November 1992 – Broadway Rehearsal Studios, Chicago

  • Quiet
  • Hello Kitty Kat
  • Cherub Rock
  • Suicide Kiss (Geek USA)
  • Today
  • Disarm
  • Rocket
  • Spaceboy
  • Set the Ray to Jerry
  • Soma
  • Whirl (Whir)
  • Doorstep (Meladori Magpie)
  • Pissant
  • Tulips (Barb Wire)
  • Blew Away
  • French Movie Theme
  • Hummer
  • Frail & Bedazzled
  • Glynis
  • She Says
  • Sweet Sweet
  • Mayonaise

This is a tape of Siamese Dream demos submitted to the Library of Congress on December 22, 1992, called "Quiet and 20 Other Songs”.  A 15-track copy of this tape was submitted to Virgin records as well.  It was most likely recorded to 8-track at the band’s rehearsal space, just before leaving to Atlanta to record Siamese Dream. 

Billy Corgan: Nursing my wounds and losing my breath, I flip into overdrive, pushing myself and the band harder and harder to play at a higher level…I talk constantly about how we are going to make this insanely complicated record, one that is going to distinguish and separate us from all the (suddenly) heavy bands…we will top them with songwriting, arranging, heart and discipline…we are galvanized, transformed into something idealistic and unreal, and there is no one around to tell us, or more specifically me, that we couldn’t make it happen…tunes wind out into space, becoming longer and more obtuse…we are going farther and farther out, and there is no going back…

As I am good friends with our space mates (the local band) Catherine, I often stick around for their rehearsals to check out what they are working on and offer unsolicited advice…I notice that in this tight room, they sound very like some kind of jet taking off when they play…the feeling is very exciting, and being the sound whore that I am, I not so slyly interrogate them about how they create this dizzying effect…they all point sheepishly to these little silver boxes on the ground, and tell me that’s about it…their vintage pedal, invented by The Electro Harmonix Company, is a simple old school distortion/fuzz device called ‘The Big Muff Pi’…manufactured back in the 60’s and 70’s, it comes in a brushed metal frame, with cheap black knobs (the later models are more easily recognized by the big red Pi symbol stamped on the faceplate)…they sell used for about $75-100, and there are only three critical settings: volume, tone, and sustain (the volume sends the amount of signal to the amp, the tone the amount of bass vs. treble, and the sustain basically means how much fuzz overload you are going to get)…I notice that when the boys play the space hums with an electrical energy that shoots thru my bones and rattles my teeth…it’s as if this room is made for this sound…they tell me that the reason they like using the pedal is the deep booming sludge it makes, as the sound within collapses from the intensified pressure, creating a bigger presence when they rock hard (and also managing to hide a few inconsistencies in their playing)…the affect is immediate, as they suddenly appear to me to be a much more dangerous combo than I last remember…somehow the alchemy of the concrete walls, the cool air, and this dumb little pedal make the band sound like God himself is coming down from the heavens…which of course means I have to go get one for myself…

It is almost impossible to describe the intensity of the practice space when the Pumpkins are playing at full tilt with The Big Muffs cranked…the basic dimensions of the room are around 25ft x 15ft, with the basic band circle smack in the middle of the shoebox…when you have possibly the loudest drummer in the world playing with passion and power (not to mention about 10 crash cymbals slicing the air) vs. 2 100watt Marshall half-stacks and one 400watt SVT bass amp, you’ve got your basic dull roar fully in hand…add this to that the fact that we are playing in a stone bunker with little or no soundproofing and you’ve got yourself a decent headache blast…but what really puts these tunes over the top, what makes the whole thing ring, and what discreetly pours our liquid brew from sonic anecdote into our own rock and roll riot, is switching to this almost forgotten device…

Occasionally, we take (in various combos, sometimes 2, sometimes all 4 of us) LSD and try to practice…this seems like a good idea for about the first hour, until either the strychnine or the acid itself creep into your brain and melt all your senses and prog-metal suddenly seems way too hard…this drugging loosens the uptight barriers between us, and seem to clear the air without anyone saying anything…somebody starts laughing, and we are kids again, forgetting all this nonsense about topping the charts and changing the world…

We are obsessed with technical precision, for it is obvious to us that the tighter we play the heavier we sound…adding the Big Muff pedal into our charge makes us appear wider and meaner than we truly are, but all this beefed up bludgeoning comes at a hidden cost…because the sound is so grossly overblown (the amps sound like they are going to explode at any second), the band sadly doesn’t sound tight at all…at first, we figure the sound of the fuzz is going to take some time for us to get used to, and because we are having so much fun playing along with them anyway that it doesn’t seem like a big deal…but after only a few days, it becomes obvious that certain aspects of what we do, little things that we take for granted (namely our focused attack), disappear in a haze once we light ‘em up…we discuss ditching the pedals for good, naively talking ourselves into thinking that we can just go back to our normal sound and compensate in some other way...we only last a couple of minutes using our old equipment before we fall to a halt, puzzled because we now sound to our confused ears boring!…we are at a crossroads, as we have made a deal with the devil (of demon fuzz) and can’t seem to go back…it is a Faustian deal for this most exciting sound that makes us deliver invincibility, but by taking away our detailed intensity, also degenerates us to a common pub band…after some discussion, we unanimously decide the fuzz pedals will have stay, and we will just discover a way, as yet unseen, to make them work…we will just have to practice all the harder…[1]

