|Single by The Smashing Pumpkins|
|Released||January 23, 1996|
|Format||7" and 12" vinyl, CD, cassette|
|Length||4:24 (album/single/video version)|
4:16 (radio edit)
|Producer(s)||Flood, Alan Moulder, Billy Corgan|
|The Smashing Pumpkins singles chronology|
"1979" is the second single from The Smashing Pumpkins' third studio album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. "1979" was written by frontman Billy Corgan, and features loops and samples uncharacteristic of previous Smashing Pumpkins songs. The song was written as a nostalgic coming of age story by Corgan. In the year 1979, Corgan was 12 and this is what he considered his transition into adolescence.
"1979" reached number two in Canada and Iceland, number six in Ireland, number nine in New Zealand, and number 12 in the United States. It charted within the top 20 in several other countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom. The song was nominated for the Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 39th Annual Grammy Awards, and won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Alternative Video. In 2012, it was voted the second-best Smashing Pumpkins song by Rolling Stone readers. In 2023, Billboard placed "1979" at #51 on their list of the "Greatest Of All Time Alternative Songs".
Background and meaning[edit | edit source]
In the first episode of the Thirty-Three with William Patrick Corgan podcast (2022), Corgan went into more detail about the meaning behind the song than he has in previous interviews. He stated the year 1979 was arbitrarily written in a poem that eventually became the lyrics, but it does refer to a coming of age period. More specifically, the year is probably around 1984, a time during which Corgan was still caring for his two younger brothers.
Corgan recalled a specific moment on a cold, rainy day in Chicago, where he was driving in a car and stopped at a stoplight. There was a particular feeling he got, "in the rear view mirror of my life was youth, childhood, and it was about to go away, and in front of me was everything that I hoped to become, everything that I was hoping to do in life." It is this feeling that the song is meant to describe.
The lyrics are from a poem that Corgan wrote in a single sitting, with the first line being "shakedown 1979." In the recording, he's actually saying "shakdown nineteen seven nine", because he thought "seventy-nine" didn't have the same ring to it. Corgan wrote the riff for the song one morning while watching Regis and Kathie Lee. That connection is apparently what got him invited to appear on the show twice.
Recording[edit | edit source]
According to statements in interviews, Corgan worked nonstop after the Siamese Dream tour and wrote about 56 songs for Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the last of which was "1979". As the Mellon Collie sessions came to a conclusion, "1979" (which evolved out of a demo called "Strolling") was just a couple of chord changes and a snippet of a melody without words. The band had tried repeatedly to record the main riff, but it sounded like "really bad Rolling Stones". When the time came to choose the songs that were to appear on the album, producer Flood said that "1979" was "not good enough". He gave Corgan a mere 24 hours to finish the song or it was off the record. This, however, inspired Corgan to finish it in four hours. The next day, Flood heard "1979" once and decided immediately to put it on the album. Everything in the final recording except the vocals is from the same 12 hours on the final day of recording. Corgan considers "1979" the most personally important song on Mellon Collie.
Reputedly the song was influenced by "Pleasure" by The Frogs. According to the band's frontman, Jimmy Flemion, a demo tape of "Pleasure" was shared with Corgan in 1993, two years prior to "1979" being penned. In a live performance, Flemion playfully accused Corgan of ripping him off and said "watch the papers for the lawsuit". Similarly, Peter Hook reportedly said he thought the song was a ripoff of New Order and Joy Division, which Corgan has admitted the song does make a nod to.
The song features a sample of Corgan's voice repeated throughout. During recording, Corgan was singing "today" as the melody line, so he and Flood decided to record him singing to a tape. The pair electronically manipulated several samples and looped them against a drumbeat.
|“||The most frequently asked question about '1979' is, 'What is the 'ooh-ahh-ahh' sound at the end of every phrase?' Flood and I were tracking the song, and I started humming the 'oohs' like a melody line. I sang them to tape, we sampled the pertinent ones, electronically manipulated them, and looped them against the drum beat. One of my favorite songs from the album.||”|
|— Billy Corgan, Guitar World, January 1997|
Producer Alan Moulder told Tape-Op, "That's a classic Flood production: the vocal effects and the Kurzweil distortion on the drums. I think once they decided how to do it, it came together rather quickly. That was a special song."
