"In a way, I can hear that song now as the end of an era": Billy Corgan on the Smashing Pumpkins classic that put a stop to one era of the band

Smashing Pumpkins in 1993
(Image credit: Paul Bergen/Redferns)

The Smashing Pumpkins would never again be the band they were when making 1995’s Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, their sprawling double third album. Some of the reasons were out of their hands – drummer Jimmy Chamberlin missed their next record after he overdosed with the group’s live keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin – who subsequently died – after which, Chamberlin was sacked. Then, soon after Chamberlin returned, bassist D’Arcy Wretsky upped sticks, never to return. The classic line-up who made Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie… were done, never to share a stage or studio again.

But, despite some of the unplanned upheaval, there was already ideas in place to leave some Pumpkins hallmarks behind when the band were making Mellon Collie…, according to Billy Corgan. Speaking about the second disc’s monumental centrepiece track Thru The Eyes Of Ruby in the liner notes of a deluxe edition of Mellon Collie… released in 2012, Corgan said it was written as a way to close the chapter on one aspect of the group’s sound. “It was in many ways the last great epic Pumpkins song,” Corgan stated. “In a way, I can hear that song now as the end of an era.”

Homing in on the song’s creation, Corgan said that he was daunted by undertaking what he knew would be a labyrinthine production. “It was the last of our long and overly constructed epic songs,” he wrote. “I even said as much at the time, thinking we’d never bother to do another. I approached it with real weariness, knowing the amount of work it would take and in my heart never being quite sold on the song.” (It’s probably worth mentioning that Corgan is talking cobblers here – Thru The Eyes Of A Ruby is a classic!).

He does concede that he came round to it. “Looking back it has far more going it as a composition than I have it credit for at the time,” he continues, “and part of the way I approached the production of the guitars was almost to mock the mostly overblown style. Because my attention was elsewhere on other tunes, preparation of the guitar overdubs was handed off to my band mates, who spent a week coming up with very little between them.” Corgan recalls that he came in and took charge. “I added something in the neighbourhood of 54 guitar parts in four hours, if for nothing else than to show my frustration with them in spite.”

It's a scenario which sums up the magic that OG Smashing Pumpkins came up with in the face of intra-band tension. It’s not something that leads to longevity, though, and you hope the group’s current line-up (they added a new member last week) are a bit better at being nice to each other. They’ll need to be – this summer The Smashing Pumpkins embark on a long European tour that includes shows in Birmingham, Dublin, London, Cardiff and Glasgow.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.