Top 10 Smashing Pumpkins Songs

Experience Billy Corgan's sonic 25-year journey

The Smashing Pumpkins have lived up to their regal-sounding name (that’s “smashing” as in “fantastic,” not the verb) for more than 25 years. Billy Corgan has established himself as one of the most versatile – and outspoken – writers of the alternative era. From the psychedelia of their 1991 debut LP, Gish, to the cyber prog of 2014’s Monuments to an Elegy, the Smashing Pumpkins’ output has been, well, monumental. Here are their best songs:

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"Cherub Rock"

Smashing Pumpkins at Pinkpop 1994
Frans Schellekens/Redferns/Getty Images

Drumroll, please! Jimmy Chamberlin’s magic sticks kick off 1993’s Siamese Dream with a militaristic gait. The song is a battle cry, after all— against the “hipsters” that sought to keep alternative rock a sacred commodity too intelligent for the masses’ ears. Corgan said his quartet “was either going to be a big band, or no band,” making indie purists gasp. The great Pumpkin got his wish—this sophomore album went platinum four times, according to the RIAA. So, “Who wants that honey?”

Watch the music video for “Cherub Rock.”

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 In between the release of Gish and Siamese Dream, the Pumpkins ascended from sorta-grunge second fiddles to alt rock superstars. During this time, they penned one of their most stirring tunes. “Drown” sewed together Corgan’s and James Iha’s twin Drop-D guitars with the hallucinogenic segues of the Doors. It stretched to nearly 10 minutes with its extended feedback outro, and earned its way onto the soundtrack of Cameron Crowe’s classic film, .

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Smashing Pumpkins Gish

Prog-rock dynamos Rush were a big influence on Corgan. That inspiration glistens on “Snail,” a Gish deep track that excels in the quiet-loud dynamic. Notes slide and bend like a wormhole through the cosmos while demonstrating Corgan’s androgynous vocals. The ending climax gives us chills.

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"To Sheila"

Smashing Pumpkins Adore

When Chamberlin was booted from the band in 1996 after a heroin overdose, the Pumpkins’ sound shifted. Adore, released in 1998, was full of synths a la Depeche Mode and the gothic swatches of the Cure. “To Sheila” was one of the most breathtaking Adore tracks thanks to its restraint. The acoustic ballad showed Corgan’s gentle side as he cooed, “You make me real,” to the eponymous maiden.

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Smashing Pumpkins 1979

One of the great anthems about adolescence, “1979” became the Pumpkins’ biggest hit. The bubblegum instrumentation and carefree chorus lured mainstream listeners. A music video full of teens tearing through suburbia accompanied the catchy tune. To think that it almost didn’t make the cut: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness producer Flood told Corgan it wasn’t good enough. He retooled it to the version we hear today, and the engineer ate his words.

Watch the music video for “1979.”

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Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream

Walmart shoppers probably know this feral treasure as “Silvercrank,” thanks to the retailer’s conservative product packaging. (Similarly, a certain Nirvana single was renamed “Waif Me.”) This Siamese Dream song is liberal with noise. Corgan has introduced it in concert as the last great rock song by the last great rock band, and upon listening, you won’t fault him for his hubris. On occasion, SP would incorporate another colorful melody into the live version of “Silverfuck”: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Hardcore!

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"Tonight Tonight"

Smashing Pumpkins Tonight Tonight
Virgin Records

The wave of strings hit listeners right away. This wasn’t your average radio-rock single. And as the first proper track on Mellon Collie (after the self-titled instrumental), it invited fans into a whole new realm of Smashing Pumpkins. They knew of the group that worshipped Black Sabbath and Jesus and Mary Chain; but were they ready for John Williams-level drama? Absolutely— the massive double album from whence it came sold eight million copies.

Watch the music video for “Tonight Tonight.”

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"Thru the Eyes of Ruby"

Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Great thinkers have suggested that “youth is wasted on the young.” Corgan echoed that sentiment in the lyrics of this Mellon Collie masterwork. A multi-part suite on par with classical composers, “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” swirls like a cyclone. Think of it as the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” at Lollapalooza.

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"Stand Inside Your Love"

Smashing Pumpkins Machina

After chanting along to “Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage,” one probably wouldn’t paint Corgan as a romantic. But every album has its sweet love songs. Among them: the lullaby “Luna,” the heavenly “By Starlight” and the charming “That’s the Way (My Love Is).” But the ultimate devotional appears on the last album by SP’s original lineup, 2000’s Machina/The Machines of God. “I’m telling you how much I need and bleed for/Your every move and waking sound,” Corgan professes over Iha’s reverb-y guitar and D’Arcy Wretsky’s heartthrob bass. “Stand Inside Your Love” is a soaring assurance that love conquers all.

Watch the music video for “Stand Inside Your Love.”

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Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream

Silly name, strong statement. From the Brian May-like arpeggio to the perfectly timed amp squeal, Siamese Dream’s centerpiece is a triumph. The line “Can anybody hear me/I just want to be me” is a fine slogan for a Gen Xer going his own way, in the face of others telling him to settle down, get an education and raise a family. It’s a beautiful act of defiance and independence.