Almost 20 years ago to this day, the Chicago alt rock band Smashing Pumpkins released what is considered to be one of the greatest double albums of all time, Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness.
After rising to the top of the rock scene in 1993 with the success of Siamese Dream, the original foursome consisting of Billy Corgan (vocals/guitar), James Iha (guitar), Jimmy Chamberlin (drums) and D’arcy Wretzky (bass) sat down to start producing the most anticipated album of their career with colossal rock producers, Alan Moulder and Flood.
When Corgan was being advised on what to do after Siamese Dream, he was told making a double album was, “Not something you do now. You wait until you’re established, you’re not established. You make your second album, it sells 4 million copies, you don’t make a double CD. It’s career suicide.”
Many considered Mellon Collie to be so. Corgan considered Mellon Collie to be the end of the band that most people know. In his interview with Guitar World, Corgan said, “Our options are either to disband, or to force ourselves to go in a different direction. We’ve got a lot of different viewpoints on the culture at the moment.
“We believe that, to a certain degree, we’re taken for granted. It’s hard to explain, but you just reach a point where you know it’s time to move on.”
The production of the album alone is an amazing process itself. In the documentary Graceful Swans of Never, Williams of Virgins Records recollects the day he went to see the Pumpkins in the studio.
“In one room Moulder would be mixing a track. Another room, James would be doing a guitar overdub and then Billy would be upstairs doing vocal comps in another. Just this factory enviorment of creative energy making this giant piece of music.”
A whopping 50 tracks were recorded over the summer of 1995, but only 28 made the record, according to Chamberlin.
Siamese Dream was written mostly by Billy Corgan in regards to bass and guitar parts, but Mellon Collie had more input from Iha and Wretzky.
According to Corgan, “(Flood) needed to provide a different opportunity, in particular James and Darcy to participate emotionally and musically on the album.”
The purpose of this was so Flood could be fully aware of the problems of Siamese Dream, and this was the only way he could to make the album he was interested in making.
With six singles breaking into the Top 40, Tonight winning Video of The Year at the 1996 MTV VMAs and seven Grammy nominations for Mellon Collie for Album of The Year, it securely holds its place with other iconic double albums such as The Wall, Blonde on Blonde, Physical Graffiti and The White Album.
Unfortunately, Mellon Collie was the peak of the Pumpkins. Corgan kept to his word and the band moved to a more electronic influenced sound with Adore, leaving behind the Pumpkin’s post-grunge era.