From SPCodex, The Smashing Pumpkins wiki
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 28, 1991
RecordedDecember 1990 – March 1991
StudioSmart Studios
  • Alternative rock[1]
  • hard rock
  • psychedelic rock[2]
  • grunge[3]
ProducerButch Vig, Billy Corgan
The Smashing Pumpkins chronology
Moon Demo
Singles from Gish
  1. "Siva"
    Released: August 1991
  2. "I Am One"
    Released: August 1992
Alternate cover
2011 reissue cover
2011 reissue cover

Gish is the debut studio album by The Smashing Pumpkins, released in May 1991 through Caroline Records. Frontman Billy Corgan has variously described Gish as a "very spiritual album" and "an album about spiritual ascension".[4]

Despite initially peaking at only number 195 on the Billboard 200 upon its release, Gish received positive reviews from critics, and was eventually certified platinum (one million copies shipped) by the RIAA. On April 1, 2019 Rolling Stone magazine ranked Gish the 32nd greatest grunge album of all time.[5]

On May 29–30, 2021, Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin appeared at a special Gish-aversary event at Madame ZuZu's, celebrating 30 years since the release of the album.

Music and composition[edit | edit source]

As a writer, Billy Corgan wanted to find the balance between classic rock of bands playing heavy riff like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and the sensuality and grace of alternative bands like The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees and My Bloody Valentine.[6] "For us, it was trying to become this balance point between what felt like dumb riff rock and then the stuff we were really attracted to coming out of the U.K. And then we put those pieces together with The Beatles somewhere in the middle". A song like "Rhinoceros" reflected that balance and what Corgan wanted to achieve: "we could be beautiful, pretty, psychedelic, and then flip the switch and be heavy and play a ripping lead."[6] When composing the songs, Corgan was experimenting taking LSD to get a psychedelic feeling: "LSD gave me the confidence to attempt these things on kind of a weird tightrope wire act".[6]

Recording[edit | edit source]

Gish was recorded from December 1990 to March 1991 in Butch Vig's Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin with a budget of $20,000.[7] The band entered the studio with minimal equipment, including two Stratocasters, James Iha's Les Paul, an Ovation acoustic, along with a single guitar amp and bass amp. The drums were situated in the middle of the room for maximum volume. Corgan has said the drums were so loud he had to wear ear plugs in addition to the headphones used for recording.[8]

Vig and Corgan worked together as co-producers. At the time, Vig was still a relatively unknown producer.[9] The longer recording period and larger budget were unprecedented for Vig, who later remembered,

(Corgan) wanted to make everything sound amazing and see how far he could take it; really spend time on the production and the performances. For me that was a godsend because I was used to doing records for all the indie labels and we only had budgets for three or four days. Having that luxury to spend hours on a guitar tone or tuning the drums or working on harmonies and textural things ... I was over the moon to think I had found a comrade-in-arms who wanted to push me, and who really wanted me to push him.[10]

The inclusion of a massive production style reminiscent of ELO and Queen was unusual for an independent band at the time.[10] Whereas many albums at the time used drum sampling and processing, Gish used unprocessed drum recordings, and an exacting, unique guitar sound.[11] Under pressure from Vig to save time,[8] Corgan performed nearly all of the guitar and bass parts on the record.[10]

The album's sessions, lasting 30 working days at 8 to 10 hours a day, were brisk by Pumpkins' standards, largely because of the group's inexperience.[10][12] The recording sessions and Vig's push for perfection put an intense strain on the band, with bassist D'arcy Wretzky later commenting that she did not know how the band survived it, and Corgan explaining he suffered a nervous breakdown.[12]

Regarding the album's thematic content, Corgan would later say,

The album is about pain and spiritual ascension. People ask if it's a political album. It's not a political album, it's a personal album. In a weird kind of way, Gish is almost like an instrumental album—it just happens to have singing on it, but the music overpowers the band in a lot of places. I was trying to say a lot of things I couldn't really say in kind of intangible, unspeakable ways, so I was capable of doing that with the music, but I don't think I was capable of doing it with words.[12]

Songs[edit | edit source]

In a 2020 video on Instagram, Corgan explained it was difficult for the band to write material in the years leading up to Gish. Most songs were written for the album.[8] "I Am One", "Rhinoceros", "Daydream", and "Bury Me" were previously recorded as demos by the band in 1989, but were re-recorded for Gish.

