Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

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Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Studio album by The Smashing Pumpkins
Released October 24, 1995
Recorded March – August 1995 at Pumpkinland, Sadlands, Bugg Studios, Chicago Recording Company; The Village Recorder
Genre Alternative rock, alternative metal
Length 121:39 (CD and cassette edition)
128:32 (vinyl edition)
351:19 (extended edition)
Label Virgin
Producer Alan Moulder, Billy Corgan, Flood
The Smashing Pumpkins chronology
Pisces Iscariot
(1994)
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
(1995)
Adore
(1998)
Singles from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
  1. "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"
    Released: October 24, 1995
  2. "1979"
    Released: January 23, 1996
  3. "Tonight, Tonight"
    Released: April 15, 1996 (Europe release)
    June 11, 1996 (U.S. release)
  4. "Zero"
    Released: April 23, 1996
  5. "Muzzle"
    Released: August 1996 (promo)
  6. "Thirty-Three"
    Released: November 11, 1996

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is the third album by American alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins, released October 24, 1995 on Virgin Records. Produced by frontman Billy Corgan with Flood and Alan Moulder, the 28-track album was released as a two-disc CD and triple LP. The album features a wide array of styles, as well as greater musical input from bassist D'arcy Wretzky and second guitarist James Iha.

Led by the single "Bullet with Butterfly Wings", the record debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, the only such occurrence for the group. The album spawned five more singles—"1979", "Zero", "Tonight, Tonight", the promotional "Muzzle", and "Thirty-Three"—over the course of 1996, and has been certified diamond by the RIAA.[1] Praised by critics for its ambition and scope, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness earned the band seven Grammy Award nominations in 1997, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year ("1979"). Not only did they all become hits on both mainstream rock and modern rock stations, but "Bullet with Butterfly Wings", "1979", "Tonight, Tonight", and "Thirty-Three" also became the band's first Top 40 hits crossing over to pop radio stations.

Recording and production[edit]

After the 13-month tour in support of The Smashing Pumpkins' second album Siamese Dream (1993), Billy Corgan immediately began writing songs for the band's next record.[2] From the outset, the band intended the new record to be a double album, partly inspired by The Beatles' White Album.[3] Corgan said, "We almost had enough material to make Siamese Dream a double album. With this new album, I really liked the notion that we would create a wider scope in which to put other kinds of material we were writing."[4] Corgan felt that the band's musical approach was running its course, and wanted the band to approach the album as if it were its last.[5] Corgan described the album at the time to the music press as "The Wall for Generation X", a comparison with Pink Floyd's 1979 album, one of the highest selling and best known concept albums of all time.[6]

The band decided to forgo working with Butch Vig, who had produced the group's previous albums, and selected Flood and Alan Moulder as co-producers. Corgan explained, "To be completely honest, I think it was a situation where we'd become so close to Butch that it started to work to our disadvantage... I just felt we had to force the situation, sonically, and take ourselves out of normal Pumpkin recording mode. I didn't want to repeat past Pumpkin work."[4]

Flood immediately pushed the band to change its recording practices. Corgan later said, "Flood felt like the band he would see live wasn't really captured on record".[7] In April 1995, the band began recording in a rehearsal space, instead of entering the studio straight away.[8] At these sessions, the band recorded rough rhythm tracks with Flood. Originally designed to create a rough draft for the record, the rehearsal space sessions ended up yielding much of the new album's rhythm section parts.[2] Flood also insisted the band set aside time each day devoted to jamming or songwriting, practices the band had never engaged in before during recording sessions. Corgan said, "Working like that kept the whole process very interesting—kept it from becoming a grind."[4]

Corgan sought to eliminate the tension that permeated the Siamese Dream recording sessions. Corgan said regarding the problems with recording Siamese Dream, "[T]o me, the biggest offender was the insidious amounts of time that everyone spends waiting for guitar parts to be overdubbed. There were literally weeks where no one had anything to do but sit and wait." The band decided to counter idleness by using two recording rooms at the same time. This tactic allowed Corgan to work on vocals and song arrangements while recording was done in the other.[4] During these sessions, Flood and Corgan would work in one room as Moulder, guitarist James Iha, and bassist D'arcy Wretzky worked in a second.[7] Iha and Wretzky had a much greater role in the recording of the album, unlike the prior albums where Corgan was rumored to have recorded all the bass and guitar parts himself.[9] James Iha commented about the recording sessions,

