Tristessa (song)

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Single by The Smashing Pumpkins
Released December 1990
Format 7" vinyl, 12"
Recorded Summer 1990 (single version)
Winter 1990-1991 (Gish version)
Length 3:40 (single version)
3:32 (Gish version)
Label Sub Pop
Songwriter(s) Billy Corgan
Producer(s) Butch Vig and Billy Corgan
The Smashing Pumpkins singles chronology
"I Am One"
"I Am One"

"Tristessa" is a song by American alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins. The single was the Pumpkins' second ever release, and their first, and only, release on Sub Pop. Sub Pop released it as their "Single of the Month".[1] It was written by Billy Corgan and later re-recorded for their debut album, Gish. The title is a direct allusion to Jack Kerouac's 1960 novella of the same name.[2] There were about 4,000 of the original 7" single pressed in pink vinyl,[3] while the rest were pressed in black vinyl. A failure to change the wax color between pressings resulted in about 100 that were pressed in grey-colored wax. These are especially rare and have sold for several hundred dollars apiece.[3]

Following the release of "Tristessa", the Smashing Pumpkins were targets of a bidding war by multiple record labels, and ended up signing to Caroline Records.[4][5][6] Unlike "I Am One", which was also re-recorded for Gish, "Tristessa" did not receive a second single release, and neither version of the song appears on the 2001 greatest hits collection, Rotten Apples.

Critical reception[edit]

CMJ called it "a grinding, drawled-out, lascivious rocker with a chisel-sharp pop aesthetic".[7] The Chicago Sun-Times said it was an "epic rocker".[8] In 2007, Spinner wrote, "a decade after the onset of diminishing returns, 'Tristessa' remains an absolute monster".[9]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Tristessa" – 3:40
  2. "La Dolly Vita" – 4:15
  3. "Honeyspider" – 2:55 (present on UK 12" only)


  1. ^ (November 26, 2000). "Mellon Collie Billy Singer Reflects on Life Before, During and after The Smashing Pumpkins", Chicago Tribune, p. 7.1.
  2. ^ Hanson, Amy (2004). Smashing Pumpkins: Tales of a Scorched Earth. Helter Skelter Pub. p. 49. ISBN 1-900924-68-4.
  3. ^ a b Chuck Miller, Tracy L. Schmidt (2004). Warman's American records: identification and price guide. Krause Publications. p. 36. ISBN 0-87349-814-3.
  4. ^ Konig, Bill (February 7, 2000). "Smashing Pumpkins Return to Rock", CMJ New Music Report 61 (6): 1.
  5. ^ Gulla, Bob (2006). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Rock History: The grunge and post-grunge years, 1991–2005. Greenwood Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-313-32981-8.
  6. ^ Ali, Lorraine (October 17, 1993). "Gourds a-Flyin': Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan doesn't really expect the band's alternative rock to take anyone completely by surprise. He just unleashes his emotions and tries to deliver a sonic assault diverse enough to match", Los Angeles Times, p. 60.
  7. ^ (January 5, 2004). "1991", CMJ New Music Report 78 (847): 30.
  8. ^ Corcoran, Michael (June 9, 1991). "Smashing Pumpkins sounds totally fresh: Local band's debut is whipped delight", Chicago Sun-Times, p. 11.
  9. ^ Sullivan, James (January 29, 2007). "IFLTS: 'Tristessa,' Smashing Pumpkins", Spinner. Retrieved August 31, 2011.