The 2023 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations were released this week. For the eighth time, Chicago’s own Smashing Pumpkins did not make the cut. This should be remedied.
There are three main criteria for inducting an artist. Based on the inductees that have materialized since the Pumpkins have been eligible, they absolutely qualify for inclusion in the Hall, or at least a nomination. Let’s break down why.
1. The Artist’s Influence on Other Musicians
Turn on any rock-based radio station around the country and you’re going to hear a Pumpkins song. Sure, the song may be from the mid-’90s, but that still counts! If you’re being played for so long that the alternative station becomes a classic rock station without having to officially switch formats, you’re part of the canon. For the exact same reasons Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Radiohead are in the Hall, the Pumpkins belong.
In terms of influencing other artists, does My Chemical Romance become MCR without seeing the Pumpkins on the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness tour? Does MCR style “The Black Parade” without the “Tonight, Tonight” video? Does the original MCR run last 12 years without the original SP run lasting 12 years? Does MCR get back together after a seven-year hiatus without SP getting back together after a seven-year hiatus? All this to say: My Chemical Romance sure do love the Smashing Pumpkins. And MCR is still selling out massive arenas and belong in the Hall of Fame once they’re eligible in 2027.
Two of the overlooked aspects of the Pumpkins are their logos and merch. Their “Siamese Dream” logo, the SP drawn into a heart, is one of the ’90s’ best logos and adorns Scott Pilgrim for a large portion of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The Mellon Collie-era ZERO shirt remains iconic nearly 30 years later. The alternate version Corgan “wears” on The Simpsons episode “Homerpalooza” is just as good.
2. Length and Depth of Career and Body of Work
For better or worse, Billy Corgan and friends have released more records than any of their peers (not counting Pearl Jam releasing 15 live albums and 314 official bootlegs). But if they stopped after Mellon Collie and had just four LPs to their name (Gish, Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie and B-sides compilation Pisces Iscariot), they’d have a better shot at getting enshrined in Cleveland, like their peers Rage Against the Machine. RATM is nominated for the fifth time this year and have released no new music since their initial run from 1991 to 2000.
Should an artist be judged by their greatest hits or their entire career? Is it better to just stop after hitting a commercial peak, even though there are glimpses of greatness for the next 10, 20 years? Shouldn’t a double album that sold over 10 million copies, was nominated for seven Grammys and nine VMAs alone get you at least a nomination? As of 2023, nope.
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3. Innovation and Superiority in Style and Technique
Name one artist that sings about vampires and cages better than Corgan? I rest my case.
All kidding aside, the Smashing Pumpkins owned the post-Cobain, pre-electronic-will-take-over ’90s. (Remember Prodigy?) Their place in the canon has been solidified over time. They took the most commercial aspects of My Bloody Valentine, the Cure and New Order and made a sound of their own, the same way Nirvana did with Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. The Pumpkins mainstreamed something that can be heard today in My Chemical Romance, Tegan and Sara, and Silversun Pickups. But because Corgan’s vocals are instantly recognizable, bands that were influenced by SP rarely actually sound like SP, even if the layers of guitar and the mixture of acoustic guitars and synths are evident.
Unspoken Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Rule: Loving the Club
Billy Corgan inducted Pink Floyd into the Hall of Fame in 1996. This matters because the Hall enjoys honoring themselves. In 2008, the Stooges performed the Madonna medley upon her induction. The Stooges were inducted two years later. Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day inducted the Stooges. Two years later, all of Green Day inducted Guns N’ Roses. Green Day were inducted in 2015. There are dozens more examples of the Hall shining a light back on itself. And that’s perfectly fine. Corgan knew this in 1996, and it should still ring true. If Corgan was a good enough psychedelic rock musician to induct one of the most influential psychedelic groups to release a double album, shouldn’t his group get enshrined?
The Smashing Pumpkins absolutely belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Without their inclusion, the biggest American band of the mid-’90s is missing (Oasis are the biggest mid-’90s band, period, and should also be in the Hall). They are the bridge from Hall of Famers Nirvana to Hall of Famers Radiohead. But its leader is keeping them off the ballot. There are plenty of things not helping public perception — the creation and quick dissolution of Zwan, the full page ad in the Chicago Tribune in 2005 claiming he’s getting the Pumpkins back together (without D’arcy Wretzky and James Iha), dating pop stars and Courtney Love, owning a professional wrestling company and appearing on Alex Jones’ talk show chief among them — but nothing he’s done has kept “1979” off the radio for the last 25 years. And that should be good enough for the Hall.
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