Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha

Today is the 30th birthday of Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha. Best

known for such songs as "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," "Today" and

"Tonight, Tonight," Smashing Pumpkins stand out from the grunge pack

by incorporating elements of art-rock into their angst-filled guitar

anthems, layering sound upon sound and mixing in lush melodies. Born in

Elk Grove, Ill., Iha joined the group in 1989 after being recruited along with

drummer Jimmy Chamberlain by singer/guitarist Billy Corgan and bassist

D'Arcy Wretzky, who was Iha's girlfriend at the time. The group's mixture of

punk energy with art-rock pretension quickly established Smashing Pumpkins

on the Chicago scene and the major labels soon came calling. Their debut,

1991's Gish, was produced by Butch Vig. The album introduced the alt-

rock world to their layered grunge sound and spawned a minor hit in the form of

"Siva."

Siamese Dream, released in 1993, launched the group into rock

stardom and produced the hits "Today," "Cherub Rock," "Rocket" and

"Disarm." In 1994, the group headlined the Lollapalooza festival.

A B-sides collection entitled Pisces Iscariot was released in 1994,

around the same time that the group was settling into the studio to make a

concept album. Those sessions were released in 1995 as the largely

successful Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a double-CD

collection divided into "Dawn to Dusk"

and "Twilight and Starlight." A massive world tour

followed and the group's popularity soared accordingly. Chamberlain was

fired in July 1996 after he used heroin with touring keyboardist

Jonathan Melvoin, who died of an overdose. He was replaced by Filter

drummer Matt Walker, who continued working with the group until late last

year. Earlier this year, Iha released Let It Come Down, a much

gentler sounding album than one might associate with a member of the

Smashing Pumpkins. As of late, the Smashing Pumpkins have been working

on Adore (due in May), an album that reportedly will be softer than their

earlier efforts.

Other birthdays: Fred Paris (Five Satins), 62; Diana Ross, 54; Fred

Sheehan (Boston), 52; Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), 50; Richard Tandy (ELO), 50;

Teddy Pendergrass, 49; and Martin Price (808 State), 43.