The song was written and recorded using a 1960s-era Kimberly Bison guitar that Corgan bought for $60 at a pawn shop. Nicknamed "Kimberly Kay", this is the same "secret weapon" guitar that was used on "Mayonaise" and "Panopticon".
Having a more electronic sound deviating from the traditional Smashing Pumpkins sound at the time, Corgan was hesitant to release it as a single. Corgan has said Virgin Records had to beg him to allow it to be released.
Reception[edit | edit source]
"1979" is the Smashing Pumpkins' highest-charting single, reaching number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Mainstream Rock Tracks and on the Modern Rock Tracks charts. Virgin credited the inclusion of the single's bonus tracks for driving sales. The song was nominated for the Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 1997 Grammy Awards. Pitchfork Media included the song at number 21 on their Top 200 Tracks of the 90s and said "'1979' was Billy Corgan asking, 'You know this feeling?' and the second you heard that guitar line the immediate answer was, 'I do-- tell me more.'"
In a 1996 Spin interview, Corgan indicated that "1979" was probably the only indication he had for what the next Pumpkins album would sound like, "something that combines technology, and a rock sensibility, and pop, and whatever, and hopefully clicks. Between 'Bullet with Butterfly Wings' and '1979' you have the bookends of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. You've literally [heard] the end of the rock thing, and the beginning of the new thing".
Music video[edit | edit source]
The music video for "1979" was directed by the team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who had previously directed the music video for "Rocket". Originally, the band approached another director (possibly Spike Jonze) to film the video for "1979". His idea was that all the band members were residents in an alien hotel and they were all going to have specially made alien-elephant masks. This video would have cost over a million dollars.
The video follows a day in the life of disaffected suburban teenagers driving around in a Dodge Charger. It is based on a concept Corgan created, featuring an idealized version of teenage life, while also trying to capture the feeling of being bored in the Chicago suburbs, where Corgan grew up. In the video the Dodge Charger has Illinois license plates, although in the driving scenes the mountains of California are visible in the background shots. Originally, Corgan wanted a scene of violence, in which the convenience store was trashed by the teens at the end of the video, but Dayton and Faris convinced him to go for something tamer. Aside from Corgan appearing throughout the video in the backseat of a car, the other band members had small parts in the video; James Iha appears as a convenience store clerk, D'arcy Wretzky as an irate neighbor, Jimmy Chamberlin as a policeman, and all four of them appear together as the band in the party scene. Band manager "Gooch" plays Jimmy's partner.
Upon finishing the video shoot, the band flew to New York to perform. However, all tapes of the footage were accidentally left sitting on top of a car, and were lost as the driver departed. The group later flew back to re-shoot the party scene.
The "1979" video was highly acclaimed. It won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Alternative Video in 1996. It was one of Canadian cable television music channel MuchMusic's Countdown number-one videos of 1996. Billy Corgan has considered it the Pumpkins' best video, calling it "the closest we've ever come to realizing everything we wanted."
The video for the 1998 song "Perfect" is a sequel to this one, and involves the same characters who are now older. The aforementioned incident with the loss of the original footage is parodied in one of the later video's final scenes, in which a cassette tape is left on top of a car and falls off as a character drives out of a parking lot at high speed, and is subsequently destroyed by another vehicle.
