And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #114: Billy Corgan v Radiohead. Or pomposity (one of the two). Oh, and fascists

By | Published on Friday 15 June 2012

Smashing Pumpkins

Billy Corgan wants to piss on Radiohead. We know this because he said “I’ll piss on fucking Radiohead” in a recent interview with Antiquiet.

Actually, he didn’t just say that, he said other things as well. Context is all. He did say he’d piss on Radiohead though, that is undeniable. But only because people think Jonny Greenwood is a more important guitarist than Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore. I’m not sure how often that debate actually comes up but it seems to have riled Billy.

During a conversation about new Smashing Pumpkins album ‘Oceania’ and people’s view of Corgan’s personality, he suddenly launched into talk of urination, saying: “I can’t think of any people outside of Weird Al Yankovic who have both embraced and pissed on rock more than I have”.

I’ve been trying to think of other people, but I just realised I’m not exactly sure what he’s talking about. Let’s just let him continue: “Obviously there’s a level of reverence, but there’s also a level of intelligence to even know what to piss on. Cos I’m not pissing on Rainbow. I’m not pissing on Deep Purple. But I’ll piss on fucking Radiohead, because of all this pomposity. This value system that says Jonny Greenwood is more valuable than Ritchie Blackmore. Not in the world I grew up in, buddy. Not in the world I grew up in”.

I’m still not exactly sure what this has to do with how people see Billy Corgan’s personality, but one thing’s certain, Radiohead can expect to be doused in Corg-piss very soon. Or perhaps now, as he quickly backtracked: “Is Ritchie Blackmore a better guitar player than me and Jonny Greenwood? Yes. Have we all made contributions? Yes. I’m not attacking that. I’m attacking the pomposity that says this is more valuable than that. I’m sick of that. I’m so fucking sick of it, and nobody seems to tire of it”.

I think what he’s complaining about is the fact that people tend to hone in on a significant figure within their own generation and talk them up to the detriment of everything that went before. But that’s just how life works, isn’t it? He kind of hit the nail on the head when he said: “Not in the world I grew up in”. The things people find most significant tend to be those that were important to them in their late teens or early 20s. Anyone who liked Deep Purple in their late teens is either dead or well over 100 years old now. Conversely, people who played Radiohead tapes on their Walkmans at school are now in their 30s and working for broadsheet newspaper culture sections. All of them, without exception.

Even if Radiohead fans were to concede that they liked old fashioned music like Deep Purple, they’d still think Jonny Greenwood was a more significant guitarist because he had a cultural impact at a time when they were actually alive and can remember. We might as well discuss whether Ritchie Blackmore is a better songwriter than Beethoven. It’s a stupid argument and I think we should talk about something more important. Like fascism or something.

Luckily, Billy has opinions on that too. Why is music not being used to rise up against fascists these days? Because it wouldn’t get enough likes on Facebook, of course.

Says Corgan: “Tom Morello had this quote on his guitar from Woody Guthrie: ‘This guitar is a fucking weapon. This guitar kills fascists’. Love kills fucking fascists. And when music is so goddamned fucking iTunes friendly, cuddly, it makes me want to fucking puke. It’s not for everybody to be like that, but where is that voicing in the greater collective voices? Why don’t we have that any more? Because nobody wants to deal with the 40 negative comments on Facebook”.

Which is actually an interesting way to look at it, though he then moved back to the subject of his personality again, saying that throughout his career he’s hidden behind various different identities shaped to the culture of the time. But no more: “Now I’m actually strong enough where I don’t need a mask. I’m just myself. I’m fifteen pounds overweight, I’ve got crooked teeth, I’ve got a funny voice, but I’m fucking good at what I do. And this fucking voice kills fascists. That’s the way I look at it”.

So, there you go. Ritchie Blackmore is the best guitarist and fascists shouldn’t listen to Billy Corgan.