The first few chords of Siva on mixtape sent to me from an older penpal when I was 11 (we wrote honest to goodness letters and sent mixtapes back and forth!), had me hooked immediately on the Smashing Pumpkins.
The Smashing Pumpkins, or rather Billy Corgan, tends to incite pretty strong reactions from people. But frankly, I don’t care and am unapologetically a fan of Billy Corgan’s work (Zwan however we won’t talk about though).
The Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness Tour in 1997 is my all time favourite gig. Hands down. It was a mix of everything from right time, right place – and simply an amazing performance and incredible visual show to accompany the music. 16 years later I’m still emotionally connected to that moment and the beauty of it. It probably also doesn’t hurt that this was my early formative years of getting into music as well.
The show capped off a very surreal day for me too. I was in High School and we had a day off, and as typical for bored kids from the Suburbs, we were killing time hanging around the downtown core before the concert.
I used to always take linear notes with me when I went to small all ages shows to get signed, and despite the Smashing Pumpkins concert being at the once called Corel Centre in Ottawa (a massive arena) I had my Siamese Dream CD cover with me that day.
What happened next still beggars belief.
We were walking down the main drag on Rideau, and my friend Hilary pointed down the street and asked if that wasn’t Billy Corgan walking towards us.
Now, I was always the gullible one in our group, and Hilary would often prank me. Including somehow managing to get me to butter my salad in the belief that this was a fine “Yorkshire tradition” and that I was missing out on a part of my Northern heritage. Yes Buttered salad, and ya, I know, I know. Suffice to say, I don’t advise buttering your salad.
For once in my life, I was wary of Hilary, thinking this was a pretty uncreative joke after the whole “Yorkshire Butter Salad Incident of ’96”.
Very quickly though, I realized it wasn’t a joke.
Walking down the street towards us was none other than Billy Corgan. All 6 ft 3″ of him. I was absolutely speechless as my friends pushed me forwards towards him, all I could manage to do was fumble in my pocket for my linear notes, and ask him shyly if he would mind signing them. I remember reaching up, waayyyyy up (little Friendly Giant reference for the non Canadian’s reading) and just held out my CD cover for him, all saucer eyes.
He kindly signed it and my concert ticket as well. As people on the street got wind that Billy Corgan was out and about in broad daylight and started to come over and crowd him, he quickly made his excuses and swept away with a tide of teenagers following him as he tried to disappear into the city.
It happened so fast. I often wonder and go over in my head sometimes what I could have done or said instead of being that wide eyed, black haired girl in my Docs and thrifted dress so quiet for once in my life in front of someone I respected (and still do) so much artistically.
And really, I don’t know if there is anything I could have articulated in such a brief and fleeting moment. The enormity of telling someone, a stranger no less, who despite this fact feels like a close friend because of the nature of art as a shared experience. Just how in the world do you even begin to put into words how much their work means to you, in an instant. How do you express that?
After all these years, I still don’t have the perfect words for what I would and could have said in that moment.
They say never meet your heros, but I don’t know if I totally agree with that. Meet them, but realize you don’t own them because of their celebrity, and that they too are human and flawed as well as brilliant for all the reasons you think they are.
Adore, has one of my favourite SP tunes on it, being “Blank Page“. Beautiful, and haunting.
I found Adore on the off chance in the Vinyl section of HMV a few years ago. The album has since been discontinued on vinyl, but what with the recent reissues of Pumpkins albums on vinyl (I’m loving the MCIS remastered reissue!) it should only be a matter of time till Adore is given the reissue treatment as well.
Till then, I’m quite happy with my copy of the album and the memory of that surreal, incredible day as a teenager years ago.