The big change is that Billy is not being the big 'I do this-I do that'. It's much better. The band arranged a lot of songs for this record, and the song writing process was organic. The circumstances of the last record and the way that we worked was really bad.[10]

Following the rehearsal space sessions, the band recorded overdubs at the Chicago Recording Company.[2] Pro Tools was used for recording guitar overdubs as well as for post-production electronic looping and sampling.[7][11] Wretzky also recorded numerous backup vocal parts, but all were cut except the one recorded for "Beautiful".[12] When the recording sessions concluded, the band had 57 completed songs which were up for contention to be included on Mellon Collie.[13] The album was originally going to have 32 songs, but this was cut back to 28 songs.[14]

Music[edit]

The Smashing Pumpkins would use violins and cellos for some of their songs and Tonight, Tonight would be one of their most famous for using this style.

Sample of "Bullet with Butterfly Wings", the first single from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995) and winner of the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Sample of "1979", the second single from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995). The band's biggest hit and a precursor to their change in style, featuring a drum machine accompaniment to Chamberlin's drums and sampled vocal effects.

Problems playing these files? See media help.

The songs of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness are intended to hang together conceptually, with the two halves of the album representing day and night.[10] Despite this, Corgan has rejected the term concept album to describe it, and it was at the time described as more "loose" and "vague" than the band's previous records.[2][10][15] However, Billy Corgan has also said that the album is based on "the human condition of mortal sorrow".[16] Corgan aimed the album's message at people aged 14 to 24 years, hoping "to sum up all the things I felt as a youth but was never able to voice articulately."[2] He summed up by stating, "I'm waving goodbye to me in the rear view mirror, tying a knot around my youth and putting it under the bed."[2]

The sprawling nature of the album means that it utilizes several different diverse styles amongst the songs, contrasting what some critics felt was the "one dimensional flavor" of the previous two albums.[2] A much wider variety of instrumentation is used, such as piano ("Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness"), synthesizers and drum loops ("1979"), a live orchestra ("Tonight, Tonight"), and even salt shakers and scissors ("Cupid de Locke").[2][7]

All guitars on the album were tuned down a half-step in order to "make the music a little lower", according to Corgan. On some songs, like "Jellybelly", the first string was tuned down an additional whole step to C (referred to by Corgan as "the 'grunge tuning'"). There was a greater variety to the number of guitar overdubs utilized than on previous albums. Iha said, "[I]n the past, everything had to be overdubbed and layered—guitar overkill. That wasn't really the train of thought this time, although we did that too."[4] "To Forgive" consists of only one live guitar take, while "Thru the Eyes of Ruby" contains approximately 70 guitar tracks.[7] The various sections of "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” were recorded at various times, with different instruments and recording setups, and were digitally composited in Pro Tools.[7] Corgan and Iha shared soloing duties; Iha estimated that the guitar solo duties were divided "half and half" on the record.[4]

All but two songs on the album were written by Corgan. The closing track from the first disc, "Take Me Down", was written and sung by Iha, while the album's final track, "Farewell and Goodnight", features lead vocals by all four band members and, according to the BMI database, was written solely by Iha,[17] despite being credited on the album liner notes as being written by both Iha and Corgan. Iha wrote additional songs during the making of the album, but they did not make the final cut. Corgan said in a 1995 Rolling Stone interview, "[T]here are some B sides that James did that are really good. They just don't fit in the context of the album. And part of me feels bad. But over the seven years we've been together, the least uptight part of the band has been the music."[5]

Release and reception[edit]

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was released on October 24, 1995. The night before, the band played a release party show at the Riviera Theater in Chicago and took part in a live FM broadcast across the U.S. The following week, Mellon Collie debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, an unusual feat for a double-disc album that cost over US$20.[18] The RIAA has certified the album as having sold 5 million copies in the United States.[1] Originally 5,000 vinyl triple LP (3xLP) copies were pressed. These vinyl edition has two additional tracks ("Tonite Reprise" & "Infinite Sadness") which are not included in CD and cassette releases. Later re-pressing led up to 23,000 pressed but unnumbered copies. In 2012, a remastered 4xLP vinyl edition was repressed.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars [19]
Consequence of Sound 5/5 stars[20]
Entertainment Weekly A [9]
NME (8/10) [21]
Pitchfork (6.8/10) (1996)[22]
(9.3/10) (2012)[23]
PopMatters 10/10 stars [24]
Q 4/5 stars [21]
Robert Christgau (choice cut) [25]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars (1995)[26]
4/5 stars (2013)[27]
Slant Magazine 5/5 stars [28]

