GISH AT 20 “What really strikes me now in hindsight is the incredible amount of passion in it, which in a weird way you’re not used to hearing in music anymore,” Billy Corgan says of the Smashing Pumpkins’ debut record.
The saturation of album anniversary celebrations has gotten out of hand in recent years. Any artist with a decade or more under their belt considers themselves worthy of either repackaging their golden moments or playing a release or six front to back in a live setting. This year alone, we've seen Pearl Jam and Nirvana celebrate the 20th anniversaries of their debut records, but Billy Corgan is hesitant to allow the Smashing Pumpkins' debut, Gish, released May 1991, to follow suit. For now.
"It just feels wrong to me and I'm really embarrassed by a lot of my contemporaries who ran their mouths big about integrity and indie bullshit and now they're out there running to the fucking cash till," Corgan says by phone from his Chicago home. "No interest in new music, no plans for new music. . . . I mean, it's just like, 'What the fuck?' "
Not surprisingly, Corgan was ahead of the play-the-whole-record-in-full movement prior to it taking off, but quickly backed away when it became the norm. "We had discussed [playing Gish] about four years ago, sort of before it became a trend," he says. "I had actually talked about it online a few times with the fans that it might be kinda cool to do that. Suddenly, having nothing to do with me, it became this thing where everybody started doing it and I got really grossed out by it and just thought, 'This is wrong.' It went past the point of, 'Hey — let's celebrate this' to 'Oh, it's the new business model.' Once I saw that, then I came out and said, 'I want nothing to do with this, it ain't gonna happen, so don't even ask.' "
Recorded and produced by Corgan and Butch Vig from December 1990 to March 1991 (the year Vig also did Nirvana's Nevermind), and released off of Caroline Records, Gish is that rare animal: a record that slowly grew in stature years after its release. But, even so, it peaked at 195 on the Billboard charts and even the breakthrough success of its major-label smash follow-up, Siamese Dream, failed to shine a brighter light on it.
"A lot of the Gish people didn't like Siamese, so it became another thing," Corgan says. "Then you would run into the Siamese Dream people, and because Gish was on an indie and there was still that really big distinction in the retail world, everyone was treating Siamese like it was our first album, so that was bizarre. We had a very successful first album but when we'd play stuff off Gish, the Siamese crowd didn't know it, and the Gish people weren't coming because they didn't like Siamese."