The following songs were written and recorded for Gish but did not make the final cut:

  • "Blue" (released on Lull and Pisces Iscariot. A demo version appears on the 2011 Deluxe reissue of Gish)
  • "Obscured" (originally a B-side on "Today", re-released on Pisces Iscariot. This version could be a re-recorded version according to Billy Corgan's notes about this song on Pisces Iscariot)
  • "Slunk" (released on Lull)
  • "Why Am I So Tired" (released on Earphoria and on the 2012 Deluxe reissue of Pisces Iscariot)
  • "Jesus Loves His Babies" (A rough mix was released on the 2012 Deluxe reissue of Pisces Iscariot)
  • "La Dolly Vita" (originally the B-side to "Tristessa", re-released on the 2012 Deluxe version of Pisces Iscariot, and a slightly different mixed version on the Deluxe reissue of Gish.)
  • "Pulseczar" (released on Earphoria and released on the 2012 Deluxe reissue of Gish.)
  • "Smiley" (released on Peel Sessions and a demo version appears on the 2011 Deluxe reissue of Gish.)
  • "Crawl" (released on the 2012 Deluxe reissue of Pisces Iscariot.)
  • "Purr Snickety" (released as a "B-Sides Session Outtake" from the Gish sessions on the 2012 Deluxe reissue of Pisces Iscariot.)

Title[edit | edit source]

In 1990, the Chicago Times reported that Corgan named the album after silent film icon Lillian Gish. In an interview Corgan said, "My grandmother used to tell me that one of the biggest things that ever happened was when Lillian Gish rode through town on a train, my grandmother lived in the middle of nowhere, so that was a big deal."[4] However in a 1991 interview with MTV News, Corgan clarified he actually came up with the name in 1989 when planning a different album, and it had no connection to Lillian Gish at all. He acknowledged that while he had a personal connection to Lillian Gish, he insisted it should not be "overly interpreted."[13] Later in 1998, Corgan joked that the album was originally going to be called "Fish", but was changed to "Gish" to avoid comparisons to jam band Phish.[14]

Critical reception[edit | edit source]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[15]
Chicago Tribune3.5/4 stars[16]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[17]
Entertainment WeeklyB[18]
Los Angeles Times3.5/4 stars[19]
Q4/5 stars[22]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[23]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[24]

Gish was met with largely enthusiastic reviews. On the month of its release, Chris Heim of the Chicago Tribune credited producer Butch Vig for helping the band achieve a "clearly defined" and "big, bold, punchy" sound for the album. Heim also indicated that the varied styles of the album would be a good addition to the alternative music culture of Chicago at the time—a culture that was sometimes perceived as inaccessible for new bands.[25] Jon Pareles of The New York Times picked up on the eclectic mix of musical style on Gish as well, complementing its "pummeling hard rock", "gentle interludes", and "psychedelic crescendos".[26] In an end-of-year recap of 1991 releases, Heim noted that the album constituted a "smashing local success story" for the Chicago area.[27] Greg Kot, also of the Tribune, called Gish "perhaps the most audacious and accomplished" of all 1991 albums released by local bands;[7] in an article later that year, Kot listed the album among the best of 1991.[28] Rolling Stone called it "awe-inspiring" with "meticulously calculated chaos" and a "swirling energy".[29]

Many substantive reviews of Gish emerged only with the 1993 release of Siamese Dream, when mainstream critics took their first look into the back-catalog of a band whose popularity was exploding. Derek Weiler of the Toronto Star noted that songs on Gish contained "either galloping riffs or trippy feedback hazes" and that the latter were especially effective and entertaining.[30]

In 1992, Gish and the Smashing Pumpkins earned recognition at the Chicago Musician Awards, for which local music publication Illinois Entertainer polled readers and Chicago music industry figures such as critics, writers, and club owners. In separate polls, readers and industry figures chose Gish as the "best local album". Jimmy Chamberlin and James Iha won individual honors for their performances on the album, and the band as a whole earned the "best hometown national act" award.[31]

Commercial performance[edit | edit source]

Gish spent one week on the Billboard 200, peaking at number 195 (later re-peaking at number 146 upon its 2011 re-release);[32] however, the album reached number one on the College Music Journal chart, which tracks airplay and popularity on college radio stations.[33] It also had a six-week run on the New Zealand Albums Chart, peaking at number 40.[34] Despite an inauspicious start, the album sold 100,000 copies in less than a year, far exceeding the expectations of indie label Caroline Records, a subsidiary of Virgin Records.[35] The album was certified gold on March 14, 1994. Until the release of The Offspring album Smash in 1994, Gish was the highest-selling independently released album of all time. Gish would later be reissued under the Virgin label, and was certified platinum on February 5, 1999.[36]

Release history[edit | edit source]