The album received critical acclaim. Christopher John Farley of Time called the album "the group's most ambitious and accomplished work yet". Farley wrote, "One gets the feeling that the band [...] charged ahead on gut instincts; the sheer scope of the album (28 songs) didn't allow for second-guessing or contrivance."[29] Time selected Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness as the best album of the year in its year-end "Best of 1995" list.[30] Entertainment Weekly gave the album an A rating; reviewer David Browne praised the group's ambition and wrote, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is more than just the work of a tortured, finicky pop obsessive. Corgan presents himself as one of the last true believers: someone for whom spewing out this much music results in some sort of high art for the ages. He doesn't seem concerned with persistent alterna-rock questions of 'selling out', and good for him: He's aiming for something bigger and all-conquering."[9] IGN gave the album a score of 9.5 out of 10 and said, "As the band's magnum opus it single-handedly changed the face of Alternative Rock. That said, it's not just music, but a work of art."[31] The Music Box gave it all five stars and said, "Indeed, for all its melodramatic self-indulgence, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is one of the best double albums of new material to be released by anyone in a long time."[32]

Rolling Stone gave the album three out of five stars. Reviewer Jim DeRogatis praised the album as "one of the rare epic rock releases whose bulk is justified in the grooves". The writer stated that the album's main flaw was Corgan's lyrics, describing the songwriter as "wallowing in his own misery and grousing about everyone and everything not meeting his expectations." DeRogatis contended that while Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness "may even match The Wall in its sonic accomplishments", Corgan's lyrics lacked in comparison.[26] Mojo reviewer Ben Edmunds also praised the music while criticizing Corgan's lyrics. Edmunds wrote, "[Corgan's] lyrics appear to be the repository for the worst aspects of his most treasured influences. He writes with a heavy metal aptitude for wordplay and an inflated prog-rock conviction of its worth, a deadening combination. But there's a sliver of distance in his rage-mongering now that comments as well as expresses."[33] In his Consumer Guide, Robert Christgau picked out one song from the album, "1979", as a "choice cut".[25]

Singles[edit]

The album spawned five singles. While Corgan considered issuing "Jellybelly" as the album's first single, he told Chart it was passed over in favor of "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" because "'Bullet's one of those songs where, you know, it's easy to sing along to and [he affects a drawl] ya gotta sell them records."[34] "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" was The Smashing Pumpkins' first single to reach the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 22. "1979", the album's second single, charted at number 12, becoming the band's highest-charting American hit.[35] The "Zero" single was released as an EP with six b-sides. All three of these singles were certified gold by the RIAA.[36] "Tonight, Tonight" and "Thirty-Three", the album's final singles, reached number 36 and number 39 on the Billboard charts, respectively.[35] While it was not commercially released as a single, the song "Muzzle" reached number eight on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and number ten on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[35]

Accolades[edit]

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness earned The Smashing Pumpkins nominations in seven categories at the 1997 Grammy Awards, the second-highest number of nominations that year.[37] The group was nominated for Album of the Year, Record of the Year ("1979"), Best Alternative Music Performance, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal ("1979"), Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal ("Bullet with Butterfly Wings"), Best Pop Instrumental Performance ("Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness"), and Best Music Video, Short Form ("Tonight, Tonight") at the 1997 Grammy Awards. The band won a single award, for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal for "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"; it was the group's first.[38] Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness also ranked at number 14 on the 1995 Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics' poll, and 487 on the Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[39]

Track listing[edit]

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was intended as a two-record set. The CD and cassette versions of the album are divided into two discs, entitled Dawn to Dusk and Twilight to Starlight. The vinyl version, however, is divided into three records with six sides. The vinyl release also features two bonus songs ("Tonite Reprise" and "Infinite Sadness"), and a completely rearranged track order. In 2012 the album was remastered and re-released as a 6 disc edition, with 3 bonus discs of music and a DVD and also on 4 Vinyl LPs which contained the regular CD track order instead of the original LP order.

All songs written by Billy Corgan, except where noted.

