Smashing Pumpkins’ Album Release Show: Billy Corgan Reveals Origins of ‘1979’ and How He Brought Wrestling on Tour
Billy Corgan is always looking for another envelope to push.
On Tuesday night, the iconoclastic Smashing Pumpkins singer and original band members James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin held a concert at the iHeartRadio Theater in Los Angeles to welcome the third and final installment of their concept album, “Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts.” The band just returned from a leg of festival shows in Australia and Mexico, in which Corgan incorporated his love of wrestling by having pros battle it out in the ring in between music sets. Unfortunately, there was no wrestling at the album release show due to the intimate nature of the iHeartRadio Theater, which has a 450-person capacity limit.
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“My love for wrestling goes back to when I was a kid,” Corgan told Variety after the show. By now, he had traded the calf-length black robe he wore on stage for a Franz Kafka t-shirt, and had but a smidge of the white paint that covered his entire face and head remaining.
In 2017, Corgan bought and revived the National Wrestling Alliance, which, before the rise of the WWE, was the premier brand in professional wrestling.
“When I bought the company six years ago, people automatically assumed I’d incorporate into music because it’s the easy thing to do. So we had to really build up the credibility of the company, and now we feel very confident that we can take that in front of a mainstream crowd,” Corgan added.
He said of fusing his two passions, “We just did a show in Mexico with 30,000 people and then 10 shows in Australia. And everyday, it’s amazing to watch thousands of people just gather around the ring and just enjoy it.”
At the iHeartRadio Theater show, the Smashing Pumpkins played new releases and a bevy of greatest hits including “1979,” “Cherub Rock” and “Ava Adore.” They even did a spoken-word rendition of the Talking Head’s “Once In a Life Time.”
During the set, the Pumpkins were joined by Booker and Stryker of Alt 98.7 to discuss the new album and Corgan’s podcast, “Thirty-Three.” Corgan revealed on stage that the new album has around 100 easter eggs for fans to parse out, adding that the podcast felt necessary to help fans and non-fans better understand the nuances behind each of its 33 songs.
Corgan also dove into the timeline behind the fan favorite “1979,” revealing that he actually wrote the song about the year 1984 during the year 1994.
“I had written it as a poem, and all the lyrics are actually as I wrote the poem,” Corgan told Booker and Stryker. “So when I wrote the the song I was looking for something, and I stumbled across the poem and I just sang it. I can’t say anything like that has ever happened again.”
The show was short, clocking in at just over an hour, but there was no loss of energy from Corgan and the band, including guitarist Jeff Schroerer, who has been with the Smashing Pumpkins since 2006, and backing vocalist Sierra Swan. Together they riled up the crowd with solos, occasional middle fingers and handfuls of leftover guitar picks.
Since acquiring the NWA, Corgan has brought pro-wrestlers like Mayra Dias Gomes, known in the ring as May Valentine, to the forefront with his music. Gomes joined Corgan backstage at the show, where she discussed how working with the band helped launch her career.
“I had to work really, really hard,” Gomes told Variety. She had to overcome being more than just “Billy’s friend” as Corgan explained, and make a name for herself. Her move into the wrestling community was a huge pivot from her previous career as a writer and a journalist at Rolling Stone, among other publications.
“Atum” has been framed as a sequel to the band’s former projects “Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” and “Machina/The Machines of God.” The 33-track album will be complete with the final act’s release on May 5. After that, the rockers will embark on their North American The World is a Vampire tour starting in July, where they will be joined by Interpol, Jane’s Addiction and Stone Temple Pilots.
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