Billy Corgan Shares Honest Opinion on Kurt Cobain’s Solos, Recalls What You Weren’t Supposed to Do in Early ’90s Rock Music

In a recent interview with Rick Beato, The Smashing Pumpkins frontman and creative mastermind Billy Corgan reflected on the grunge movement that he was a part of. Although mostly defined by the media and big figures at the time, there have been some stylistic elements that people expected to hear or not to hear in this subgenre. Looking back on the band’s debut album “Gish,” Corgan explained reviewer reactions to their style by saying (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“At the time when [‘Gish‘] came out in 1991, all the reviews were [saying we sounded] like throwback psych, hippie crap, jam band, Grateful Dead…

The Smashing Pumpkins - I Am One (Official Music Video)

“I think it was so not what people thought music would be that they just grasped at comparisons. I mean, there’s reviews that were like, ‘They sound like a cross between REM, The Black Crowes, and Jimi Hendrix… it didn’t even make sense. Like, the DNA splices they would put together to try to describe our music was so off.”

Further on, Corgan also added that this was also partly due to him and the band not fully knowing what they were doing. This all led to a fairly unconventional band for the early 1990s standards. As we already know, grunge was supposed to be the so-called “alternative,” the absolute opposite to what 1980s metal was. But at the same time, Corgan had this urge to play guitar solos. And he did, ultimately making him feel like they were “heretics.”

The Smashing Pumpkins - Siva (Official Music Video)

He continued:

“When people reacted to us, it was almost as if we were heretics or something; it was strange to us. And there was also the whole thing of playing solos, which was verboten in alternative circles at the time, you weren’t supposed to play solos. And if you even think of Kurt [Cobain] on Nirvana [songs], he would play ironic solos, but they weren’t real guitar solos…

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“Kim Thayil [of Soundgarden] would play solos, but they weren’t solos played by people who were necessarily trying to play like Richie Blackmore. I was trying to play Ritchie Blackmore. My father was a guitar player, so I came from that route of, like, if you’re gonna play a solo, you better play a good solo.”

Photos: claudia.rahanmetan (Billy Corgan with The Smashing Pumpkins 2008-02-18 (2)), P.B. Rage (Nirvana around 1992 (cropped))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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