Billy Corgan: After reaching a saturation point with new ideas, our primary focus now becomes trying to finish the songs we have in hand…once we go into this state of completion, there is a sort of moratorium ban placed on bringing in new ideas, the general intention being to sort out the best from the best in what we have and get on with the business of finalizing arrangements, lyrics, and tweaking each individual part…sadly, I have been avoiding the issue of finishing the lyrics for some time, choosing instead to hide behind the focus on arranging and re-arranging what were already head spinning configurations of numbers, key changes, breaks, and implied emotional nuances…writing music is easy for me, but it is a new form of truth that I wish to find in these lyrics that I am having the hardest time with…I don’t want to obscure what I am truly feeling in my heart (like I did on our first record), by covering up much of my real sentiments with vague psychedelic babble…putting off the lyrics also has an impact on the day to day songwriting, as we are essentially arranging to implied emotions that are not in reality supported by actual finished lines (by the time we go on to Atlanta, I only have about 25% of the lyrics written)…as we know that we will keep cutting arrangements up until the final hour of recording, this isn’t a big issue of concern…and most of the individual parts are close enough that they can be further developed in the studio…but the lack of a lyrical focus hangs over the album like a dull cloud…

Each remaining song is addressed moment by moment with a laundry list of problems, and we set about tackling each one to everyone’s satisfaction…a laundry list on a particular idea might go something like this: “the intro sucks, the 2nd verse is too long, the lift into the solo is weak, the last bit goes on a little too long, and do you think we should change keys just before the end?”…we don’t vote per se, but rather talk or play thru the suggestions that are tossed in the air, and everyone’s overall body language usually dictates when a concept is or isn’t working…the floor is always open to all possibilities, and we dive into each and every issue with an understanding that all details are important to the overall strength of the album…I choose not to linger or get bogged down for too long on any one idea, because there are so many songs, and therefore, by math, too many problems…the basic thinking goes ‘what you don’t get untangled today you will possibly find a solution for tomorrow’…the only visible downside to this way of working is everyone must remember each days changes as they happen, and also retain the previous days option, say, if the next time we play a new part and go, “oops, that isn’t working”, be able to recall the old change at will…

One last, almost finished idea that has been sitting fairly untouched for a long while is a song simply called “today”…the song is given this name not for any existential reason, but rather out of my laziness, because the first line of the song starts with the word “today”, and calling it that makes it easily recognizable to all (laziness also dictates the title is never changed)…I suggest trying to come up with an interesting intro, and all agree that the blunt start (with the band just blasting in at the top) is boring and obvious…as is often the case of a good intellectual concept, musical silence ensues, shoes are stared at, and all I get in response to my suggestion is the buzz of the amps…frustrated, I look down at my guitar, and without hesitation, place my left hand on the 11th fret, high up on the top two strings…the first thing I feel immediately clicks, a dumb schoolhouse take on “la-dee-dah, la-dee-dah”…I look up, and no one says much, but then again, no one says no…without comment, I play it again, and at the appointed moment, the band kicks in full power…problem solved in 60 seconds…“next!”…

The pecking order on influence to the songs usually falls in this order: Billy, Jimmy, James, D’arcy…although D’arcy contributes very little in the arranging department, she is the person I watch most while we work, because like a child, she is incapable of hiding or masking any displeasure, and it shows readily on her face…James general interest is directly proportionate to whether or not a song is “his”, and following that, whether or not he personally likes a particular tune…he is fully capable of offering a brilliant suggestion at any given moment, and then turning right around and looking completely bored as if there were a million places he would rather be than here…Jimmy stands as the auteur of our power, so great is his unconscious understanding of how to lift the songs to the highest heights…his suggestions tend to be more emotional as opposed to musical…he readily reads my mind, and I read his, and much of our work is eye to eye, soul to soul, and goes on mostly unseen by the other two…my role is one of floor leader and cheerleader, as most of the songs are mine…we have a general rule, which is: ‘your song, your call’…this means that whomever is the writer on a particular song has final call on any decision, including a veto on what other members might play part wise…if a song is a co-write, then both people share this vote/veto…songs like “soma” and “mayonnaise” are true musical collaborations, as I sort thru the issues, making sure the other writer (in this case James) is in full agreement on all aspects of the song, and it’s execution…[2]

Return to Siamese Dream

  1. Billy Corgan, "Bring The Fuzz", livejournal, April 25th, 2005
  2. Billy Corgan, "The Texas Two-Step", livejournal, April 27th, 2005
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