Budgeted at $20,000, Gish ended up roughly ten grand over. It was a bold work given the time it was created. The scene was changing, disaffection was becoming the game to play in the underground, and grandiose rock and roll was on the way out — something the Smashing Pumpkins were totally oblivious to. From the metal-tinged "Siva" and the stomp of opener "I Am One," (the latter driven by Jimmy Chamberlin's tribal drumbeats), to the tripped out "Window Paine," which sounded like the Doors' "The End" meshed with Link Wray's "Rumble," it was like nothing else out there, garnering wildly mixed reactions.
"We were really from a strange bubble — which is hard to imagine these days with the Internet world we live in," Corgan says. "Being in Chicago, we were really isolated. We were really shocked by people's responses, I mean, it was everything from people went crazy for it, like 'This is the greatest shit I've ever heard, it's so cool you're playing these styles,' to people throwing beer bottles at us, like 'Turn it down, you're too loud, what's with the guitar solos, I hate your voice.' "
Grunge started to explode and the Smashing Pumpkins were lumped in with the pack, becoming the Midwestern face of the genre, which predictably brought about a backlash from contemporaries and scenesters who hated for the sake of hating. "We were used to kinda not everybody getting it, but the success of the band took it to another level," Corgan says. "Suddenly, you had people that were invested in our demise. You had other bands cutting us down, you had people saying weird stuff about me, like, floating rumors that I was some rich kid from a rich family and I was posing as psychedelic alternative rocker — it was bizarre."
The last thing Corgan, who came from the lower-middle class suburbs, was doing was posing — and that was part of the problem. Posing became a part of the grunge thing, staring down at the ground and musing nonsensically about albinos, mosquitoes, and libidos was embraced. Singing lyrics like "Love comes in colors I can't deny/All that matters is love, love, your love," as Corgan does in "Crush," was not.
"It really speaks to our naïveté, because those were the very things that we were made fun of for," Corgan recalls. "We were kinda like, 'Aren't you supposed to be passionate?' It's like that New York thing, like, don't be too into it. Weird, like, 'Alright, I'm from Chicago, I want to get the fucking hell out of here.' I did an interview recently on radio talking about this very subject and I said, 'You know, people like you gave me shit for being honest, but at least I was honest about what I was doing.' "
Twenty years on and multiple lineup changes and back-and-forth rows with the press later, the new tour hitting the Orpheum Friday finds the singer/guitarist the lone remaining founding Pumpkin (oh, and, uh, Zwan). Today, Corgan stands behind Gish and its importance in the annals of rock. "It's one of those things where it's a really influential album. I can't tell you the number of musicians who have come up to me and talked about how that record influenced the way they thought about music, but it's not one of those ones that journos pick, so it kind of gets overlooked."