Smashing Pumpkins Set Love Story In Drug Underworld
For Billy Corgan, the new video for the Smashing Pumpkins' "Try, Try, Try" is a simple love story about a young couple trying to make their way in the world.
It's worth noting, though, that the lovers in question are a heroin-addicted, trick-turning pair of street punks, one of whom overdoses after cooking her dope with dirty toilet water, losing the couple's unborn child.
Needless to say, video channels such as MTV and VH1 (which, like sonicnet.com, are divisions of Viacom Inc.) probably won't be airing the uncut version of the clip any time soon, which is just fine with the Smashing Pumpkins singer.
"We knew from the beginning that we were definitely going to encounter problems [with getting the video aired]," Corgan, 33, said during a break from the band's rehearsals for the Thursday taping of VH1's "Storytellers" program. "[Director Jonas Akerlund] had an idea that had more to do with edgy ... drug culture underworld — not like the '70s version, but people who live in that world. I've certainly known people who lived in that world."
MTV referred calls to its media affairs department, which had not returned calls by press time.
Not Your Old Fashioned Love Song
Corgan said his idea for the video was to focus on a couple, so the compromise the band came to with Akerlund — director of such controversial clips as the Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" (RealAudio excerpt) — was a day in the life of a drug-addicted couple.
Realizing that the clip, which features Day-Glo graphic violence and scenes of the street urchins shooting up in a public restroom, would never make it uncut onto video stations, the group recently posted a director's cut on smashingpumpkins.com. The song appears on the band's most recent album, this year's MACHINA/the machines of god.
The sentiment of the song (RealAudio excerpt), a winsome, new-wavey ballad with melancholy lyrics about trying to sustain a fading love ("Try to hold on/ To this heart/ A little bit longer/ Try to hold on") was in some ways in opposition to the images Akerlund came up with, Corgan said.
"It's easy to get caught up in your own clichés and I think I was initially attracted to what I would call a more 'up' video because it was more of an 'up' song," Corgan explained. But as Akerlund mapped out his vision, Corgan saw a clip that would counter the tempo of the track while still capturing the love story.
In addition to revisiting the type of stylized violence and drug references that made Akerlund's "Smack My Bitch Up" clip a lightning rod of controversy, the uncut "Try, Try, Try" clip also makes an unspoken nod to the Pumpkins' own sordid drug history.
Co-founding ex-bassist D'Arcy Wretzky was ordered to attend drug-abuse prevention classes in February rather than face trial on charges of possessing crack cocaine. Drummer Jimmy Chamberlin was fired from the band in 1996 when he was charged with misdemeanor drug possession after the heroin-overdose death of touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin. Chamberlin completed a stay in a drug rehabilitation facility and rejoined the group in 1999.
Corgan's only comment on those parallels, as well as questions about why he is the only bandmember featured in the video, were cryptic.
"I'd rather not get into the mechanics of that," Corgan said of his solo shots in the video. "We are toying with people's perceptions. People keep jumping on the obvious, and they keep missing the point. We know they're going to jump on the obvious, so we keep tossing up the obvious, and we keep shrugging our shoulders and going 'OK.' I would hope at this point the world would understand that it's just a game that we're playing."
Given the harsh, sometimes bloody scenes in the video, Corgan said the group gladly submitted edited versions to media outlets.
"We talked about it, and I said, if the worst thing is we have to submit edited or censored versions, that's fine," Corgan said. "Because we should know that a) we're making great art and b) we'll be able to put it on the Web site so anybody who wants to see it uncut will be able to, and of course some day when we put [out] some sort of video compilation it will be on there as well."
The Pumpkins — whose lineup also features guitarist James Iha and former Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur — announced in May that they would be disbanding at year's end after a decade together.
Although no final U.S. tour is planned at this time, Corgan said the group will tour South America, South Africa and Europe this year. Before the Pumpkins release the album they've been working on this summer, Corgan said he plans to reveal the mysterious story behind MACHINA.
"We're still living the story of the album, which hasn't been revealed yet," Corgan said, alluding to the alchemical and numerological clues scattered throughout the album's art, lyrics and Web site.
"I'm thinking about revealing the whole story and the concept maybe around Christmas," he said. "We're thinking about holding a contest to see who could come up with the best version of it based on everything they've deduced."