In search of Billy Corgan
North Current Glenbard North High School
October 28, 1994
By Asra Syed and Laura Yuen
Features editor and Editor-in-chief

Ever since the Pumpkins smashed their way into the mainstream, GN has developed a strange affinity towards its famous alum, Billy Corgan. With Corgan as lead singer, the Smashing Pumpkins have jumped to stardom by topping the charts with their secon album, Siamese Dream. But Corgan didn't seem to cultivate any substantial seeds in GN's collective consciousness, being neither the class of '85's greatest scholar, athlete, nor deliquent. Still, the Great Pumpkin has definitely left his mark on GN today as its most renowned graduate.

"Cast out, not outcast"

The few remaining teachers who taught and still remember Corgan found him reserved. "He was relatively quiet," Walter Schearer, science teacher, said. "There was kind of a sly wit about him." But those who knew him best found him outspoken, even "a smart aleck." According to Marlo Macaisa, '85, one of Corgan's close freinds in high school, "In AP Bio, he cut the cat's tail off, put it in his back pocket, and walked around school like that." This episode does not top Corgan's list of antics. On a seemingly harmless field trip to the Art Institute for John Slusser's US History class, Pete Sallis, '86, and Corgan trashed the bathroom with toilet paper. "Ah, the days of youth," Sallis said. Brenda Clink, '85, a friend of Corgan's through the school newspaper, remembers their strategy in acquiring tickets for bands like the Police, Yes, and Van Halen. While Clink would "play Mom" bny calling to excuse Corgan and his friend Stewart Song from classes, Corgan and Song would camp out overnight at the Rosemont Horizeon ticket lines.

"I did it my way"

Corgan's individuality can be traced back to his days at GN. Growing up in the '80's culture, "when everyone else was into parachute pants and breakdancing, hw was into leather and chains. He dressed funny and had spiked hair," Macaisa recalled. "He never converted to their ways." Frequently described as unusual by his classmates, Corgan wore untucked shirts, slanky clother and a smirk on his face when he spoke, according to Dan Shaw, '85. Not to say that he was a social outcast. "He had a lot of friends, but he was still a loner," Macaisa said. "There were cliques everywhere. He didn't fit in, or he didn't want to." Recent interviews with Corgan suggest the former. In Rolling Stone suggest the former. Corgan has said, "I wish from Day One, people would have looked at me and said, 'You're all right, come on, join the team,'but it's never been that way with me." Corgan's feelings of isolation originated far before his high school years. As a child, he was harassed by peers for the peculiar, large birthmark running down his left arm, which would turn bright red from time to time. He was unalbe to hide his insecurities through his long-sleeved shirts. I knew people would look at it when they walked by. It was so obvious," Sallis remembered Corgan turned this ordeal around by naming his first post-high school band The Marked, after his abnormality. Even today, his hand somethimes darkens to a blood red hue when he lashes at his guitar.

"The roots of rock invasion"

Along with Sallis, Jim Watson, '85, and Mike Subrt, '86, Corgan took part in forming the band Lex in 1982. Soon to be dissolved the following year, Lex was Corgan's fist band, in which he played guitar. Influenced by Rush and Ozzy Ozbourne, Lex made its biggest and perhaps only real appearence at the school variety show in 1983. With the company of his Les Paul guitar, Corgan experimented with unusual chords and sequences, breaking all rules of music. "It felt like heavy metal chant music," said Dan Shaw, who played bass for the Christian band Savior, which Lex evolved to without Corgan. The similarities of Corgan, then and now, do not end there. Today Corgan is known to take command of Smashing Pumpkins. According to Rolling Stone, he practically takes all the guitar and bass parts on their album away from bandmates James Iha and D'arcy. Sallis does not find this hard to believe. "As far as music-wise, he was a control freak," Sallis said. "If he wanted a certain thing played, he told us. He definitely spoke his mind when it came to music. If he didn't like something, he'd let you know. He'd look at you, saying, 'No, don't do that. It doesn't work.'" Tensions among the band members arose when the style of music started to change. When Sallis' church offered to let the band practice and keep equipment ther, the band began to gear more toward Christian rock music in order to pay for the services. "Corgan didn't want to be any part of it," Subrt said. Corgan may be uncomfortable remembering his origins in Lex. In an Internet Smashing Pumpkins newsletter, he jokingly refered to Lex as a "death/satanic least we pretended to be evil, but all that we really were was bad." As a self-taught guitarist, Corgan took his music seriously. To protect his fingers for guitar playing, he quit his job as a dishwasher for a Chinese restaurant and stopped playing in the Glendale Heights park district basketball league. "All he ever concentrated on was his music," Macaisa said. "He didn't even think about school, even though he was so smart."

"In the classroom"

Though now better known for his music than his brains, Corgan was an honors student in high school. "He wasn't one of those students who was all over Chem/Phys with his hand up all the time, but he knew he was no dummy either," Schearer said. "He was probably your average Glenbard North honors student." His involvement on the paper as Features editor in 1983-84 and Review editor in 1984-85 gave him the chance to express his insight on paper. Writing under different bylines, Corgan used the name Bill, Patrick (his middle name) and W.P. "He was really smart and weird in his own way, a real intellectual deviant," Sallis said. Though he had the potential for it, Corgan never attended college, due to financial reasons, Macaisa said. Hey, isn't that Billy? Strangely enough, it was Corgan's own classmates and teachers who knew nothing of his fame until very recently. Doubters were surprised to see his face on their living room TV sets, as Smashing Pumpkins have invaded airwaves with their appearances on Saturday Night Live, the MTV Music Awards, and the Grammy Awards. "I come from the reality side of things,a nd from watching Bill Corgan perform, to me, the only way he made it was marketing," Shaw said."The quality and the writing of the music, when compared to the slew of other musicians who haven't made it, doesn't compare." But alas, Corgan has silenced the skeptics with his success. His stardom lights the windowless hallways of GN and means the most to those who shared them with him. Well, maybe not everyone. "Who?" Lex member Jim Watson said on the phone. "Billy Organ? Yeah, I think i was in a band with a guy named Billy Organ."

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