Compact disc/cassette version/2012 vinyl reissue[edit]

Disc one – Dawn to Dusk
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness"     2:52
2. "Tonight, Tonight"     4:14
3. "Jellybelly"     3:01
4. "Zero"     2:41
5. "Here Is No Why"     3:45
6. "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"     4:18
7. "To Forgive"     4:17
8. "Fuck You (An Ode to No One)"     4:51
9. "Love"     4:21
10. "Cupid de Locke"     2:50
11. "Galapogos"     4:47
12. "Muzzle"     3:44
13. "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans"     9:21
14. "Take Me Down"   Iha 2:52
Disc two – Twilight to Starlight
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Where Boys Fear to Tread"     4:22
2. "Bodies"     4:12
3. "Thirty-Three"     4:10
4. "In the Arms of Sleep"     4:12
5. "1979"     4:25
6. "Tales of a Scorched Earth"     3:46
7. "Thru the Eyes of Ruby"     7:38
8. "Stumbleine"     2:54
9. "X.Y.U."     7:07
10. "We Only Come Out at Night"     4:05
11. "Beautiful"     4:18
12. "Lily (My One and Only)"     3:31
13. "By Starlight"     4:48
14. "Farewell and Goodnight"   Iha[17] 4:22

Original vinyl version[edit]

Side one – Dawn
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness"     2:52
2. "Tonight, Tonight"     4:14
3. "Thirty-Three"     4:10
4. "In the Arms of Sleep"     4:12
5. "Take Me Down"   Iha 2:52
Side two – Tea Time
No. Title Length
1. "Jellybelly"   3:01
2. "Bodies"   4:12
3. "To Forgive"   4:17
4. "Here Is No Why"   3:45
5. "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans"   9:21
Side three – Dusk
No. Title Length
1. "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"   4:18
2. "Thru the Eyes of Ruby"   7:38
3. "Muzzle"   3:44
4. "Galapogos"   4:47
5. "Tales of a Scorched Earth"   3:46
Side four – Twilight
No. Title Length
1. "1979"   4:25
2. "Beautiful"   4:18
3. "Cupid de Locke"   2:50
4. "By Starlight"   4:48
5. "We Only Come Out at Night"   4:05
Side five – Midnight
No. Title Length
1. "Where Boys Fear to Tread"   4:22
2. "Zero"   2:41
3. "Fuck You (An Ode to No One)"   4:51
4. "Love"   4:21
5. "X.Y.U."   7:07
Side six – Starlight
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Stumbleine"     2:54
2. "Lily (My One and Only)"     3:31
3. "Tonite Reprise"     2:40
4. "Farewell and Goodnight"   Iha[17] 4:22
5. "Infinite Sadness"     3:47

2012 CD/DVD reissue[edit]

As part of EMI Music's extensive reissue campaign, a special edition of the album was released on December 4, 2012. The 5-CD disc set consists of 64 bonus tracks of previously unreleased material, demos and alternate versions of Mellon Collie era songs—including full versions of tracks notably featured as parts of the "Pastichio Medley" from the Zero EP—as well as six new mixes of original album songs.

The package also includes a DVD consisting of footage from two live shows: Tracks 1–11 taken from the group's May 15, 1996 concert at the Brixton Academy in London, England, originally filmed by MTV Europe, and tracks 12–15 from their April 7, 1996 show at the Philipshalle in Düsseldorf, Germany that was filmed by the German TV show Rockpalast. The bonus content and special features were curated from the band's archives by Corgan, and have been remastered from the original master tapes by Bob Ludwig.[40]

Chart positions and sales certifications[edit]

Personnel[edit]

The Smashing Pumpkins
Additional musicians
Technical staff
  • Roger Carpenter – technical assistance
  • John Craig – illustration
  • Flood – production, mixer
  • Andrea Giacobbe – photograph
  • Barry Goldberg – additional vocal recording, mixing assistance
  • Adam Green – technical assistance
  • Dave Kresl – string recording assistance
  • Tim "Gooch" Lougee – technical assistance
  • Guitar Dave Mannet – technical assistance
  • Jeff Moleski – technical assistance
  • Alan Moulder – production, mixer
  • Frank Olinsky – art direction and design
  • Claudine Pontier – recording assistance
  • Audrey Riley – string arrangement on "Tonight, Tonight"
  • Chris Shepard – recording
  • Russ Spice – technical assistance
  • Howie Weinbergmastering
  • Bob Ludwig – mastering (2012 remaster)[60]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ Alexander, Phil. Interview with Billy Corgan. Mojo Magazine. February 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f di Perna, Alan. "Zero Worship". Guitar World. December 1995.
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