The Big Hurt: Corgan vs. Malkmus: 15-year grudge

Feud reunions
By DAVID THORPE  |  November 23, 2010

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As a child of the '90s, I sure find it heartwarming to see a classic feud of my youth re-form for a big festival appearance.

It seems old man Corgan is still mighty sore about being quasi-dissed by Pavement 15 years ago. After hearing that his Smashing Pumpkins would be sharing a concert bill with Pavement in São Paulo, he launched a flurry of pugnacious tweets. "Just found out SP is playing with Pavement in Brazil," twoth Billy. "It's gonna be 1 of those New Orleans type funerals. I say that because they represent the death of the alternative dream, and we follow with the affirmation of life part."

Then he got a little more specific: "funny how those who pointed the big finger of 'sell out' are the biggest offenders now . . . yawn. they have no love." And: "by the way, we'll be the band up there playing NEW songs because we have the love xx."

I can't defend the nobility of Pavement's intentions in re-forming, but one thing's for sure: of all the people in the world to complain about the death of the alternative dream, doesn't Billy "Target Exclusive Edition" Corgan seem among the very least qualified? Sure, his "re-formed" Pumpkins are still writing new tracks, but I'm not sure that makes him the exemplar of alt-rock virtue. Pavement may be playing old songs, but at least they're the real Pavement, and playing the songs people paid to hear. Corgan is the sole original member of his band left, and I'm sure he's not selling many festival tickets on the strength of new material. And as for selling out, he might be wise to avoid pointing any fingers, big or otherwise — it certainly wasn't a Pavement song we heard in that Visa commercial last year.

In case you're not up on your Pavement/Smashing Pumpkins feud history, here's how it went down. In "Range Life," Pavement name-dropped the Pumpkins in a way that could, if one were really sensitive, be construed as unflattering: "Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins/Nature kids, I (they) don't have no function/I don't understand what they mean/And I could really give a fuck." A tough one to decipher, but it's probably not a compliment, right? Pavement lyricist Stephen Malkmus later clarified that it was a lighthearted dig at the Pumpkins' rock-star status, not at the music itself. He said he dug a lot of their songs, in fact.

Corgan, however, isn't the type of guy to take a lighthearted dig in stride. He got really, really peeved, and he retaliated by being a huge, silly baby about it. A longstanding rumor has it that he got Pavement canned from the 1994 Lollapalooza line-up by threatening to drop out of his headliner slot.

Lord only knows what got him so riled up. Maybe he was jealous that Pavement referred to the Stone Temple Pilots as "elegant bachelors" and not him. Or maybe he was just tired of being picked on by snobby indie dudes and had to take it out on someone. In a 1993 letter to the Chicago Reader, indie hero Steve Albini famously compared the Pumpkins to REO Speedwagon: "stylistically appropriate for the current college party scene, but ultimately insignificant."

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