Billy Corgan Considered Suicide in the Early ’90s
Smashing Pumpkins were on the rise after the release of their 1991 debut Gish, but frontman Billy Corgan couldn't share in the optimism. In a new interview, he revealed that he had contemplated suicide over its relative lack of success, and also how coming out of that depression resulted in one of his biggest hits.
As he explained to Amy Jo Martin on her podcast Why Not Now? (embedded below), the problem stemmed from the fact that, while Gish originally sold respectably for a debut on an indie label, peaking at No. 195 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, within a few months Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten arrived and quickly shattered all commercial expectations for alternative rock. The disparity between their success and his shook Corgan to his core.
“Within a short span of time I went from thinking I was very successful within my given field, to all the rules had changed in my given field,” he said (embedded below). “Everything I had built myself up to be and do was no longer as relevant as it needed to be. I went into a very strange depression because I felt like something had been not taken, but the change made me feel kind of inadequate in a way I wasn’t prepared for.”
The depression resulted in a period of writer's block and proceeded to get deeper until he thought there were only two options left. "I reached this kind of morning in my life where it was like I’m either going to jump out a window, or I was going to change my life," he continued. "I know that sounds very dramatic, but that’s literally what happened. I couldn’t meditate on death anymore than I had, I’d even gotten to the point where, they say it’s very troubling in suicide land if you start giving away your possessions. I’d already been through all those stages, I was giving away stuff, and planning my eulogy, and all sorts of weird self-absorbed things."
Fortunately, he chose the latter, and his newfound approach for life immediately wound up in his work. "I woke up one morning," he said, "and I kind of stared out the window and thought, ‘Okay, well, if you’re not going to jump out the window, you better do whatever it is you need to do.’ That morning I wrote, I think it was the song ‘Today,’ which people would probably be fairly familiar with -- it’s the ice cream truck video song. It’s sort of a wry observation on suicide, but in essence the meditation behind the lyric is that every day is the best day, if you let it be."
The second single from Siamese Dream, "Today" reached No. 4 on Billboard's Modern Rock chart. It helped propel Siamese Dream to sales of four million copies, put Smashing Pumpkins in the same category as Nirvana and Pearl Jam as the leading bands of the alternative nation.
Listen to Billy Corgan on 'Why Not Now?
Smashing Pumpkins Albums Ranked in Order of Awesomeness