SMASHING PUMPKINS VIDEOGRAPHY
Thanks to ZEROGIRL33@aol.com for typing the transcript
BILLY CORGAN: I mean, I feel the same way about videos that I feel about music which is like, there are no rules. To me, the greatest compliment I'll get on a video is from someone who I wouldn't expect to like music, and oftentimes people would come up to us and say, I don't even know your band, I don't have your records, I don't even like your kind of music. But I really like that song, and I really like that video.
"Siva - Our first video argument" slate
BILLY: I think it was probably just your basic, you know, you don't know what the hell you're doing. I still remember showing up on the Siva set like going, okay, now what do we do? I had, I mean I had no idea how you made a video.
Video Clip, "Siva"
BILLY: I remember our first video argument, Siva, it was like, "Where will the band play? Will it be against that brick wall?"
JAMES IHA: Oh right.
BILLY: Didn't they want to hang like a sheet?
JAMES: Like a bed sheet with neon spray paint.
BILLY: We got into a big argument like 9 in the morning. "No, we want to play against the brick wall."
"Cherub Rock - and our least favorite video award goes to..." slate
BILLY: Cherub Rock is the all time winner. It was disappointing to us and I think we learned our lesson on that video, that unless we were going to be involved, you know, what will we expect if somebody's just going to do what they're going to do.
Video Clip, "Cherub Rock"
BILLY: When you're spending all of that money, I mean it seems almost absurd to not get what you want. If you're going to spend the money and you're going to drag your a** up to some mountain top and pretend that you're some desolate loner or whatever you know, whatever the concept. And so began the slow and arduous process towards more creative control.
"Today - the turning point" slate
JAMES: It was a very impactful video, kind of in a way that 1979 was. It got a lot of people's attention.
BILLY: It was, and it was definitely like you know, in our video history, it was definitely the turning point.
Video Clip, "Today"
BILLY: Because Cherub Rock was not necessarily a failure, but it definitely didn't get played as much as it could have. The song suffered. You know, the powers that be at the record company were very worried about us making an esoteric video. If you go back and watch Today, there's almost no singing, no performance to speak of. And everyone got kind of cold feet, thinking well, now we need to make the normal video because you're going to screw yourselves. And we kind of dug our heels and said we were going to make this video, it's the right video to make. And it turned out to work the way that I thought it would work which is like, "Oh, this band is actually different."
JAMES: He's driving an ice cream truck and I'm wearing a dress.
BILLY: I think people feel a lot of pressure. You know there's the typical scenario, you know, we have to make a video for MTV. And everybody's so worried that MTV's not going to play their video, they basically look and see what's on MTV and copy what's on MTV, figuring that by copying, it will help their video get played. And to some extent that can happen, but it seems artistically, it's disingenuous because instead of separately yourself from everybody, you're only helping to lump yourself back in.
JAMES: It's like, they have to make like a safe video. The video has to have performance, lip syncing and you know, either crowd surfing or some imagery like that that everyone's going to pick up on and it's going to get accepted. And so no one thinks of, like on this next video, we'll have a goat. Not that you would come up with a goat video.
"Bullet with Butterfly Wings - curse of the mud people" slate
BILLY: The only thing that I remember is, you know, they got all of these, they went on the radio and got all of these kids to come down. I think they paid them like 50 bucks to be mud people. And it was really hot, you know, it was about 90 degrees out and we were in the desert somewhere. It got to be about 12 o'clock and these kids started to get real antsy. And most of these kids didn't even know who we were. So slowly but surely, you could hear people mumbling and grumbling. And then people started throwing rocks at us. And you're thinking, we can't piss these people off because we need the mud people.
JAMES: You can't leave us.
BILLY: You can't leave us, we need you. But meanwhile they're hating us. So there was this whole weird tension, and you know, everytime they stopped the cameras, and someone runs up and puts make-up on you, gives you some water. They're all upset, sitting there like, "Creeps!"
Video Clip "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"
JAMES: And like, the assistant to Sam, he had like a big megaphone and he'd have to keep the people cool. And he'd be like, "You're doing a great job out there." Trying to keep everybody cool.
BILLY: You are the best mud people I have ever seen.
JAMES: And Sam, the way he works, he's really, very high energy, very high strung guy. And it was just a manic video.
BILLY: I just remember one kid who was sitting towards the bottom talking to me in between takes, and he said, "Hey you guys are pretty good. You guys got records."
JAMES: Look at us, of course we got records, we dressed like spacemen.
BILLY: Would I be in these silver pants.
"1979 - it's a bit much" slate
BILLY: Originally I wanted the video to be way more violent. Literally the first shot of 1979, my first shot of 1979 was a car full speed, ramming into a wall. That was the first shot. And Jonathan and Valerie were like, "we think it's a bit much."
