Of Love and Music: A Relationship with The Smashing Pumpkins

I originally wrote this as a guest post on Plane back in October, 2015, but I wanted to share it with you all here as well. 

I developed my first musical crush when I was 12 years old. It was on Candlebox, an alternative rock band from Seattle. (It was the early ‘90s; pretty much every band was an alternative rock band from Seattle). I was venturing from the world of dance pop and Top 40 into the world of rock, and Candlebox was the band that made me realize this was the new territory I wanted to settle in. What the point of connection was between me – an introverted girl who still owned Barbies and read every “Babysitters Club” book she could find – and songs such as “Cover Me,” “You,” and “Understanding” I’m not sure. But there was something in the loud rawness of this music that captivated me. I stopped listening to TLC and Ace of Base and entered the world of grunge. I got labeled a “rocker” by the other kids in my junior high school. I decorated my school notebooks and binders with “Candlebox rules” and “I love Candlebox,” as though Candlebox was the name of a boy I liked. I suppose in a way it was, since my crush on Candlebox was at least equal in intensity to the crushes I had on actual boys.

So I “liked” Candlebox. And then one day, as I was faithfully listening the local alt-rock radio station, I heard Billy Corgan’s voice. Everything changed. It was as though a door had appeared in the alternative-rock house I lived in and opened into a vast musical world of greater depth and quality than I had ever known. Yes, Candlebox and The Smashing Pumpkins (of which Billy Corgan was the lead singer and writer) fell into the same genre of “alternative rock.” But Billy and The Pumpkins were different. Theirs was an emotional and musical complexity, exploration, and daring that made me jump gladly across that door’s threshold.

While I had been infatuated with Candlebox, I fell head over heels with The Smashing Pumpkins. Discovering them unleashed a level of emotion from and personal attachment to music that I hadn’t experienced before. I was swept by the contrast and range in the band’s sound, everything from the simple, melodic beauty of the piano in the song “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” to the earnest, congested guitars and drums in “Silverf***.” I was roused by Billy’s poetic lyrics that covered multitudes of feeling, from exultant love in songs like “Stand Inside Your Love” (my favorite love song of all time) to the despairing of life in songs like “Jellybelly.” And then there was Billy’s voice. From his yells to his whispers to his talking, no other voice conveyed to me or provoked in me as much heightened emotion as his did.

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Favorites of 2015

Well, friends, 2015 is coming to an end. I hope that its closing is going well for you and that 2016 will arrive even better. For me, 2015 was a very positive year, with a lot of growth and good change in most areas of my life, including my writing (as I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post).

I imagine you’re seeing many year-end lists at this point. I’ve always enjoyed those types of lists, so I thought I’d add to the bunch and make one of my own. I’ve chosen a few of my favorite posts I’ve made on this blog, and have added some comments to share with you why they are my favorites. And, since this is a blog greatly inspired by music, I’ve included a list of the albums I listened to the most this year (though they weren’t all released this year). I hope you enjoy.

Let me know about your lists, too. What were your favorite posts this year, from your own blog, this one, or someone else’s? What were your favorite songs/albums/bands? Let me know in the comments or through the “Contact” page.

Cheers to you in 2016!

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The Room: In which I leave the key in its place

I live in a room. It’s filled to the very top with books, music, art, food, rows and rows of high heels, more clothing than I could ever need, and unwrapped packages placed here and there. There’s a king-sized bed in one corner and a fireplace in the other. The room is at basement-level, and there are two large windows at the top, one on either side, through which I can see the street and grass at the edge of the house, and the feet of people walking by.

I have everything I need in this room, and I am happy to live in it. I am happy to have been brought into it after so many years wandering alone outside. I am happy to continually be warm, well-fed, entertained, and at peace in this room. The door is always locked on both sides, and I am happy to see the gold key hanging securely on its hook by the door. I’ve been promised I am safe, and I know I am.

I am undisturbed in this room, except when the owner of the things stops in periodically, unannounced, and takes away a book, or a pair of shoes, or one of the unwrapped packages. I do not own anything here. I do not own the food. I do not own the albums. I do not own the clothes nor the bed nor the fireplace. I am free to enjoy most of everything, but there are some things I cannot use, though I can see them lying on a table, stacked near the fireplace, hanging in the closet. I own nothing in the room and I’m not the one who chooses what I can and cannot touch. The true owner comes and goes, and takes, as she pleases. And rightfully so.

As she comes and goes, the gold key stays hanging by the door, and I stay inside the room.

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