Corgan, Billy 1967–
Corgan, Billy 1967–
(William Patrick Corgan)
PERSONAL: Born March 17, 1967, in Chicago, IL; married Chris Fabian (an artist), 1994 (divorced, 1997).
ADDRESSES: Home—Chicago, IL. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003.
AWARDS, HONORS: (With Smashing Pumpkins) Grammy Awards for Best Hard Rock Performance, 1996, for "Bullet with Butterfly Wings," and 1997, for "The End Is the Beginning Is the End."
Blinking with Fists (poetry), Faber and Faber (New York, NY), 2004.
Lyricist (with Smashing Pumpkins) on recordings, including: Gish, 1991; Siamese Dream, 1993; Pisces Iscariot, 1994; Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995; Adore, 1998; Machina: The Machines of God, 2000; and Machina II: The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music, 2000. Lyricist (with Zwan), Mary Star of the Sea, 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Billy Corgan, whose "lonely guy" persona captured media attention, was the leader of the critically acclaimed 1990s alternative band Smashing Pumpkins. The band, consisting of front man Corgan, bassist D'Arcy Wretzky, guitarist James Iha, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, produced such best-selling albums as Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Corgan's philosophies, personal and musical, gave the band its shape and purpose. In the words of Interview contributor J. T. LeRoy, the singer-songwriter "has always dealt out emotions with the fury of a cat released underwater, but Corgan's genius comes from his ability to transform the world, and his heartbreaks, into palpable, lyrical beauty—and his ability to express it so perfectly."
Change, experimentation, and irreverence are some of the qualities that made the Smashing Pumpkins one of the most admired alternative bands even while they burst out from that rubric. Rolling Stone contributor Chris Mundy remarked that Gish, the group's full-length debut, "smacks … of the opening of an alternative universe." The band's 1993 album Siamese Dream, which includes the radio staple "Today," "relies heavily on Hendrix-era musical scores, but manages to transcend most of them and create a lush sound the Pumpkins call their own," according to Christopher John Farley in Time. Pisces Iscariot, a 1994 recording, was a collection of B-sides and previously unreleased songs. In 1995 the Pumpkins produced Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a double-disc set that debuted at number one on the charts and featured the hit single "1979." Over the next few years, however, the band was plagued by Chamberlain's drug problems and poor reviews of its music, including the group's ambitious 1998 album Adore. In 2000, with sales plummeting and membership in flux, the Pumpkins released Machina: The Machines of God, and Corgan announced his intention to dissolve the group. He later formed the band Zwan, which released one album, Mary Star of the Sea, in 2003.
In 2004 Corgan published his first book, the poetry collection Blinking with Fists. He told an interviewer for the Los Angeles Times that he became interested in poetry during the recording of Adore, "where I was starting to grasp a more complex lyrical set of themes. But a lot of what I had to say couldn't be contained in a song. Songs are always subservient to the beat and rhythm, the phonetic sound of rhyming. Poetry is any way you want to take. And as I went deeper into it, the poetry broke away from the rhythms of sound." Blinking with Fists received decidedly mixed reviews. In Entertainment Weekly, Thom Geier called the poems "confoundingly esoteric," although Library Journal critic Heather McCormack felt that Corgan's first poetic efforts show "glimmers of promise."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Musicians, Volume 36, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.
Chicago Sun-Times, May 9, 2004, Jim DeRogatis, "Poetic License or Verbal Abuse?," p. 1.
Chicago Tribune, June 8, 2000, Greg Kot, "Smashing the Pumpkins: It's Not the Breaking up That's Hard to Do."
Entertainment Weekly, January 24, 2003, David Browne, "Billy's Club," p. 96; September 17, 2004, Thom Geier, "Celebrity Poetry Slam," review of Blinking with Fists, p. 87.
Interview, February, 1996, Ray Rogers, "Smashing Pumpkins," p. 76; November, 2004, J. T. LeRoy, "Billy Corgan," p. 44.
Library Journal, September 1, 2004, Heather McCormack, review of Blinking with Fists, p. 154.
Los Angeles Times, October 3, 2004, "Brief Encounter; A Turn for the Verse" (interview), p. E3.
Rolling Stone, August 8, 1991; September 16, 1993; September 30, 1993; October 14, 1993; December 23, 1993; April 21, 1994.
Time, November 8, 2004, Rebecca Winters, "Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, If You Like My Records, Read My Poetry Too," review of Blinking with Fists, p. 115.
Billy Corgan Home Page, http://www.billycorgan.com (April 15, 2005).
Rolling Stone Online, http://www.rollingstone.com/ (April 15, 2005), "Smashing Pumpkins."