March 1998 - Sound City, California

Produced by Rick Rubin; Engineered by Sylvia Massey

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The final song recorded for Adore, infamously produced by Rick Rubin. It was taken off the album at the last second.  Drums provided by Joey Waronker. 

Billy Corgan: We took two rock singles off the album because we felt they were anti-album. I did one track with Rick Rubin called "Let Me Give the World to You," but it was too much straight-on rock 'n' roll to fit the feel of the album. We also had this song, "Cash Car Star" that our management felt is a total alternative-rock-radio hit. It was just too heavy. This from the beginning was a creative artistic thing, and I feel really good that we stuck to that. It's as close was we've ever come to complete, we-don't-care-what-anyone-thinks artistic integrity.[1]

The performance is simple and tender - just Billy Corgan crooning his pinched tenor over the solitary shimmer of his acoustic guitar. Circular in its chord patterns, straightforward, at least on the surface, in its romantic sentiment, "Let Me Give the World to You" is the last song to be recorded for the Smashing Pumpkins' forthcoming album, Adore. But for all the naked clarity of this first take, the singer and guitarist senses deeper, stranger possibilities in the tune as he listens to a playback, his white, shaved head bent deep in thought in Studio A at Sound City in Van Nuys, California - the same room, coincidentally, where Nirvana recorded Nevermind.

"I can see where this is going," Corgan says sharply as the tape ends; he turns to producer Rick Rubin: "It's a nice Pumpkins pop song. But I can see it somewhere else, breaking up into something different." Corgan illustrates his point by swinging his arms to one side, as if he's throwing pieces of the song around the control room.

"Do you have any idea what that something is?" Rubin asks. "We can do something basic, just you and a click track. Then you can add and subtract ideas." Rubin has been invited by Corgan, who produced other trakcs on Adore, to take the reins for this final number. And Rubin does so with sunny patience, gently prodding the chief Pumpkin to be more explicit about his ambitions for "Let Me Give the World to You."

Corgan, dressed in black from neck to toe, fishes for a reference point and comes up with the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever." "It's a pop song," he says, "but then all this strange stuff goes on in it, things dropping in and out. I know what we have can be a good pop song. I want to see how fucked-up it can be."

That has been the Pumpkins' modus operandi for the past year. Since their first round of demo sessions for Adore back in February of '97, Corgan, guitarist James Iha and bassist D'arcy have sorely tested their own sanity as a band and the promise and durability of Corgan's material: More than thirty new originals where whittled down to about fourteen for the album, which is set to be released at the end of May. They've used multiple drummers and scrapped weeks of inconclusive work, including sessions held last fall in Chicago with producer Brad Wood. They've cut some songs live in the studio and built others on tape, overdub by overdub. They've gone the unplugged route and jammed with drum machines. In short, the Pumpkins have made Adore, their fourth studio album, the hard way - by trial and error.

So it is with "Let Me Give the World to You." It takes three hours of going nowhere fast - including Corgan's aborted passes at the song on piano and unsuccessful experiments with tape speed and echo - to persuade Corgan, Iha and D'arcy to try the obvious: playing together in real time. As Iha threads the melody with ethereal fills on a Hammond organ and guest drummer Joey Waronker, from Beck's band, hits a tribal pulse, "Let Me Give the World to You" quickly ripens into something special. The spooky pneumatic tension of the group's attack fleshes out the melancholy and irony lacing Corgan's lyrics.

One night and fifty-eight takes later, the Pumpkins decide they've played the song to near perfection; they end up editing a composite track from the best performances. But Rubin figures the initial false starts were worth the trouble. "If you have a great song, you can make twenty records out of it," he says smiling through his long, thick beard.[2]

Billy Corgan: At about the halfway point of recording, our managers come and visit for a little “look-see”, to find out what is really going on, and hear the record as it stands…(you can see them for yourself in the Metallica movie “Some Kind of Monster”)…I play them most, if not all of what I have, and they sit there song after song in a sort of stunned silence…after it is thru, they look pained to find something positive to say…it is certainly not what they had thought, figuring perhaps it was more of an acoustic record, but now they realize I am way off the plot…they leave me with little hope, encouragement, or suggestions beyond possibly bringing in a producer…I take in all of it, particularly there seeming non-understanding of what I am trying to accomplish, as a good thing…

Off their suggestion, we end up recording one song with famed producer Rick Rubin (who I know a bit socially)…the as of now still unreleased “Let Me Give the World to You” (with Joey playing drums)…after a few false starts of direction, we eventually end up recording the song live, with no vocals…after various incarnations and incantations, I suggest straightening the beat out with a four-on-the-floor tom-tom drive… at first Rick is bored by this, doesn’t agree with where we are headed, and goes to lay on the couch (I don’t blame him)…after about 5 minutes, he leaps up, and says “that’s it, that’s it, let’s do it!”, and we commence doing takes (Rick’s enthusiasm is contagious)…after 68 takes, I am finally satisfied… James, D’arcy, and I are pretty used to working this way all the time, but Joey looks absolutely shell-shocked…he later (in an interview) describes working with us (I’m paraphrasing) as one of the most intense experiences he has ever had in music, but goes on to add that beyond any doubt he may have had in the moment, in the end he realized that what we were after was worth all the effort…

The album seems to finally to have found a solid footing, with it’s odd mix and match approach, and starts to gain a little momentum…I now feel I have the direction in hand that I wish to go…I make plans with Flood (the producer on Mellon Collie) to come in at the end and help me pull it all together, and mix the album…knowing I will have his support and guidance when I am almost finished gives me a lot of confidence to continue, as I feel that no matter where I go from here, there will be someone there to guide me out of the darkness…the downside is now I have a deadline to meet, so I must start making serious choices about where to put my energy…this also means that I have to start tracking my vocals (of which almost none are done), and come to concrete decisions about lyrics…[3]

Return to Adore

  1. Request Magazine, September 1998
  2. David Fricke, "The Soft Parade", Rolling Stone, March 1998
  3. Billy Corgan, "Coming Down The Mountain", livejournal, April 14th, 2005
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