In 1995, Billy Corgan’s dream of being on top of the rock world finally came true. His band The Smashing Pumpkins hit the topper-most of the popper-most with the release of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness that year. It changed everything for them, and the title becomes more ironic as the years tick by. Mellon Collie represented an artistic and commercial peak for the Chicago-based foursome; the infinite sadness would follow soon enough.
Besides the singing, guitar-playing, and songwriting talents of Billy Corgan, the four-piece band who recorded the 28 songs that make up the double-disc set were James Iha (guitar), D’arcy Wretzky (bass), and Jimmy Chamberlin (drums).
This was the band’s fourth release, following Gish (1991), Siamese Dream (1993), and the compilation Pisces Iscariot (1994). I find it a little odd that Corgan chose to remaster and release a deluxe version of the album on its 17th anniversary, rather than waiting for the more customary 20-year mark. He has always played by his own rules though, and there is no reason why this should be any different. Regardless of the timing, this edition just confirms the fact that Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was one of the finest albums of the Clinton era.
Corgan spoke for the group, whether they liked it or not. Much like his spiritual forefather Pete Townshend, Corgan’s mouth often got in the way of the legitimate respect he and his fellow bandmates deserved. His jealously of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana was well-documented, and turned a lot of people off. I mention this because I was one of those who got extremely tired of hearing about it. As a matter of fact, I had gotten so sick of the whining that I was prepared to hate Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness without ever even hearing it.
Good music cannot be denied though, and Corgan won me over. Although Flood (Mark Ellis) and Alan Moulder were the main producers, Corgan is credited as well. I have a strong feeling that he had major input into the final running order of the 28 songs, and this is a big reason the whole thing works so well. We once took it for granted, but by 1995 the art of the placement of songs on a disc for maximum effect had practically been abandoned. In the age of the “shuffle” feature on CD players, the idea of programming a record to tell a story had become outdated. Corgan understood this concept extremely well. He even subtitled the discs, with the first titled “Dawn to Dusk,” and the second “Twilight to Starlight.” Each CD contains 14 songs.