The first mastering of Gish on CD was from Digital Audio Tape and appeared on Caroline Records, a subsidiary of Virgin Records. In 1994, after the success of follow-up Siamese Dream, the album was given a slight remaster and redesign and was reissued on the Virgin label.[37] Both editions credit Howie Weinberg as mastering engineer. In 2008, The Smashing Pumpkins announced a 17th anniversary box set re-release of the album that would include older bonus material, but this set experienced delays.[38] After finally negotiating the rights, Gish was re-issued in November 2011, being remastered on CD and Vinyl with extra tracks and packaging.[39]

Released Label Catalog ID Format Country External sites
May 28, 1991 Caroline CAROL 1705-2 CD US Discogs MusicBrainz [1]
August 1991 Hut CDHUT 2 CD UK Discogs MusicBrainz [1]
August 1991 Hut HUTLP 2 LP UK Discogs MusicBrainz [1]
August 1991 Hut HUTCS2 Cassette UK Discogs MusicBrainz [1]
May 28, 1991 Caroline CARCD16 • 261 651 CD Germany & Europe Discogs MusicBrainz [1]
August 10, 1994 Virgin • Hut VJCP-25129 CD Japan Discogs MusicBrainz [1]
October 3, 1994 Hut HUTCSX2 • CDHUTX2 • HUTLPX2 Cassette • CD • 2LP UK Discogs [1]
October 4, 1994 Virgin 7243 8 39663 2 5 • 39663 2 Cassette • CD • 2LP (remastered) US Discogs [1]
November 29, 2011 Virgin • EMI 50999 90959 6 22 • 50999 90959 6 22 CD (remastered) • DVD US Discogs MusicBrainz [1][2][3]

More releases: DiscogsMusicBrainz

Track listing[edit | edit source]

All songs written by Billy Corgan, except where noted

Main release
1."I Am One"Billy Corgan, James Iha4:07
2."Siva" 4:20
3."Rhinoceros" 6:32
4."Bury Me" 4:48
5."Crush" 3:35
6."Suffer" 5:11
7."Snail" 5:11
8."Tristessa" 3:33
9."Window Paine" 5:51
10."Daydream" ("Daydream" ends at 1:56, followed by the hidden track 11) 1:56
11."I'm Going Crazy" (Hidden track, starts at 2:07 in "Daydream") 2:38
2011 Reissue bonus CD – Trippin' Through the Stars
1."Starla" (2011 mix) 11:01
2."Siva" (Peel Sessions) 4:49
3."Honeyspider" (Reel Time Demos/2011 mix) 2:54
4."Hippy Trippy" ("Crush" Music Box demo) 3:33
5."Snail" (live radio performance) 5:48
6."Plume" (2011 mix)Billy Corgan, James Iha3:34
7."Bury Me" (Reel Time Demos/2011 mix) 4:18
8."Daydream" (Old House demo) 2:05
9."Tristessa" (Sub Pop single/2011 mix) 3:48
10."Girl Named Sandoz" (Peel Session)Eric Burdon, Vic Briggs, John Weider, Barry Jenkins, Danny McCulloch (The Animals)3:35
11."Jesus is the Sun" (Apartment demo) 2:55
12."Blue" (Gish sessions demo) 4:07
13."Smiley" (Gish sessions demo) 3:36
14."I Am One" (Reel Time Demos/2011 mix)Billy Corgan, James Iha4:21
15."Seam" ("Suffer" Apartment demo) 4:09
16."La Dolly Vita" (2011 mix) 4:18
17."Pulseczar" (Gish sessions demo) 2:32
18."Drown" (alternative guitar solo) 8:17
Total length:79:32
2011 Reissue bonus DVD – Live at the Metro (Live on August 25, 1990)
1."Introduction by Joe Shanahan" 1:48
2."I Am One"Billy Corgan, James Iha4:10
3."Snail" 4:14
4."Rhinoceros" 5:36
5."Bury Me" 4:30
6."Tristessa" 3:42
7."Window Paine" 6:24
8."Razor" 5:16
9."Sookie Sookie" 6:34
10."Godzilla" 5:00
11."Crush" (acoustic, bonus video) 3:45
Total length:52:06

Personnel[edit | edit source]

Those involved in the making of Gish are:[40]

The Smashing Pumpkins[edit | edit source]

Additional musicians[edit | edit source]

  • Mary Gaines – cello on "Daydream"
  • Chris Wagner – violin and viola on "Daydream"

Production[edit | edit source]

  • Bob Knapp – photography
  • Michael Lavine – photography
  • Butch Vig – production, engineering
  • Doug "Mr. Colson" Olson – engineering
  • Howie Weinberg – mastering (1991 and 1994 releases)

