Bullet with Butterfly Wings

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"Bullet with Butterfly Wings"
Single by The Smashing Pumpkins
from the album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Released October 24, 1995
Format CD, cassette
Recorded 1995
Genre Alternative rock, grunge[1]
Length 4:16
Label Virgin
Writer(s) Billy Corgan
Producer(s) Flood, Alan Moulder, Billy Corgan
Certification Gold (RIAA)
The Smashing Pumpkins singles chronology
"Bullet with Butterfly Wings"
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness track listing
"Here Is No Why"
"Bullet with Butterfly Wings"
"To Forgive"
Music sample

"Bullet with Butterfly Wings" is a song by American alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins. It was the lead single from the band's 1995 double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The song won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.[2] This song was the band's first Top 40 U.S. hit, peaking at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also spent six weeks at number 2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and peaked at number 4 on the Album Rock Tracks chart.[citation needed] The song was named the 91st best hard rock song of all time by VH1.[3] The song was ranked number 70 on the list of "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time" of Rolling Stone.[4]

The song came second in the Triple J Hottest 100, 1995, it was also voted #33 in the Hottest 100 of All Time, 1998 and #51 on the Hottest 100 of All Time, 2009.

Recording and composition[edit]

Billy Corgan, lead singer of the group, has stated that the line "but can you fake it/for just one more show" refers to the band's headlining slot on the 1994 Lollapalooza tour[citation needed]. This interpretation is also supported by the fact that the first fully played incarnations of the song occurred at a few Lollapalooza shows, as well as on demos recorded early that year. A very embryonic version was apparently recorded during the recording of Siamese Dream; according to Corgan, "somewhere, I have a tape of us from 1993 endlessly playing the 'world is a vampire' part over and over." It was not until 1995 that Corgan finished writing the "rat in a cage" chorus section of the song.[5]

Live performance[edit]

"Bullet with Butterfly Wings", like "Disarm", "Stand Inside Your Love", and "Today", metamorphosed dramatically during and after every tour. "Bullet" in particular, verified by Corgan himself, comes in five different versions.

During the tour in support of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the band often performed the song with an audio clip intro welcoming concertgoers to "the only circus of its kind in the world", after which Corgan would shout the opening line. Later, the band would drop the intro, starting off the song with a drum beat, a style reminiscent of the variation adopted for the "Sacred & Profane" tour. A third and fourth version showed dramatic variations of the song, both of which were adopted for the Adore tour. The former was an extended and extremely distorted electric version, including several other instruments outside of the ones used for the studio track, such as a 7-string Ibanez electric guitar and additional percussion. The latter was a nine minute or longer version of the song. During the "Sacred & Profane" tour, the fifth variation of "Bullet" started off with an extended bassline and drumbeat build-up into the main song. This version is similar to the newest versions the band has been using on its 2007 tour.[citation needed]

Also to be noted is that later renditions of "Bullet" used the C tuning of "The Everlasting Gaze" and "Heavy Metal Machine", making the song sound heavier. As a result, the chorus was so low in Billy's register it sounded almost spoken. They then preceded non-stop with a cover of "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads. Post-reformation renditions restore the original tuning.[citation needed]

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song, directed by Samuel Bayer, is a performance video with heavy conceptual elements. The visual look of the video was inspired by the work of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado on diamond mining,[6][7] while, in contrast, the band used the video to debut their new glam rock wardrobes - notably, Billy Corgan's black shirt with the word "Zero" written in silver, and silver pants. The video also marks the last filmed appearance of Billy Corgan prior to his decision to shave his head.

The band advertised in the media that they were accepting extras for the video and got an overwhelming response and had almost 2000 extras for the video.

Track listing[edit]

Original US/UK CD single [8][9]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"   Billy Corgan 4:16
2. "...Said Sadly"   James Iha 3:09

"...Said Sadly" features Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt on vocals.

1996 Re-issue [10]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"   Billy Corgan 4:16
2. "...Said Sadly"   James Iha 3:09
3. "You're All I've Got Tonight"   The Cars 3:10
4. "Clones (We're All)"   Alice Cooper 2:43
5. "A Night Like This"   The Cure 3:36
6. "Destination Unknown"   Missing Persons 4:14
7. "Dreaming"   Blondie 5:11

US 7" double A-side single [11]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "1979"   Billy Corgan 4:24
2. "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"   Billy Corgan 4:16

Cover versions[edit]

In other media[edit]

The song is used, slightly edited, as the title song for the Animal Planet reality television series Whale Wars, which follows the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as they chase Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The song is also used in the South Park episode "Whale Whores", which parodies Whale Wars.

"Weird Al" Yankovic performed the chorus in "The Alternative Polka" from his Bad Hair Day album.

Featured as a playable track in the video game Guitar Hero 5.

It was also used in the launch trailer for Dead Space 2.

The song was the TNA Lockdown wrestling pay-per-view theme song for 2009.


  1. ^ 1001 Albums: You Must Hear Before You Die. Hachette; 2011. Print.
  2. ^ grammy.com
  3. ^ "spreadit.org music". Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  4. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2008. Retrieved 2011–01–25. "It's consummate Nineties alt-rock: a song about the commodification of angst set to 'up-and-down rock guitars, pounding drums', as singer-guitarist Billy Corgan puts it. But Corgan also mocks his own discontent with a laughing wah-wah at the end."
  5. ^ Corgan, Billy (January 1997). "King B's". Guitar World. 
  6. ^ Finished challenges. "2 out of 3 - Bullet with butterfly wings: Digital Photography Review". Dpreview.com. Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  7. ^ "Bullet with Butterfly Wings". Personal.umich.edu. Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  8. ^ "Smashing Pumpkins Bullet With Butterfly Wings UK 5" CD SINGLE (54612)". Eil.com. Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  9. ^ "Smashing Pumpkins Bullet With Butterfly Wings USA 5" CD SINGLE (241127)". Eil.com. Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  10. ^ "Smashing Pumpkins The Aeroplane Flies High USA BOX SET (76593)". Eil.com. 1996-12-09. Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  11. ^ "Smashing Pumpkins 1978/Bullet With Butterfly Wings USA 7" RECORD (224570)". Eil.com. 2002-09-27. Retrieved 2012-09-27. 


External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Geek Stink Breath" by Green Day
Canadian RPM Alternative 30 number-one single
November 6–27, 1995
Succeeded by
"My Friends" by Red Hot Chili Peppers