Billy Corgan Pulls An Axl: Jimmy Chamberlin Leaves Smashing Pumpkins

Jimmy Chamberlin

Almost from the moment they burst out of the fertile early 1990s Chicago alt-rock scene, the whispers about the Smashing Pumpkins were that they were a one-man show. Despite guitarist James Iha’s considerable chops and pop songwriting sensibility, bassist D’arcy Wretzky’s charismatically stoic persona and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin’s jazzy yet muscular touch, the Pumpkins were and always would be singer/songwriter Billy Corgan’s baby.

Now, thanks to this weekend’s unexplained ouster of Billy’s longtime foil and last fellow original member, Chamberlin, Corgan is truly the Axl Rose of alternative rock. He’s the Trent Reznor of overblown guitar bands. The … oh, you get the point.

Fans had already been a bit iffy about Corgan reuniting the “band” three years ago when he announced that he and Chamberlin would be touring (and recording) under the venerable group’s name. But with at least 50 percent of the original members on board, many seemed willing to overlook it.

(Take a look at how the Smashing Pumpkins have changed over the years.)

Still, a number of them commented on the new 25 percent rule on the Pumpkins’ official Web site and, well, except for the ones who thought it was an elaborate April Fool’s Day plot, they were mostly not happy. “Saw the pumpkins sans Jimmy (after his drug fiasco) and then saw them later without D’arcy,” wrote lockchuk. “This seems very different though as Billy is technically solo. You do not see Chris Cornell trying to tour under the Soundgarden name. … A band consists of people making music together. Each leaves their own fingerprint (style of drumming, edge of guitar. etc.). Love the Pumpkins but I will now see this as Billy solo until the band starts making music together again.”

The message was a bit more obscure from ludvig_steen, who wrote, “It really is time for Billy to call the band quits but it would be a true shame if he would retire from music. My suggestion is that he would take some inspiration from Swedish national icon and Rock legend Joakim Thå′ström (I know you have never heard of him and neither has Billy but bare with me on this one). The similarities between the two and willingness to change is rather striking. This guy has been in 4 nationally iconic outfits (ranging from industrial to punk to alt rock). Today at the age of 52 he releases records in his own name (still truly cutting edge and doing what the f— he wants) and takes all of his songs (this is were it gets interesting) on the road. This means that he has the freedom to pick songs from over 30 years of recording.”

Others, like Darcio, seemed untroubled by the news, reminding Corgan that he can make great songs on his own and using the band’s iconic Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness double album as an example of a work (allegedly) recorded almost entirely by the frontman.

And then there was Ugly66, who explained, “A band is a group of individuals. One person is a solo act. This is very simple math here, people.”

After a tour that included Corgan frequently clashing with fans and lashing out in unpredictable ways, the Great Pumpkin is heading back into the studio in the spring with his current roster of anonymous backup musicians to record the first album from Pumpkins 3.0. Perhaps Corgan said it best in a rant he posted on December 9, explaining to those fans complaining about not hearing the old hits, “Our message has been consistent: don’t ask us to do or be anything that will once again lead to the death of the band. The band’s survival comes first. … We are here to stay.”

Whatever you say, Billy. After all, you are the boss.

Do you think the Smashing Pumpkins are still the Smashing Pumpkins, or should Billy pick a new name?