Sep 6, 2023 - Things to Do

Smashing Pumpkins to perform "Siamese Dream" tributes in Highland Park

Black and white photo of four people in front of tiled wall with graffiti.

D'Arcy Wretzky (bass), Jimmy Chamberlin (drums), Billy Corgan (lead singer and guitar) and James Iha (guitar) of The Smashing Pumpkins in 1993. Photo: Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty

This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of the best albums a Chicago rock band has ever produced.

Why it matters: "Siamese Dream" was a breakout smash for The Smashing Pumpkins, taking them from a darling independent rock band to commercial pop stars.

What's happening: Billy Corgan is celebrating the anniversary with two acoustic shows at his Highland Park tea shop, Madame Zuzu's, on Sept. 17.

Context: The Pumpkins went on to have commercial success with several albums, but "Siamese Dream" is considered the band's best. It was released at a time where the record industry was feverishly signing Chicago acts to major labels.

  • The Pumpkins joined bands like Urge Overkill, Liz Phair, Material Issue, Veruca Salt and others in signing major label record deals, putting Chicago on par with cities like Seattle as a mecca of alternative music.

What they're saying: "Nirvana was making records, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were making records, Pearl Jam was making records," Metro owner Joe Shanahan tells Axios.

  • "But they didn't sound like what the Smashing Pumpkins were doing. 'Siamese Dream' had a bright, fresh sound that most people had never heard before."

Flashback: In the summer of 1993, the anticipation was building for the Pumpkins' major-label release. They had signed with Virgin Records after the indie-success of the album "Gish."

Once MTV's "120 Minutes" started playing the video for their first single "Cherub Rock," the band famously came home that summer to play a secret show at Metro, using the band name The Turnips before going out on a massive national tour.

  • The shows were leaked to WXRT and fans lined up on Clark Street for hours. When they hit the stage, Corgan and his bandmates put forth a legendary performance.
  • "While they were very serious about what they were doing, there was this playful side that was undeniable," Shanahan tells Axios.
  • It wouldn't be the last time they played Metro, but from that point on the band hit the stratosphere and attracted throngs of new, international fans.

By the numbers: The album sold more than 6 million copies.

Between the lines: The band's status as Chicago darlings soured around the time of the production of this album, as others in the community dissed them in interviews and songs.

The bottom line: The album was not just a huge hit, but a defining moment in Chicago's alternative rock history.


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