'Rhinoceros,' from group's debut album, 'Gish,' is a pastiche of many of the elements that, once refined, came to define the Smashing Pumpkins. The song provided the space for the group to explore new rhythms, melodies and sounds, ranging from triple-distorted to clean electronic. Corgan once said that "after awhile you get used to playing 'Rhinoceros,' so you bring in something that's a little weirder."
'Perfect' was the second single from the band's fourth album, 'Adore,' which provided a denouement to the band's earlier single, '1979.' In fact, its video included four of the five original actors from the from the '1979' video. While previous Pumpkins videos were often arthouse abstractions, 'Perfect' concisely told the story of a young couple, and the ensuing confusion that led to drastic consequences.
Although never an official single from 'Siamese Dream,' 'Mayonaise' received quite a bit of airplay in 1993. Corgan croons some of his most hopeful lyrics in this song, ruminating, "Well, no one knows / Where our secrets go" and "I send a heart to all my dearies / When your life is so, so dreary, dream." The song sounds like young love, with all of its trappings and failures, and fades away as quickly as it begins.
As one of the group's shortest offerings, 'Zero' represents Corgan's most concise and conflicted songwriting, shifting both tense and person, but clocking in well under three minutes. The 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness' single peaked at No. 9 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1996. Musically, the song finds the band at its rawest, with cascading sludge metal riffs and ferocious solos that reach a fever pitch to which Corgan's vocals suggest, but never rise.
'Bullet With Butterfly Wings'
'Bullet With Butterfly Wings' became the Smashing Pumpkins' first Top 40 U.S. hit, and won the band a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1997. The anthemic single represented the group's roots in grunge, as well as the youth angst their genre championed. Corgan's voice ranges from disaffected mutter to distorted wail as he moves lyrically from "Despite all my rage, I'm still just a rat in a cage" to "Jesus was an only son." Like much of Corgan's work, the song was a layered -- and often misinterpreted -- reference to the band's conflicted relationship with the world of corporate rock.
'Cherub Rock' was heavy and hard, relying on overtone-saturated riffs and Corgan's hush-to-howl singing. However, it held all the conventions of a successful pop song, and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal in 1994. In the debut single from 'Siamese Dream,' Corgan turned to an old-school solution for the iconic sound of his solo guitar: the tape machine. The budding studio guru recorded the solo on two separate tape decks and played them back at slightly different speeds to achieve the warbly, resonant yowl that carries the break.
'Tonight Tonight' became one of the most notable tracks from the band's 'Mellon Collie' album, peaking at No. 4 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in 1996. The acclaimed song, which feels less like a complete work than a prelude to something larger and more oblique, was a perfect introduction to the sprawling sounds of the band's impressive double album. Corgan tapped 30 members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the sound, and later called it "one of the most exciting recording experiences I have ever had."
'1979' marks the Pumpkins' highest achievement on the charts, reaching No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is about a group of angst-ridden youth who find a day's salvation by escaping their homes and experiencing the everyday as only teenagers can: as brief yet everlasting beauty. However, the single almost didn't make it onto 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.' Famed producer Flood told Corgan it wasn't good enough, and in response, the ambitious frontman rewrote the song in a few hours. Flood changed his mind immediately.
In the honest and dark third single from the Pumpkins' breakout record 'Siamese Dream,' Corgan used his parents as inspiration. Many radio stations in the US and abroad balked at the song, primarily because of phrases like "cut that little child" and "a killer in me is a killer in you," but it didn't stop the single from becoming one of the Pumpkins' most recognizable songs. In an early radio interview, the singer said he hoped something of beauty would make his parents understand his complicated love for them and his anger at how they treated him.
Corgan was suffering from depression and writer's block while he wrote 'Today,' and when he sang the opening lines, "Today is the greatest day I've ever known / Can't live for tomorrow, tomorrow's much too long," he was actually talking about suicide. However, his dreamlike delivery misled listeners into believing he was presenting an anthem for lonely hopefuls everywhere. Still, the song became the band's biggest hit, and was the single that launched the band's mainstream success.