Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 120
Wed. May 30, 2013
There’s something about Smashing Pumpkins “Thirty-three” that caught my ears and keeps resonating deep inside me. It was a sound that I heard so much, growing up in suburbia’s around America, the echoes of the midnight sprinkler. To some it’s just the sound of someone watering their grass, for me, the sprinkler hitting the grass with throws of water reflects waves of tranquility splashing me in between moments of contemplation and appreciation.
So how did Billy Corgan come up with the sprinkler inspiring beauty that is “Thirty-Three?” Corgan explained, “A simple song in a country tuning, “Thirty-Three” was the first song that I wrote when I came home from all the Siamese Dream touring. I took three days off, and this was literally the first thing that came out of my hands when I sat down. I was living in my new house for the first time, and this song conveys all of that. The “cha-cha-cha” sound is my drum machine through a flanger, and what you hear is the same one right off the demo because I couldn’t remember how to recreate it. The stringly sounds are part Vocoder, plus five slide guitars tuned to one note each to create the chords.” So my favorite sprinkler sound was Billy’s drum machine. Maybe it was one of those happy sonic accidents that appear to us like cosmic gifts from the Music Gods?
My favorite part of ‘Thirty-Three” is the way that Corgan sings the phrase, “And you can make it last forever,” by crooning, “Make it last forever…you.” Billy turns it from idea to a command. It’s as if the Smashing Pumpkins front man is telling us to be brave and reach for our personal stars. So poetic and eloquent; unless you see the lyrics, most would miss the brilliant lyrical and vocal genius from one Billy Corgan.
During the taping of VH-1 Storytellers, Billy talked about the meaning of “Thirty-Three” when he said, “The year was 1994 and I just moved into a new house that was eventually going to be a purple Victorian house in Chicago. And this is the first song that I wrote for that album. And um, this song really embodies the spirit of that time. I had just gotten married, I’d just moved into a new house, the band was achieving the kind of success that people only dream of and I was really hopeful with the idea that I was eventually and someday –and it looked like it was going to happen– actually have a happy life. It didn’t quite work out that way. But I don’t think that’s what I really want to emphasize about this particular song. Um, you know, hope is really the key component in life because one must have hope and faith to actually get out of bed and do anything in this world. And um, you know, in my mind at that time, I think I was 27 years old, I thought that I had arrived. I supposedly had everything one would want: the wife, the cat, the house, the car, and the money and the –oh yeah, the fame. And um, but I think what I’m really trying to say here is all I ever really wanted was a happy home.”
Is that what we all long for that happy home away from our chaotic upbringing. There was joy when you were growing up but we all want to create our own family kingdoms called home. Unfortunately, Billy Corgan tried to build his private Chicago paradise but his own idea of the American dream crumbled and the meaning in one of Corgan’s most personal and poignant songs, as he explained to Storytellers, “To sing this song now, it doesn’t bother me because I really went into those situations with the best intentions and when I found out they weren’t really for me, then of course, I changed those things. The other sort of component and people often ask why I call this song 33, actually, yes the number 33, it is a good number. I actually had hoped to write three songs: 33, 66, and 99. I never wrote 66 and 99…that’s for the Internet, but the reason I was attracted to the number 33 at that particular time was um, I had a friend read my tarot cards and the person said that “When you’re 33 years old” –this is when I was 27– “When you are 33 years old, your life is going to completely change.” So um, as I sit here today at 33 years old, my life is going to completely change at 33. So, this song serves both as prophecy and um, sort of a hope…unhoped…or unwished, maybe that’s better. So this is “Thirty-Three.”
That sprinkler sound was one that I always took for granted. Those summers of sports, screams of joy and tears of forgetfulness all come to life when I spin the recurring genius of Billy Corgan’s “Thirty-Three.” More than just a sound of watering the lawn, sprinkler within this Smashing Pumpkins song reflects a sense of hope and accomplishment we all long to rekindle and keep closer along on our individual journeys. What I have learned is that once you truly have fond your craft and when you feel the inspiration, your solitary job is to pick up the metaphorical phone and answer your calling. Look what happened to Billy Corgan; the lead singer of Smashing Pumpkins was in an extreme exhausted state when he actually came up with “Thirty-Three,” telling Guitar World magazine, “It was the first song I wrote when I got home from the Siamese Dream Tour. I used a drum machine and the words just fell out.” What is Billy had just jumped into bed, passed out and not turned on his drum machine, would “Thirty-Three” ever had been born?”
Smashing Pumpkins’ “Thirty-Three” reminds me…never to let your calling ring unanswered. Keep picking up the phone call and you will live through the conversation of a life-time. Thankfully, Billy Corgan answered inspiration’s call and penned the Smashing Pumpkins tender triumph that is “Thirty-Three.” What does “Thirty-Three” mean to Corgan? In the liner notes of the 2012 reissue of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the lead singer and chief songwriter of Smashing Pumpkins wrote, “Before it all falls apart there is a moment where you feel alright with not knowing where you will land; knowing that by standing at a crossroads you invite whatever just conclusion may come, be it failure or success.” Melancholy, merry, miraculous and everything in between at least we have “Thirty-Three” to be the lyrical guide and the soundtrack to the journey called our future promised life.