Lyrics[edit | edit source]
shakedown nineteen seven nine
cool kids never have the time
on a live wire
right up off the street
you and i should meet
junebug skipping like a stone
with the headlights pointed at the dawn
we were sure we'd never see an end to it all
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
double cross the vacant and the bored
they're not sure just what we have in store
morphine city slippin' dues
down to see
that 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
justine never knew the rules
hung down with the freaks and the ghouls
no apologies ever need be made
i know you better than you fake it
to see that we 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
the street heats the urgency of now [written: sound]
as you can see there's no one around
Track listing[edit | edit source]
|3.||"The Boy"||James Iha||3:04|
|6.||"Set The Ray To Jerry"||Billy Corgan||4:10|
|2.||"Bullet with Butterfly Wings"||Billy Corgan||4:16|
|2.||"1979" (Instrumental Mix)||Billy Corgan||5:17|
|3.||"1979" (Moby Mix)||Billy Corgan||6:39|
|4.||"1979" (Cement Mix)||Billy Corgan||4:40|
Release history[edit | edit source]
|Released||Label||Catalog ID||Format||Country||External sites|
|January 22, 1996||Hut Recordings • Virgin||HUTT67 • 7243 8 93356 6 8||12"||UK & Europe|||
|January 22, 1996||Hut Recordings • Virgin||HUTCD67 • 7243 8 93356 2 0||CD||UK & Europe|||
|January 23, 1996||Virgin||7243 8 38534 2 7 • v25f-38534||CD||US|||
|January 22, 1996||Hut Recordings • Virgin||HUTCDF67 • 7243 8 93357 2 9||CD||UK & Europe|||
|January 23, 1996||Virgin||7243 8 38566 2 7||CD||US|||
|July 23, 1996||Virgin||7243 8 38522 7 7||7"||US|||
|March 12, 1996||Virgin||7243 8 38541 1 0||12"||US|||
|March 12, 1996||Hut Recordings • Virgin||HUTTX 67 • 7243 8 93442 6 4||12"||UK & Europe|||
|March 12, 1996||Hut Recordings • Virgin||HUTCDX 67 • 7243 8 93442 2 6||CD||UK & Europe|||
Charts[edit | edit source]
Weekly charts[edit | edit source]
Year-end charts[edit | edit source]
All-time charts[edit | edit source]
Licensed uses[edit | edit source]
The song is used in Clerks II and during the credits of Gran Turismo 5. It was also released as downloadable content for Guitar Hero World Tour. It was also part of the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto IV as part of the fictional Liberty Rock Radio station until April 2018 when Rockstar Games' ten-year license to the song expired. In 2020, boy band Why Don't We heavily sampled the song in their single "Slow Down".
Certifications[edit | edit source]
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||400,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||500,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
|Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness||Disc two – Twilight to Starlight||Studio|
|1979||UK/US CD single/UK 12"||Single|
|The Aeroplane Flies High||"1979"||Box set|
|As Featured on MTV||Video • Promotional • Live|
|The Smashing Pumpkins 1991–1998||Promotional CD||Promotional • Compilation|
|The Videos||Video • Promotional|
|A Gothic–Industrial Tribute to Smashing Pumpkins||Tribute|
|Rotten Apples||North American version||Compilation|
|Greatest Hits Video Collection (1991–2000)||Video|
|The Killer in You: A Tribute to Smashing Pumpkins||Tribute|
|True Power. True Faith.||Promotional • Compilation|
|Rarities and B-Sides||Compilation|
|Ghost Children/Friends and Enemies||Tribute|
|MySpace Smashing Pumpkins Tribute||Tribute|
|American Gothic||UK Tour Edition bonus tracks||EP|
|Guitar Hero World Tour||Guitar Hero Download Package||Compilation|
|Live at the Viper Room 1.15.98||Billy Corgan acoustic set||Live|
- Total plays:
- First performance: The Smashing Pumpkins 1996-01-02 at Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, CA
- Last performance: The Smashing Pumpkins 2023-09-09 at Ruoff Music Center, Noblesville, IN, US
References[edit | edit source]
- "50 Greatest Grunge Albums". Rolling Stone. April 1, 2019. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
- Greg Kot. "A Long Strange Trip to 1979". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
- "Top 21 Songs About Nostalgia". Consequence of Sound. September 3, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2019.
