Watch Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan casually link NFL superstar/broadcaster O.J. Simpson to murder in this 'disarming' 1994 TV interview

Billy Corgan and O.J. Simpson
(Image credit: Billy Corgan - TheDisconnect33/YouTube - O.J. Simpson - Kypros/Getty Images)

In 1994, Smashing Pumpkins were flying high. The previous year’s Siamese Dream album had become a huge hit - Top 10 in both the US and UK - and made Billy Corgan’s band big-hitters, reaching that rarefied status where even their B-side albums were massive: in America, their 1994 collection Pisces Iscariot charted even higher than Siamese Dream, peaking at number 4 on the Billboard chart.

In another indication that the Chicago four-piece were being treated as Artists of Significance, they’d started to be interviewed by serious old men who would quote their lyrics back to them in grave, theatrical tones, which is exactly what happened when Corgan was interviewed backstage on the Lollapalooza tour in August 1994 at the Lakewood Amphitheater in Atlanta, Georgia.

Reading out lyrics from the chorus to Disarm, one of Siamese Dream’s most iconic tracks, the abc TV interviewer intones, “What’s a boy supposed to do/a killer in me is a killer in you” over footage of him strolling through the crowd, looking very much like a dad trying to locate his son who was supposed to be grounded.

Corgan seems happy to shed light on the lyric, though, and connects it to something that was very much on America’s mind at the time: that summer, following a dramatic chase broadcast live to tens of millions of viewers on US TV networks, NFL superstar, actor and broadcaster O.J. Simpson had been arrested for the murder of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

“I think we all have the potential – OJ,” Corgan says, looking into the camera, “to murder and kill, maim and harm, and we also have the potential to make a positive affectation. I don’t believe in messages because a lot of the time they ring hollow.”

O.J. Simpson was subsequently acquitted of the murders in a world-famous trial, but he was found liable for the deaths three years later in a less-publicised civil suit brought by the victims' families.

Being treated with such reverence after wading through a wave of indie sniping obviously had an effect on Billy Corgan and he ran with the idea of big artistic statements. For his next move, he’d make a grandiose double-album – the Pumpkins’ finest moment – in Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness. There were no direct references to O.J. on it, but then there were no direct references to anything – by that point, the Pumpkins' leader had gone deeper into the rabbit hole, emerging with lyrics that read like nightmarish fantasia. Apart from on We Only Come Out At Night, which, frankly, was a bit silly. 

Watch the interview segmemt below:

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer for The Guardian, Variety and Classic Rock, and co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former editors of Q magazine Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. Niall has written for NME, X-Ray Magazine and XFM Online and interviewed some of music’s biggest stars, including Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, St Vincent, The 1975, Depeche Mode, Radiohead and many more.