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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 237
Mon. Aug 20, 2012

“1979”
The Smashing Pumpkins

1996

“♫ We don’t even
care to shake these
zipper blues/ and
we don’t know just
where our bones will
rest/ to dust I guess/
Forgotten & absorbed
into the earth below/
the street heats the
urgency of now/ as
you see there’s no
one around
♫”

Did you know that “1979” was the last minute song Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan wrote in 1996 for Melancholy? Billy finished “1979” on the last day of recording Infinite Sadness, as he explained on VH-1 Storytellers, “The last song written for Infinite Sadness. The idea had been kicking around for a while, the only words in the song was “Shakedown 1979.” We were getting down to the end of the album, and there really wasn’t a lot of time left we were checking lists to see the songs we still had left to work on. I told Flood, our producer, I think this song has potential to make it on the album. He said you have only twenty-four hours to make it happen. Come in tomorrow and make it happen or it’s not going to be on the album. So I spent that night and the next morning writing the lyrics. I did a demo at home. We did an acoustic version with a similar arrangement; it’s just one of those moments when you know a song is a special song.”

When I found out how Corgan created “1979” it made a difference to me. No matter what I thought of Billy as a person, what matters most is how I feel about the song; it took me years but I finally realized there’s artistry in “1979.” But, it’s difficult, sometimes, to separate the personality from the pop song. Now that I’m older, I am starting to ditch many preconceived emotions I had towards artists like Smashing Pumpkins, specifically Billy Corgan. So now I concentrate on the words, the music because in the end it’s my connection song that matters.

Curious to why my impressions of “1979” evolved? Corgan told VH-1 Storytellers the meaning behind “1979” when he said, “Sometimes when I write a song I see a picture in my head, for some reason it’s an obscure memory. The memory that I had for “1979” was I was eighteen years old and I was driving down the road near my home and it was heavily raining as it only can seem to rain in a gloomy way in Illinois. I remember just sitting at a traffic light and that’s the memory. That’s the memory that I wrote the song from, that feeling of sitting at a car at a traffic light. It emotionally connotes to me a sort of feeling of waiting for something to happen and not being quite there yet but it’s just around the corner. Little did I know that I was right?

“1979,” is a timelessly written song with beautiful flourishes of poetry sprinkled throughout. It seems like Corgan was thinking of his legacy when he came up with the words for “1979.” It feels like now, he was experiencing some anxiety over how his work would be remembered. So what did Billy do? Corgan went back to an image from his past, capturing the moment right before his life changed for the better. It’s the glimpse into that unknown, the darkness, the choices of where and not to go? Should I turn left, right, go straight, turn around?

All I know, it’s been a trying August and we’re ready for September to be a month to remember. Billy Corgan wrote about that universal emotion of metaphorically waiting at the stop light for the light to turn green. We’re finally in that car, our engine is revving and we’re finally ready for the next turn on our journey. Now I can sit back, sing along and enjoy the ride to the Smashing Pumpkins with “1979” as my soundtrack on my road less traveled by.

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