The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #134: Tonight, Tonight by The Smashing Pumpkins (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #134: Tonight, Tonight by The Smashing Pumpkins.

One of LIfe’s great lessons is the importance of having a good sense of “self”; of recognizing and coming to terms with the essence of who you are. Of equal importance is knowing who you are not. The Smashing Pumpkins came together in the late 1980s and, originally, played in a manner that drew comparisons to the “sad-song” phase of groups such as “The Cure”. Back then, the band that was comprised of lead singer/songwriter, Billy Corgan, guitarist, James Iha and bassist, D’arcy Wretzky. Soon, they replaced their drum machine on the advice of a producer and hired a real drummer named Jimmy Chamberlin. With Chamberlin’s driving drum beats backing the band, they became a band with a harder, more rock-based sound which, then, caused them to draw comparisons to emerging bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. All the while, Corgan had been dating singer, Courtney Love who ended up dumping him for the lead singer of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain. Overall, for the initial, first few years of their existence, The Smashing Pumpkins strove to find out who they really were.

This is, in no way, meant to indicate that they were having trouble experiencing success. Their debut album, “Siamese Dream” sold millions of copies, going four times Platinum in the process and spawning hits such as “Today” and “Disarm”. They followed that up with a double album called, “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” that went a long way toward helping The Smashing Pumpkins develop their own identity. From that album came a string of hits such as, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, “1979” and “Tonight, Tonight”. By the late 1990s, they released an album called, “Adore” and had a hit with “Ava Adore” but, by then, internal problems within the band caused them to break up. They have regrouped again, with various lineups and various players being plugged in to fill in the gaps but have never again hit the musical heights that they did as one of the biggest bands of the 1990s.

The song, “Tonight, Tonight” is about believing in the core of who you are. It is about having a personal and creative vision of what you want to do and never letting it go, no matter who offers their criticism or how hard it may, initially, be to find success. But what sets “Tonight, Tonight” apart from many other songs from the 90s is the music video that accompanied the song. This video was shot by the same people who produced the movie, “Little Miss Sunshine” and comes across, visually, as almost Monty Python-esque. It is a period piece, set at the time when Zeppelin’s soared across our skies. It stars the husband and wife team of Tom Kenny and Jill Talley, who went on to gain fame for their work in the animated tv series, “Spongebob Squarepants”, of all things. The song, itself, has a soaring string section and uses those strings to successfully reach an emotional crescendo that brings home the main lesson about faith and perseverance and the rewards that come with always believing in yourself. The video won almost every conceivable award in 1997, including, “Video of the Year” during the MTV Music Awards. It is a stunning visual and aural experience, to say the least.

The story of The Smashing Pumpkins is more complex that what I have stated above but, for now, what is most important to know is that, for awhile in the 1990s, they were one of the biggest and most important bands in the world. They headlined music festivals such as Lollapalooza and Reading. They enjoyed #1 hits songs and earned millions of album sales. And yet, when the history of that time is written, as much as The Smashing Pumpkins were liked, they were rarely anyone’s absolute favourite band. To use a sporting metaphor, they always made it to the medal podium but always seemed to be earning Silver or Bronze. To be among the elites in your chosen profession is enough to merit respect but, to have done so by following your own unique creative vision is the most important aspect of who The Smashing Pumpkins turned out to be than anything else. At the end of the day, Billy Corgan and his various bandmates created the music that they wanted to create and they can all, justifiably, feel proud of what they managed to accomplish. When you watch the video for “Tonight, Tonight”, you will get a sense of what a “unique, creative vision” looks and sounds like. This song and video are fantastic. I hope that you enjoy “Tonight, Tonight” by The Smashing Pumpkins. Have a super day, everyone.

The link to the video for the song, “Tonight, Tonight” by The Smashing Pumpkins, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Smashing Pumpkins, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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