Oct 13, 2023, 06:29AM

Veronica’s Paul, Veronica’s Pumpkins

Veronica thinks about The Smashing Pumpkins and her super-fan brother Paul, one night in New York City, January 1996.

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Veronica slammed the red output button with her fist and jumped out of her chair. Blizzard or no blizzard, tonight she’d find her brother. “Disarm you with a smile/And cut you like you want me to/Cut that little child…” She looked for her jacket as Billy Corgan sang about how he used to be a little boy, “so old in my shoes,” that fucking doorbell ringing throughout a hit song that wouldn’t leave Veronica alone. When she saw The Smashing Pumpkins at Maxwell’s in 1991, they were already playing material that would end up on Siamese Dream: “Rocket,” “Silverfuck,” and she’d even heard some tapes from the summer of 1992 that included both “Today” and “Disarm.” They were both in rough form, but she liked them.

And she never returned—she didn’t have to. A year later, The Smashing Pumpkins and their Siamese Dream went quadruple platinum and stormed MTV just as Nirvana and Kurt Cobain were entering their last days. April 1994 was hard for everyone her age, but she still resented how blasé Corgan appeared after Cobain’s death. SPIN, Rolling Stone, or one of those magazines asked him if he felt like “the voice of Generation X” in 1994. “The position was already filled,” he said. That didn’t stop Michael Azerrad from writing the nastiest “Artist of the Year” profile in history for SPIN in the fall of 1994, which he ended by accusing Corgan of wearing Cobain’s flannel jacket on stage at the MTV VMA’s as a clumsy way of asserting his place in the alternative rock world.

All Veronica knew was that petty games within cliques belonged in high school, not music, nor any other form of serious art: John Lennon, Bob Dylan, and even Madonna never quibbled with specific writers or reporters. They knew they were bigger than them; apparently Billy Corgan didn’t. Veronica thought he’d acted like an asshole in the last three years, indeed claiming the position of “voice of a generation” with his double album epic Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a two-hour odyssey into the inner behavior of the American teenager circa 1995. Veronica never even bothered to listen to it—once again, she didn’t have to: “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” “Zero,” “Tonight, Tonight,” and now “1979” were playing on every radio station she could find.

But she knew Paul heard it. He probably loved it. She assumed he’d found her tapes by then, albums, mixtapes, and old bootlegs with plenty of Pumpkins and relevant material. Whether or not anything else would be of any interest to him… or to anyone else but her… or if he ever bothered to listen to her show… did 1010 WINS even reach Hoboken?

She found a long Pumpkins song to play—“Soma”—and went out into the hallway, looking for a window. She looked out over Manhattan to the north, unable to see past Central Park… or was that Union Square?… wasn’t the Academy near Times Square?…

She checked her watch: 40 minutes past midnight. The show ended hours ago. She hoped her brother was home safe in Hoboken. She went back in to read the weather just as “Soma” was ending, writing a note to call her brother the next day.

“Uh, forecast for tonight is no snow—uh, sorry, what I meant is a lot of snow…”

—Follow Rooster Quibbits on Twitter: @RoosterQuibbits


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