"Billy Corgan's got an ego bigger than my arse": Inside the Smashing Pumpkins vs. Sharon Osbourne feud that made Mrs O "sick"

Sharon Osbourne and Billy Corgan
(Image credit: Art Streiber/CBS via Getty Images | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Sharon Osbourne has never been one to mince her words. But the statement announcing her resignation as The Smashing Pumpkins manager on January 11, 2000, just four months after taking over their business affairs, was a masterclass in barbed understatement.

"It was with great pride and enthusiasm that I took on management of the Pumpkins back in October," it read, "but unfortunately I must resign due to medical reasons – Billy Corgan was making me sick!"

In case this was too subtle, and to make sure that no-one could possibly misinterpret exactly where she had identified the problem within the band, Osbourne's statement pointedly added that she was “saddened that I will no longer be working with such great and talented people as James Iha, Melissa Auf Der Maur, and Jimmy Chamberlin” and added “I wish them much love.”

The Pumpkins had terminated their previous management contract with Q Prime, who, at the time, also handled Metallica, Hole, Red Hot Chili Peppers and more, in November of 1998, having seen their career trajectory slow rather dramatically. Adore, the group's fourth album, released in June that year, sold 840,000 copies in America in its first six months on the shelves, a respectable amount, but a far cry from the five million US sales racked up by 1995's epic Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness album. The band's attorney declared that the parting of the ways with Q Prime came about because  “the band’s vision differed with management’s vision”, but in a telling sentence in its report on the split, Rolling Stone  noted, "Sources speculate that Pumpkin band members (and Billy Corgan in particular) may have felt the band was not getting enough attention from Q Prime."

If Corgan was disappointed that Smashing Pumpkins' fans were lukewarm in their reception to the gothic electronica of Adore, he wasn't about to backtrack and start pandering to expectations. The next Pumpkins album, he declared, would be a conceptual cyber-metal piece revolving around a rock star named Zero (based on his own public persona) hearing the voice of God, renaming himself Glass, and reimagining his band as The Machines of God. This was not what anyone wanted to hear.

Corgan chose the track Stand Inside Your Love as the lead-off single for the album internationally, and worked with British video director Wiz, on an arty video referencing Oscar Wilde's 1891 Salomé, starring his girlfriend Yelena Yemchuk. An undeniably striking piece of art, the video featured the four members of the band in outlandish, oversized black dresses, making them resemble chess pawns. Sharon Osbourne dropped in on the shoot, which took place in Santa Clarita, California in December 1999, and seemed bemused at best by the styling. By the time the video was serviced to MTV, she'd already washed her hands of the group, claiming that she was tired of Corgan's "mind games." Pointing out that she already looked after (and was married to) a genuine rock legend, she told MTV that she didn't need to drive herself crazy over an "alternative fucking band that's on a downer."

In a less combative mood, Osbourne later told Q magazine that she considered Billy Corgan "a nice person underneath all the bullshit."

“Unfortunately he's surrounded himself with arse-lickers," she added, "and it's a long time since anyone pointed out a few home truths. I feel sorry for the other band members because he doesn't treat people well. He's also extremely competitive and that's a bit sad. I thought their last album, Adore, was a great record but as soon as it wasn't a massive commercial success, he blamed the record company, sacked his previous management and ignored the fact that it wasn't a particularly commercial record."

"He won't accept anyone else's opinion. He's got no problems in his life except that he's a six foot baldy twat in a dress."

In 2014, Billy Corgan told Howard Stern that the pair had long since buried the hatchet.

"We’re totally cool, we made up years ago," he said. "Her world, which is more of a heavy metal world, she couldn’t relate to the alternative…why you wouldn’t do the thing to sell more records. She was trying to be the manager and she just thought I was insane."

You can see Osbourne and the Pumpkins interacting [and this writer lurking in the background] on the set of the Stand Inside Your Love video shoot in the behind-the-scenes footage below:

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.