What's in a Name? Smashing Pumpkins Will Play SunFest on Wednesday, Kind Of
There will be a musical act on stage this Wednesday at SunFest with the official name of Smashing Pumpkins. This band will be singing and playing chord progressions of music we recognize as being by Smashing Pumpkins. But there will be only one recognizable face from the video of "Cherub Rock" and only one member on stage who contributed to the albums we associate with this '90s band du decade.
That one man is Billy Corgan, the guy who wrote, sang, and coproduced most of their essential work; there are even rumors that he played all the guitar and bass for the first two albums. If we accept that this band can still be called Smashing Pumpkins, then Smashing Pumpkins was never a band at all but rather a pseudonym for Billy Corgan, much like Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor and a rotating cast of musicians.
Because Billy Corgan did a lion's share of the work, we can half-heartedly accept him calling whatever schmos he drags onstage with him as still Smashing Pumpkins (though I do think bassist D'arcy Wretzky's vocals were an essential part of their sound). There are numerous cases in the music industry where, due to copyright holdings, dubious motley crews are able to tour under the name of a famous band. For the past decade, Axl Rose has been recording and touring with a band calling itself Guns N' Roses even though Axl Rose is the only member of this band who had anything to do with the music we associate with Guns N' Roses. Meanwhile, original Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, and longtime drummer Matt Sorum had to call their project Velvet Revolver.
Bands tour as Humble Pie and Foghat with the original members being the drummer. You can see the Motown act the Temptations this summer if you accept the liberal interpretation that one original member with four other singers is still the Temptations. On the other hand, because original singer John Fogerty didn't want them tarnishing their image, the drummer and bassist of Creedence Clearwater Revival had to name their touring act that plays old CCR songs Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
Sports teams show that the franchise is more essential than the individuals who compose it. The Miami Heat sells tickets to its games for the same price, even if Dwyane Wade or LeBron James aren't playing, and will continue to sell tickets even after those players retire or are traded away. So what's stopping 100 years from now still having a touring act that calls itself the Who blasting out "My Generation" for our great-grandchildren?
In a world where truth trumped commerce, Billy Corgan would play this concert as Billy Corgan and thrill audiences playing Smashing Pumpkins tunes much like when you go to a Paul McCartney concert. You can hear Sir Paul sing Beatles songs without thinking about the drummer who played on Abbey Road.
As much as the world pines for a Led Zeppelin reunion, you have to respect the integrity of Robert Plant, who, since drummer John Bonham's death, has insisted, "The reason that it stopped was because we were incomplete."
"Smashing Pumpkins," at SunFest 2013. With Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Kendrick Lamar, Train, and others. 5 p.m. May 1, through May 3, and noon May 4, and May 5 at 525 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $30 to $69 plus fees. Call 561-659-5980, or visit sunfest.com.