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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To the Bottom

 

She went to the bottom because she thought that was the only place to go.

She had climbed to the top and had found sky and wind and light. She had enjoyed it there, with the freshness and expanse and things laid bare. She had lived that top fully and for years had been happy in it.

Then something had changed. The wind had stopped blowing. The clouds had come in low to crowd her space. The air blurred and cast everything in shadows. The top had thrilled and filled her until it didn’t. So now she needed something more. Now she’d look for earth and stillness. Now she’d look for unobscured clarity.

So she went to the bottom.

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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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Unafraid Two

I am not afraid
To step through
Into the blazing light,
To leave a life of shadows
That taught me to fear day.

But this darkness I called home
Will not fade so easily.
It’ll try to clutch me as its prize,
And stay behind waiting
While I manage to flee.

And sometimes I’ll want to stay
And I’ll seek out the shadows once more,
My home that for so long,
Made up what was me.

But I will kiss its black mouth,
Smooth my hand down its sleek skin,
One last time,
And turn to join night’s sworn enemy.

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Away

We came here together
To see what we could see,
To see if the seas would be different
Amongst other people’s eyes.

Light all around –
Above,
Below –
And the unmeasured water is all that you can see.

Light all around –
Above,
Below –
And I think that I may be safe at sea.

Enlightened,
Crazy,
I draw nearer to the edge,
And join your gazing, downward face.

A moment.
A waiting.
A shift.
I feel others come close.

The light bounces off the waves
And hits you in the eye.
You stagger and fall backwards
Into the waiting crowd.

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As Clouds Drift By

“I like the sun,” she said, “but sometimes it hurts my eyes.” She put a hand up to shield the top of her face as she kept looking at the sky.

I looked over at her small form. Her long, black hair spread out around her head forming a dark halo that contrasted with the grass. She was wearing a neon-green top with large, hot pink stars on it that matched the hot pink of her shorts. Her fingers and toes glittered with sparkly nail polish that mirrored the sparkly studs in her ears. I smiled. At this age, she still liked everything bright.

I followed her example and put my hand up to my face and looked up. Around the sun, the clouds were wispy streaks of white against a deep-blue sky.

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There Was Once a Cage

There was once a cage
But now I’ve broken free –

I saw your face watch me through the glass
And I took a hammer to the reflection of your eyes.

I tried everything I was brave enough to try,
But cowardice runs deep,
And prudence maimed my feet.

But now I’ve broken free,
And I leave you my cell bars
To throw as daggers to try to trip my feet.

I run fast, as fast as my foolish heart will take me.
You never did say how long you’d watch me go.

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