Mellon Collie & Infinite Sadness Returns With a Boyish Smile


It was twenty years ago today, and it had nothing to do with Sgt Pepper. Actually, it was twenty-one years, October 1995. I was a grand old man of twenty-three, about to leave for great things called the Himalaya. I never gave it much of a listen at the time, probably because my head was swirling in santoors and my fingers tapping to tablas. They, you know who they are, had rumbled the mountain of rock two years previous, releasing an avalanche of tunes powerful enough to bury the listener in millions of tonnes of sub-sonic brilliance. The title even featured Siamese, one cool cat of a word. That was then and this was not. Even though only a couple of years had passed between ’93 and ‘95, the ultimate male rite of passage (other than unholy communion) happened to fall for me in between, so the before and after factor had made two short years into two distinct pre-me and post-me lifetimes.

Crowned a world traveller in 1994, the visual hyper-realism of seeing America from sea to shining sea and Asia in all its technicolor bedlam had blown me away more than the aural experience of any of the musical anthems that I hitherto was sure could not be topped for their ability to bring a feeling of rapture to a higher consciousness that was all too often starved of affection by the sameness of experience.

The eyes had it, but the ears would have the final say. I should have known better than to think I could go on escaping the music. Sure, it was pictures that all too often filled the head when it hit the pillow, but it was songs that got us going in the morning.

Twenty-one years and countless countries later, the paint has dried and faded a little on that kaleidoscope of images seared into the retina of these ageing eyes. Yes, it was eyes that swished, brushed, dabbed and dotted the visual cortex with a continental flourish of mountains and deserts, forests, and exquisite hilltop towns. But it was music – the only vehicle we could afford to travel on through our student years – that never receded; that seemed to run on perpetual motion.

The sensory world out there is yin and in here yang. Travel is illumination. Music is Jung’s shadow, collective sum of all inward things denied expression in outward life. Time passes, excitability fades. Thrills that take more seeking out in the physical world are harder to find in the physical world. Musical thrills lurking in the metaphysical world are not hard to find, for they never really went away. The great journeys overland I made back then that held me spellbound seem glassy and opaque now, but the journeys of music made in the mind then are as raw and stereophonic now as they were 21 years ago. Dusting down old musical oeuvres like the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness and listening to them as if for the first time is proof positive of that claim.

Putting the meta into the physical, Billy Corgan.

Please take the stage.


Muzzle, The Smashing Pumpkins, (Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness, 1995).


I fear that I’m ordinary,

Just like everyone.

To lie here and die

Among the sorrows

I was 23 with a few big countries under my belt, feeling anything but ordinary. Does anyone know ordinary well enough to call it family? I wasn’t going to lie there and die among the sorrows, not until I had found where sorrow hung out. For that, more globetrotting was urgently required.

Adrift among the days

For everything I ever said

And everything I’ve ever done

is gone and dead

On the evaporating lake of time that is life, I was not going to float adrift on the days. I saw quickly that when it was done it would be dead and gone. Whatever it was.

As all things must surely have to end

And great loves will one day have to part

I know that I am meant for this world.

Even the Himalaya must surely have to end. And who hasn’t lived with the terror that even great love cannot in the end but part? Though I’ve gone everywhere to find meaning in the world, and everything in it, I’m not sure if I am meant for this world, and everything in it.

My life has been extraordinary

Blessed and cursed and won

Time heals but I’m forever broken

By and by the way…

Hallelujah! There can be no more fitting a word than extraordinary to describe the life I have had, for all its blessings and it curses. Who hasn’t been told time will heal even the deepest cuts, only to feel a twinge long after time has called time on time? We are born broken, given a life for the purpose of self-fixing.

Have you ever heard the words

I’m singing in these songs?

It’s for the girl I’ve loved all along

Can a taste of love be so wrong?

Yes, I’ve heard those words, that we’ve all had one love who outshines them all. A candle that flickers a vigil in the cluttered corners of our hearts. For her, all our songs are sung. And yes, the taste of love can be all wrong. When it’s not right, it can only be wrong. And when is it ever right?

As all things must surely have to end

And great loves will one day have to part

I know that I am meant for this world.

There’s no denying, all things must surely come to and end. Love and love with the greatest of intention, but know that you’ll go your way and he his, she hers, and they theirs. Go on journeys in search of meaning before deciding if you’re meant for this world. Don’t hang back, expecting it to come to you.

But I knew exactly where I was

And I knew the meaning of it all

And I knew the distance to the sun

And I knew the echo that is love

Where was I all this time ? I can’t rightly say if there is a meaning to it all. Is there meaning in numbers? Ninety-three million miles is the distance to the sun. Do you hear that echo through the cavern you once aerated with love?

And I knew the secrets in your spires

And I knew the emptiness of youth

And I knew the solitude of heart

And I knew the murmurs of the soul

The spires are snow-capped, their secrets uncovered on the rooftop of the world if you’re willing to travel there. The emptiness of the empty-hearted boy looking to score. Fuse the heart to the soul and the solitude of one will reassure with the murmurs of the other.

 And the world is drawn into your hands

And the world is etched upon your heart

And the world so hard to understand

Is the world you can’t live without.

The palmists say it’s all there: the head line reads; the heart line beats; the life line lives; the fate line decrees that your world is very much in your own hands. The world was a melody never easily sung, a chord never easily mastered. If it were, we could more easy live without it. And the music played on…




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s