It’s a little bit ironic that Billy Corgan, perhaps the gloomiest Gus of the alternative rock era, celebrates his birthday on a day typically reserved for unbridled celebration. Corgan turns 44 years old on this St. Patrick’s Day, so celebrate with a double-frosted cupcake and some green streamers.
Corgan is best known as the frontman and mastermind behind Smashing Pumpkins, one of the definitive alternative rock bands from the ’90s. Founded in Chicago, the Pumpkins first got some attention with their debut album Gish (which was produced by Butch Vig only a few months before he twiddled the knobs for Nirvana’s classic Nevermind). The Pumpkins went from underground favorites to mainstream juggernauts with Siamese Dream, which contained signature hits like “Cherub Rock,” “Disarm” and “Today,” all of which became instant radio staples and have scarcely left heavy rotation since.
Smashing Pumpkins continued to evolve, expand and contract like a living organism, and they eventually split so Corgan could pursue other avenues (which included a solo album and a sorta-supergroup called Zwan). But he eventually came back to the place — and the songs — that he loved, and Smashing Pumpkins reformed in 2006 (though at the time, the only members of the “classic” lineup included Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin; only Corgan remains today). The band picked up right where it left off, grinding out savage slabs of white-hot beauty powered by Corgan’s masterful guitar playing and unique voice. His work with the Pumpkins remains his best, though the one album produced by Zwan remains something of an underrated gem. So in honor of Corgan’s birthday, play “Honestly” extra loud.