Ten times Billy Corgan collaborated with his heroes

Billy Corgan and David Bowie in 1997
(Image credit: KMazur/WireImage)

For a man who’s done a very good impression of being a berserker control freak in his own band, Billy Corgan has been a very willing collaborator outside of the day job. The Smashing Pumpkins frontman has never been shy of saluting the artists who inspired him, a blend of bands taking in rock’n’roll trailblazers, metal pioneers, new wave, doom-laden goths, synth-pop gamechangers, FM rockers and Corgan has taken that adoration to the next level. Across his career, the Pumpkins leader has clocked up a number of impressive guest spots and team-ups with his musical heroes. Here are ten times the Corgan jumped on a track (or a stage) with his idols.

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New Order

The electronic-pop titans offered refuge for Corgan as he worked out what to do next after the Pumpkins’ original split in 2000. He added tender vocals to Turn My Way, a song on New Order’s 2001 seventh album Get Ready, and even joined the band as a live member, playing guitar and keyboards on a 2001 tour. Looking back on the experience a few years later, he said his time seeing the inner-workings of Bernard Sumner & co.’s group taught him to stop over-analysing everything. “When I played with them, they hadn't played Joy Division songs in 22 years,” he recalled. “I said, 'Why did you choose to play these songs again?' And they said, 'We just felt like it.' They didn't intellectualize the decision; they were just chasing down the rabbit hole."

Ric Ocasek

In the mid-90s, Corgan became fast friends with the late Ocasek, frontman of new wave giants The Cars and producer of records by Suicide, Bad Brains, Weezer and many more. Hanging out in New York one day, Ocasek suggested perhaps Corgan would be interested in co-producing his next solo record. The resultant record, 1997’s Troublizing, is marked with several Corgan touches, from the crunchy phaser guitars of Fix On You to the tightly-wound riff on Crashland Consequence. The final track, Asia Minor, was written by Corgan, the sort of snarling, barbed rock song his own band were about to turn away from – Adore was just around the corner.

Robert Smith

Corgan’s relationship with his debut solo album TheFutureEmbrace is complicated at best – Corgan removed it from streaming services a few years ago (along with the only record by Zwan and the Pumpkins’ 2007 comeback album Zeitgeist) for reasons no-one really knows. But whilst TheFutureEmbrace is far from perfect, it contains some of his best and weirdest work of the ‘00s. Mina Loy (M.O.H) is a fierce electro-rocker and the album also features this delightfully odd duet with The Cure’s Robert Smith on a cover of The Bee Gees’ To Love Somebody, Corgan turning the schmaltzy ballad into a dreamy, slo-mo shoegazing soundscape. The pair had become pals a decade earlier, when Corgan went to see The Cure and a drunk Robert Smith was sick on his shoes afterwards.

Tony Iommi

Unsurprisingly, Black Sabbath were a huge band for a young Billy Corgan, imprinting on his mind the unrelenting power of a killer riff. You imagine he didn’t have to think twice, then, when the riffmeister general Tony Iommi came calling in 2000, eager to get Corgan involved in his debut solo record Iommi. The hook-up resulted in the co-write and Corgan-sung track Black Oblivion, a ferocious eight-minute rock epic with Corgan doing his finest Ozzy impression.

David Bowie

Bowie was never shy in collaborating with a new generation of acolytes and he got many of them all under one roof for a famous birthday bash at Madison Square Garden in 1997 - you can read more about that here. Corgan was one of the younger artists there that night, joining the Starman onstage for climactic, second-encore run throughs of All The Young Dudes and The Jean Genie. Corgan could never work out why Bowie had made him stand a little further back until years later he realised it was because of the Pumpkins man’s height – Bowie wanted them to look the same size.


Corgan was always impressed by the German group’s commitment to straightforward, out and out rocking. “That desire has always translated to their fans,” he told Classic Rock’s Dave Everley in 2015. He supplied guest vocals on The Cross, taken from their 2007 album Humanity: Hour I.

Marianne Faithfull

Corgan was in thrall to the 60s icons who reshaped the musical landscape and jumped at the chance to work with Faithfull when she pulled in a contemporary cast of characters to work on her 2002 album Kissin Time. Alongside contributions from Beck and Blur, Corgan worked on three songs, the most impressive the Adore-y sounding ballad Wherever I Go.

Cheap Trick

Some of the Pumpkins’ most famous songs were inspired by Illinois pop-rock four-piece Cheap Trick – in the case of Cherub Rock, Corgan half-inched the chord progression from the chorus of their Oo La La La. They obviously didn’t hold it against him, and Corgan joined them onstage to play on Mandocello at a performance in Chicago in 1998. It appeared on the group’s live set Music For Hangovers.

Sammy Hagar

Corgan was a huge Eddie Van Halen fan and got to pay tribute to the late guitarist when he joined Sammy Hagar & The Circle onstage for an electrifying take on Van Halen’s 1978 track Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love with the band, who feature Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, guitarist Vic Johnson and Jason Bonham on drums, also finding time for a quick burst of Cherub Rock’s main riff too.

Depeche Mode

The Pumpkins were heading into more electronic and synth-tinged territory by 1998 and Corgan hammered the point home by joining Essex electro ledges Depeche Mode onstage at the KROQ-FM Almost Acoustic Christmas Concert in LA in December of that year. Corgan sang and played guitar on a storming rendition of Dave Gahan & co.’s classic Never Let Me Down Again.

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.