‘1979’: Billy Corgan’s ode to youth.


“We don’t even care, as restless as we are/
 We feel the pull in the land of a thousand guilts/ And poured cement, lamented and assured./ To the lights and towns below/  Faster than the speed of sound/ Faster than we thought we’d go/ Beneath the sound of hope….”
 – ‘1979’ (Smash Pumpkins).

Rolling Stone magazine best sums up ‘1979’ as “a mid tempo tune that looks back on the aimless fun of adolescene with a touch of melancholy and longing.”It is a song that still stands the test of time, no matter what generation of youth choose to listen to it. Though, I don’t think you have to be young to appreciate its sentiment. I often find myself nowadays cranking up the volume on 1979, simply because it is a beautiful song. And so while I’m thinking about it, that hypnotic rollercoaster of chord changes (on guitar) and the effortless drumbeat, always seems to set my mood, in recalling the vivid memories of my youth, that helped me become the person that I am today.

Smashing Pumpkins lead singer Billy Corgan chose 1979 for the title, not necessarily to represent a time of youth in the late seventies, but because it sounded good in a rhyme scheme. Corgan also confesses that 1979 was a year as good as any other.

Like all good songwriters, Corban captures the essence of life as a teen. He reflects upon his own experiences, but also highlights some of the typical feelings associated around insecurity, unease and longing of youth. We are reminded also that as young people, we often feel that living in the moment will never end, only to discover that all good things sometimes do come to an end.

The song almost didn’t make the album ‘Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness’ because co- producer Mark “Flood” Ellis thought that 1979 wasn’t good enough. He was ready to drop it, when Billy Corgan feverishly wrote the entire song, in about four hour period, the night before the album was set to be finialised. Upon hearing it the following day, Flood had a change of heart and immediately added it to the album.

The song would go on to become a successful single, peaking at no. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1996. Today, it stands as one of the great songs of the nineties , and easily in anyone’s top 5 list of Smashing Pumpkin songs.

“And I don’t even care to shake these zipper blues./ And we don’t know just where our bones will rest/ To dust I guess/ Forgotten and absorbed into the earth below….”
 – ‘1979’ (Smashing Pumpkins)

Photo Credit: The image of Billy Corgan is used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. I am not the uploader of the You Tube clip.