Video Clip "1979"
BILLY: The scene where the kids go in the convenience store. I wanted the kids to just completely obliterate the store because that was, I hated the guy who owned the 7-11 near my house. You know, he was always the guy, like you'd go in a play pinball, and you'd ask for 4 quarters and he'd act like he was doing you a favor.
JAMES: Here's your quarters.
BILLY: God damn kids never spend any money in here.
JAMES: I think that's a bit much.
BILLY: It's a bit much. I just remember Valerie, I can't do her voice because my voice is so screwed up, but she was like, "You know, when I listen to the song, it's not so mean as you're making it."
"Tale of the missing tapes" slate
BILLY: We went to these people's house and we shot the party scene as it's known. And everyone said good night and we all had to fly to New York to play a show the next day. The guy drove out, they gave them the tapes, he put the tapes on his car and he drove away and the tapes fell off. So we had to fly back and total twilight zone, re-shoot the exact same scenes, literally identical. Although we did learn our lesson about playing, if you remember.
JAMES: I don't remember.
BILLY: You don't remember, well we uh, you know they hired like 50 kids to be the party goers. And so we actually set up to play for real because we weren't syncing the song. And we were just playing like stuff we would jam on. And the kids were like yawning, bored. I can't tell you how weird it was, like almost degrading, to have to play the hits to these kids you know. They couldn't even pretend that they were into it.
"Zero - we can be creepy" slate
BILLY: I think the key word was super creep.
JAMES: That's what he told me, he goes, I want to make a really creepy video. I'm like, we can be creepy.
Video Clip "Zero"
BILLY: My favorite thing about the band in the "Zero" video is just the pure directness of the performance. I really just enjoyed that. Instead of like, the 80 crane shot cuts, it was just like singular takes of just like right in the camera.
BILLY: The great thing is people either love that video or they hate it. They think it's the worst piece of (expletive) they've ever seen, which to me is always the sign of great art.
"Tonight, Tonight - not too syrupy, not too alternative"
BILLY: Originally "Tonight, Tonight" was going to be a Bubsly Berkeley, MGM style production. And we were literally set to go into production for the video and we found out that the Chili Peppers had just done a Bubsly Berkeley style video for "Aeroplane". And our jaws dropped because it was literally exactly what we were about to do, although we were going to do more of a classic, they took more of a - And we were going to have people diving into champagne glasses and the whole bit, dancing, there was going to be a ballroom scene, James and D'Arcy were going to dance. I mean it was like this whole, it was in motion. So we had to can that. And then I had another concept which I probably shouldn't say. So then they came up with yet another concept. So the concept that exists is actually the third concept for "Tonight, Tonight"
BILLY: The concept with the Melies stuff kind of embodied everything that I wanted which was grandeur and a bigness. And it wasn't supposed to be too syrupy, and it wasn't supposed to be you know, too like we're alternative. It was just supposed to be right up the middle. And I think that the idea that they came up with, the references that they came up with, were pretty much right on the money for the song.
BILLY: I don't think we've ever had people react to, I mean it was like, the way people reacted to Bullet and the way people react to 1979 was, "Oh, those are really good." "Tonight, Tonight" was ten times more comments, ten times more compliments. I mean, it just seemed to touch a nerve and I'm nor really sure why that is. Maybe I'm too in the middle of the whole forest, but it's been unbelievable the way people have reacted to that video.
"Thirty-three - an image for every line"
BILLY: The fact that it was the fifth video from the record, instead of doing what we normally do with our videos which is try to find something that's different than the imagery in the song, I thought it would be kind of funny to do an image for every line. So every line has a representative image and no image repeats.
Video Clip "Thirty-three"
BILLY: On paper we came up with forty different shots and then, in thinking about those shots, we started thinking well, if we just have these forty shots, it's not going to be that, it's not going to be interesting enough. So it seemed to me kind of like almost like you would with a song, you look for an effect or something to give the song a little bit an extra edge. So that's where I came up with the idea of shooting it with stills. So the end result is somewhere between stop motion animation and live, so you can't quite tell what it is because the movements are so funny.
BILLY: But I swear after "Thirty-three", I will never again work with small children. When you work with small children, it's not so much the children as it is their parents.
JAMES: This kid's a star!
BILLY: The shame of it, some of the kids we shot for "Thirty-three", the kids had been so coached to immediately go into their kind of, you know, their Free Willy Disney smiles, that you can't get them to act natural. As soon as the camera are on, I mean, they're playing normal and they look so beautiful and as soon as the camera is on they go (poses for the camera).
BILLY: I think we're at a point now where we're open to all possibility. We're just interested in just breaking out of the barriers of what we're supposed to be doing and not supposed to be doing. You know, every little pillar that's up, videos, concerts, albums, they're all set to be toppled over. And all you have to do is have the courage to do it. And really the only thing that you have to fear is, you know, what people are going to think.
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