Chart positions[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Long, April (July 4, 2007). "Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist". Uncut. Retrieved July 24, 2015.
  2. Leahey, Andrew (July 10, 2012). "Smashing Pumpkins: Oceania". American Songwriter. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  3. Burnsilver, Glenn (July 9, 2015). "Why Smashing Pumpkins Should Play Gish In Concert". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Caro, Mark (December 28, 1990). "Smashing Pumpkins Finds a New Home at Caroline Records". Chicago Tribune.
  5. [1].
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Greene, Andy (29 May 2021). "Billy Corgan Reflects on the 30th Anniversary of 'Gish'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Kot, Greg (June 21, 1991). "Out of the Patch for Smashing Pumpkins". Chicago Tribune.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Corgan, Billy. "GISH: ALBUM BY ALBUM, TRACK BY TRACK DEEP DIVE SERIES #1". Instagram. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Thomas, Richard (October 2008). "Signal to Noise: The Sonic Diary of the Smashing Pumpkins". EQ Magazine.
  11. Jones, Nick (January 9, 1992). "Fuck Off ... We're From Chicago!". Spiral Scratch.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 MTV Rockumentary: Smashing Pumpkins. Aired 1995/10/17.
  14. Corgan, Billy. Caller Q&A. Rockline Radio Show. Broadcast 1998/07/13
  15. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Gish – Smashing Pumpkins". AllMusic. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
  16. Kot, Greg (November 27, 2011). "Smashing Pumpkins Album Reviews; Gish and Siamese Dream Reissues Reviewed". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  17. Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  18. Adams, Jason (December 2, 2011). "'Gish' and 'Siamese Dream' Deluxe Reissues review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  19. Gold, Jonathan (July 14, 1991). "Smashing Pumpkins 'Gish' Caroline". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  20. "Smashing Pumpkins: Gish". NME: 34. May 28, 1994.
  21. Raggett, Ned (November 28, 2011). "The Smashing Pumpkins: Gish [Deluxe Edition] / Siamese Dream [Deluxe Edition]". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  22. "Smashing Pumpkins: Gish". Q (95): 129. August 1994.
  23. Sanneh, Kelefa (2004). "Smashing Pumpkins". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 747–48. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  24. Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  25. Heim, Chris (May 31, 1991). "Caroline Records releases Smashing Pumpkins' 'Gish'". Chicago Tribune. p. S.
  26. Pareles, Jon (November 14, 1991). "Review/Pop; A hyperactive evening with the Chili Peppers". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2011.
  27. Heim, Chris (December 27, 1991). "Ringing in the new year with something for every taste". Chicago Tribune. p. Q.
  28. Kot, Greg (December 1, 1991). "The best albums of '91 rock music: finding greatness on the fringes". Chicago Tribune. p. 16.
  29. "Meticulously Calculated Chaos". Rolling Stone. August 8, 1991.
  30. Weiler, Derek (August 26, 1993). "Smashing followup: Siamese Dream keeps Pumpkins in front of the alternative brigade". Toronto Star. p. C8.
  31. Stevens, Mary (July 24, 1992). "Smashing Pumpkins triumph in Chicago Musician Awards". Chicago Tribune. p. K.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Gish – Smashing Pumpkins: Awards at AllMusic. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
  33. Corcoran, Michael (September 15, 1991). "Bob Seger bites the Silver Bullet for his latest effort". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 4.
  34. " – The Smashing Pumpkins – Gish". Hung Medien. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
  35. Gooch, Marshall (April 7, 2008). "Smashing Pumpkins: Worst Case Scenario." Reflex.
  36. "Gold and Platinum Database Search". RIAA. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
  37. Corgan, Billy (March 1997). "10 Most Influential Productions". Musician Magazine.
  38. "Smashing Pumpkins ready debut album box set". New Musical Express. 2008-06-23. Archived from the original on 2008-06-28. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
  39. "Billy Corgan talks about the future of the Smashing Pumpkins". Retrieved November 2, 2019 – via
  40. Gish (LP liner notes). The Smashing Pumpkins. New York: Caroline Records. 1991.CS1 maint: others (link)
  41. 41.0 41.1 "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard.
  42. "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Heatseekers Albums)". Billboard.
  43. " – The Smashing Pumpkins – Gish". Hung Medien.
  44. 44.0 44.1 "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Top Catalog Albums)". Billboard.
  45. " – The Smashing Pumpkins – Gish". Hung Medien.
  46. "The Smashing Pumpkins Chart History (Vinyl Albums)". Billboard.
  47. "Smashing Pumpkins | Artist | Official Charts". UK Singles Chart. The Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
  48. "American album certifications – The Smashing Pumpkins – Gish". RIAA. 1999-02-5. Check date values in: |date= (help) If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  49. "British album certifications – The Smashing Pumpkins – Gish". British Phonographic Industry. 1995-10-01. Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Gish in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[edit | edit source]