- "Readers' Poll: The Best Smashing Pumpkins Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
- "Greatest of All Time Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved November 20, 2023.
- Corgan, Billy. "ATUM (with Mike Garson)". iHeartPodcasts. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
- Corgan, Billy; Iha, James; Wretzky, D'arcy (December 19, 1996). "Hora Prima". MTV Latin America (Interview).
- "1979 by Smashing Pumpkins - Songfacts". www.songfacts.com. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
- "Smashing Pumpkins: The Secret History, by Alan Cross". Harper Collins. 2007. ISBN 9781927002209.
- Brown, Jake (October 2016). "Smashing Pumpkins: A studio history with Billy Corgan, Flood, Jimmy Chamberlin, Butch Vig, Alan Moulder, and Tommy Lee". Tape-Op. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
- Billy Corgan (May 29, 1998). "Billy Corgan interview" (Interview). Karl Daher.
- Magic Ian of Maximum Pelt on mixtape releases that feel like personal gifts Leor Galil, Chicago Reader. September 19, 2019
- "King B's". Guitar World (January 1997).
- An old friend stopped by the studio today, Kerry Brown's blogspot, September 21, 2009
- "Charts & Awards: Smashing Pumpkins". Allmusic. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
- Craig Rosen. "CD Single Sales Spurred by Addition of Nonalbum Cuts". Billboard (March 30, 1996).
- "The Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s: 50-21". Pitchfork. September 2, 2010. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
- Craig Marks. "Zero Worship". Spin (June 1996).
- Greatest Hits Video Collection (1991–2000) (DVD). Virgin Records. 2001.
- "Moby Tries To Collect Debt From Pumpkins Corgan". May 28, 1997. Archived from the original on June 14, 1997. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
- "Australian-charts.com – The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "Ultratop.be – The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "Ultratop.be – The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "Top RPM Singles: Issue 2933." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "Top RPM Dance/Urban: Issue 2992." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
- "Top RPM Rock/Alternative Tracks: Issue 2920." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "The Smashing Pumpkins: 1979" (in Finnish). w:Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "Lescharts.com – The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 (24.2. '96 – 1.3. '96)". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). February 24, 1996. Retrieved October 2, 2019.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – The Smashing Pumpkins". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 10, 1996" (in Dutch). w:Dutch Top 40 Retrieved July 16, 2018.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979" (in Dutch). w:Single Top 100. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "Charts.nz – The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "Notowanie nr746" (in Polish). LP3. May 17, 1996. Archived from the original on July 28, 2013. Retrieved April 25, 2019.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
- "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Adult Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Adult Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
- "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Digital Song Sales)". Billboard.
- "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles 1996". Imgur.com (original document published by ARIA). Archived from the original on November 2, 2015. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
- "Rapports Annuels 1996". Ultratop. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
- "RPM Year End Top 100 Hit Tracks". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
- "RPM Year End Dance Top 50". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
- "RPM Year End Alternative Top 50". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
- "Árslistinn 1996". Dagblaðið Vísir (in íslenska). January 2, 1997. p. 25. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
- "Billboard Top 100 - 1996". longboredsurfer.com. Archived from the original on March 1, 2009. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
- Roemer, Dan (April 26, 2014). "Here's a list of songs removed in GTA IV's latest update". Destructoid. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
- Deville, Chris (December 18, 2020). "Boy Band Why Don't We Sample Smashing Pumpkins' "1979" On New Single "Slow Down"". Stereogum. Retrieved September 23, 2022.
- "Italian single certifications – Smashing Pumpkins – 1979" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. 2018-02-18. Retrieved February 26, 2018.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link) Select "Tutti gli anni" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "1979" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli online" under "Sezione".
- "British single certifications – Smashing Pumpkins – 1979". British Phonographic Industry. 2023-03-03. Retrieved February 8, 2019. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type 1979 in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
- "American single certifications – Smashing Pumpkins – 1979". RIAA. 1996-04-01. Retrieved November 25, 2016. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH.