A lot of my core memories are fused in song.
The songs of Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins in particular are fused into a very difficult and dark time of my life. A time when I was a 23 year old policeman, who had been a policeman for 4 years already, and was going through some profound mental breakdown stuff, right after a friend of mine died on duty, 2 days after the end of our first free and fair elections.
At any other time I may not have been able to get into this band.
Billy Corgan’s high-pitched voice is…
But tonight for the first time in years as I am listening to this album… bam!
I’m back there,
holding this CD sleeve in my hands and listening to an ambitious, sweeping progressive rock double album (I didn’t know it was progressive rock at the time) by an already commercially successful band in the grunge vein of Nirvana, et al.
Grunge bands don’t do sweeping double CD albums.
Not at the time. Not ever.
Everybody knew that and thought this was career-suicide.
Today with decades of further listening, I know that the high-pitched and slightly whiny sounding strings to the opening track, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, for the album of the same name, is actually a mellotron, and that in the for-real-for-real progressive rock world, playing a mellotron is a deeply significant act where doing it loosely would be seen as an ultimate insult between serious musicians.
The fact that Billy Corgan did this, opening the album this way, and coming from the Grunge background he was known for, was a deeply significant shot across the (very much established) bows of the prog rock world, a shot for which he had more than enough in the gas tank in the following 120 odd minutes of a musician at the peak of his writing, performing and recording ability.
In it, Billy had a release for a career-defining, professional artwork that could stand amongst the greats.
In it I had release for the PTSD anger I had built up over 4 years and become darkened with.
I could dance and thrash about and scream in a way that helped me get it out my system in a healthy way.
Because of Billy Corgan and others like him I was able to be a cool and level-headed cop precisely because I had a healthy outlet to vent my shit in.
Billy Corgan and this album was on repeat in my life for the longest time, being the channel for a lot of my darkness – the cosmic wormhole pump – who vacuumed me clean of a lot of dangerous emotion that I could have taken out on people behind the cover of my badge, at a time in South Africa where it was ok between a lot of cops and for lots of cops, to be a doos*.
*I don’t really want to translate the exact meaning for this colourful Afrikaans word, although to be technically fair one of its 2 meanings is “cardboard box”, but it’s not packaging I’m alluding to…
Expect to hear tracks from the man and the band in the next playlist…
What’s a playlist, you ask? Well, it’s probably illegal, but every now and then I make a mixtape and upload it as a blog post, because, as you may have gathered, I love music.