Billy Corgan: They literally kicked us out of the studio making Mellon Collie

1 November 2020, 09:00

Billy Corgan performing with Smashing Pumpkins at Reading Festival, 25 August 1995
Billy Corgan performing with Smashing Pumpkins at Reading Festival, 25 August 1995. Picture: Brian Rasic/Getty Images

The Smashing Pumpkins frontman came up against label bosses and even Bobby Brown of all people while making the classic album.

Smashing Pumpkins' ambitious double album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness was released 25 years ago this month and Billy Corgan has been recalling some of the struggles he had in making the record.

Speaking to Radio X's John Kennedy, Corgan has revealed that he wasn't allowed his preferred choice for the album's first single... and how he was kicked out of the studio by 90s hip hop star Bobby Brown as the Pumpkins still had one song left to finish!

The first the world heard of Mellon Collie was the lead single, Bullet With Butterfly Wings - but this wasn't Corgan's own choice.

"Jellybelly was the song that I wanted to be the first single off of Mellon Collie," he told Kennedy. "Right away, the record company was not having it. They wanted Bullet With Butterfly Wings.

"I kind of put my foot down on this - 'No, it's going to be Jellybelly'. And the man from the label, Phil Quartararo, called me at home - I can still see myself standing in the kitchen.

"He said 'Kid - you've got to release Bullet first'. And I said, 'OK, make your case'. He said, 'Kid - it's a smash!'

"Literally, right out of the movies! And I thought this is one of those moments when I need to get out of the way!

"So Jellybelly never got released as a single, but I was convinced it was a single and I'm still convinced it's a single."

Corgan had worked for months on the album with producers Alan Moulder and Flood, but the final mixing of the record went down to the wire.

"We were months behind on delivering Mellon Collie," he admits. "They were literally pounding on the door to kick us out of the studio. Bobby Brown was actually coming in while we were mixing [the album].

"We went to another studio and we only had a few songs left to mix. One was Tales Of A Scorched Earth, which at that point had no vocal on it.

"We had a flight to New York booked and had to leave for the airport at 6 o'clock. So at 5pm, I told Alan Moulder to put Tales Of A Scorched Earth on the speakers at full blast and in two takes I sang at blood-curdling volume the takes that you hear on that song.

"There was a last-second argument about whether we should put it on the album because it was sort of a messy thing. But it was a perfect end for the album, it ends in a pile of ash. Eight months of work, being kicked out of the studio by Bobby Brown, you know. Gotta catch the flight and I'm screaming my lungs out.

"That sort of sums up the experience. We stay committed to the darkness of the record and the chaos of the album to the very last second... literally."

Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness topped the Billboard charts in the US on its release in October 1995, which is an incredible achievement for a band who were still considered "underground" only four years earlier when they issued their debut.

Corgan says of the period now: "It's one of those rare moments in time, like the 1960s, when the counter-culture becomes the mainstream. And it still hasn't been neutered or weakened by the process. There's just those rare moments when it pops through - and it's shocking because it shouldn't happen but it did."

The Mellon Collie line up of Smashing Pumpkins, photographed in July 1993: D'Arcy, Jimmy Chamberlin, Billy Corgan and James Iha
The Mellon Collie line up of Smashing Pumpkins, photographed in July 1993: D'Arcy, Jimmy Chamberlin, Billy Corgan and James Iha. Picture: Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images

"We existed in that very sweet window where that was still possible. You could literally sing crazy songs about crazy things as loud as you could possibly could and they were bigger than pop songs."

Listen back to the whole interview on John Kennedy's X-Posure (24 October 2020) via Global Player