldn’t find a bootleg or an import at the regular record stores, I implored her to take me to the specialty ones. My room was plastered with Pumpkins posters and my drawers were filled with band T-shirts. I drew the SP symbol on basically everything I owned. By the time I got to high school, when the band released Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness, I was spending most of my study hall time writing Billy’s lyrics in my notebooks, and I never went anywhere without at least four Pumpkins CDs to listen to. I cut my hair short and convinced my mother to let me get platinum streaks, because that’s how D’Arcy Wretzky, the bass player, did her hair, and she was a straight-up hero to me.

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). It was music that I could cry to, rage out to, get excited by, and find solace in. But falling in love with your first favorite band is all-consuming: You’re not just falling for a sound, but also for an image, an idea, the people behind the entire endeavor, and the atmosphere they create. My love for the Pumpkins even spilled over into my actual love life: My high school boyfriend was just as obsessed with them as I was, and the band was something we bonded over and, later, something I turned to for help dealing with a very angsty breakup.

Great Loves Will One Day Have to Part

The last time I saw Billy Corgan in person, it was the year 2000 and I was being rescued from a pit filled with aggressive bros who seemed determined to kill everyone. I was 19, and the band was roughly eight months away from breaking up. I remember being lifted by a security guard and making brief eye contact with Billy, dream of dreams, and giving him a “Sorry I almost died down there, I wanted to stay!” face, to which he raised his eyebrows in a “What are you going to do?” kind of way. He looked bored to me, but maybe I was just projecting—four years earlier I would gladly have broken several ribs and possibly a leg to watch the band play “Starla.”

Driving home from the show that night, 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. Of course, I wasn’t the same person I’d been when I saw that poster seven years earlier. The band had changed a lot too. When Billy announced that the band had broken up a few months later, I was somewhat relieved. I had spent my adolescence slavishly devoted to them, and they had spent their young-adulthood catering to obsessive fanatics like me, and maybe it was time for all of us to take a break from one another.

Yesterday the Sky Was You

It’s hard to explain what exactly happened to our love. Maybe I outgrew the songs, or the memories I’d attached to them, or maybe I wanted to feel the same way I felt when I first heard them, which was impossible, because I wasn’t 12 anymore, and instead of listening to the songs and imagining what my teenage life would be like, I’d actually gone out and lived it. Some of it was as beautiful and hopeful as the songs promised, some as heartbreaking, and some of it was disappointing, as I hit my 20s in a tailspin of depression and didn’t know how to keep alive the spirit of optimism-within-darkness that the band had often given me.

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 your identity and helped you feel safe and understood can’t do that for you anymore.

It’s also hard to admit that someone you once thought could do no wrong, can. The band’s breakup was so bitter that it made me hear the music differently—what had been comforting now sounded heavier, nastier. And some of the records Billy Corgan put out in the years that followed just weren’t for me, which forced me to face the fact that he had his own visions and goals and that “perpetually re-creating within Pixie Casey the feeling she had when she was 12” was probably not among them. On Twitter, you often see groups of fans directly scolding their idols for changing in any way. I get it; I hate change, too. But you can’t stop people and things and the world and your life. What you can do is learn to let go.

I’ll Hear Your Song/If You Want Me To

I’m grateful for everything the Smashing Pumpkins did for me. They helped me through some truly dark days, encouraged me to write poems (terrible ones, but those can be just as important), and gave me access to a secret world that I had discovered all on my own. They were my first obsessive love, before I’d ever fallen in love with a person. And in a way they prepared me for that scarier kind of love: The deep connection I felt to the band and their music was good practice for eventually allowing myself to connect with another human being.

To this day I have a soft spot for anyone who tells me that the Pumpkins were their favorite band in high school—I feel like we would have been friends, or made out, or at least spent hours talking about Billy Corgan’s lyrics and/or silver pants. But I also know at some point one of us will make fun of how obsessed we were, and the other one will laugh it off, and we’ll lock it up and distance ourselves from how intense we used to be, and how emotional, and how embarrassing. Why are we so 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.

Last June, I was having a crap day, and, on a whim, I downloaded Oceania, the new album by a new version of Smashing Pumpkins in which every member besides Billy has been replaced. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as I listened to the opening notes of the first song, “Quasar,” I suddenly felt 12 years old again, bouncing my head around and dancing in my computer chair. It was the first time in a long time that listening to a Pumpkins record was fun. It was nice to know that even though I’m not that obsessive kid anymore, I haven’t abandoned her completely. That, like my cousins did that summer on Cape Cod, and the Pumpkins did for my entire teenagehood, I could accept her. She needed that, and she still does. ♦

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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