Of all the bands to emerge from the alt-rock frenzy that was the early 90s, the Smashing Pumpkins were possibly the least influenced by the traditional underground rock that had preceded them. With Billy Corgan at the helm, the band bridged the gap between art and rock with a vibrant tapestry of prog rock, metal, new wave, psych, and pop; weaved masterfully together by layers of swirling distortion and angst-ridden lyrics. By 1993, the Pumpkins had achieved major success around the world with Siamese Dream, and in the decade that followed, managed to weather internal issues and the likes to become one of the longest-lasting and most successful alternative band of the early '90s.
However, in the late 1980s, before they were full-fledged alt-rock stars, the Chicago natives were finding their feet – and each other – in the local scene. Corgan and guitarist, James Iha had already started writing music together and performing with a drum machine when they met bassist, D’Arcy Wretzky. Last on board was Jimmy Chamberlain, who replaced the drum machine they’d previously employed and completed the group.
It didn’t take long for buzz to build around the new band, who found themselves opening for groups like Jane’s Addiction with only a few shows under their belt. In 1988, local tastemaker, Lou Hinkhouse was “blown away” by a demo tape he received from the Pumpkins and invited them to perform live on his music TV show called The Pulse.
The band’s very first television appearance showcased their untapped talent across a nine-song setlist that included There It Goes, She, Under Your Spell, My Eternity, Bleed, Nothing and Everything, Jennifer Ever, Death of a Mind (which later became Sun) and Spiteface. Enjoy below.
The Smashing Pumpkins Live on Pulse Basement Jam, 1988 [Full Performance]
Corgan later said that during this time for the Pumpkins they were finding influences around the “sad rock” sphere – and you can certainly hear the early influence of bands like The Cure on his songwriting which keenly embraced the melancholy moments of life – a sound that would dominate the alternative rock scene for many years to come.
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