I Am One

From SPCodex, The Smashing Pumpkins wiki
"I Am One"
Single by The Smashing Pumpkins
ReleasedMay 1990 (Limited Potential)
August 24, 1992 (Gish version)
FormatCD, 7" vinyl, 10" vinyl
Studio sessions
GenreAlternative rock[1]
Length4:16 (Limited Potential)
4:07 (Gish version)
LabelLimited Potential
Caroline, Hut
Songwriter(s)Billy Corgan, James Iha
Producer(s)Billy Corgan (Limited Potential)
Billy Corgan, Butch Vig (Gish version)
The Smashing Pumpkins singles chronology
"I Am One"
Gish version
10" vinyl and CD cover.
10" vinyl and CD cover.

"I Am One" is the debut single by The Smashing Pumpkins. It was the band's first ever release and remains the only single issued by the band with co-writing credits to both Billy Corgan and James Iha. It charted on the UK Singles Chart at a peak position of number 73.[2]

With only 1500 copies pressed, the Limited Potential release is highly sought after by collectors.[3] There are apparently three test pressings also in existence, two owned by Billy Corgan and one was formally owned by Limited Potential owner, Mike Potential.[4]

Background[edit | edit source]

Two recordings of the song were released. One was recorded in 1990 and was the Pumpkins' first release and first on Limited Potential. This recording was financed with the money from Corgan's college tuition fund left by his grandmother.[5] "I Am One" was re-recorded for Gish and a new single was released on Caroline Records and Hut Recordings. Corgan later stated his regret with not re-working the song for Gish, as the two versions are nearly identical.[6]

Corgan wrote the intro drum riff, and the rest of the song was formed around it. He has said the riff might have been influenced by Stephen Perkins of Jane's Addiciton and Led Zeppelin.[7] Lyrically, "I Am One" is a take on religion, with "I am one as you are three" being a reference to the Father, Sun and Holy Ghost.[7] Some lyrics were adapted from an article he read on Bishop Desmond Tutu.[8]

In the Thirty-Three podcast, Corgan detailed how religion and LSD influenced the lyrics: "I Am One was my grappling with the idea that I've been told a bunch of stuff about religion, particularly in the Catholic church, that I knew in my heart wasn't true. That Jesus is a savior wasn't really saying the things they said he was saying, at least that was my interpretation. LSD in particular got me think beyond what I was told and realize, oh no, we're actually all connected. … [The song] isn't as much about me, as it is trying to figure who I was going to be."[9] He added that he was initially nervous that the lyric "I Am One" would come off as too egotistical. His actual intention was more of a 'rallying cry' that others can identify with.[9]

"I Am One" features a doubled guitar solo – a technique later used on Pumpkins songs like "Ava Adore", "Tarantula", and "Bring the Light".[4] Corgan has said this is his favorite part of the song.[9]

When the band released their greatest hits compilation, Rotten Apples, in 2001, "I Am One" was one of the few singles that did not make the cut (the others were "Tristessa", "Rocket", "Thirty-Three", "The End Is the Beginning Is the End", and on American copies of the album, "Try, Try, Try").[10]

Live performances[edit | edit source]

In live performances (starting around the release of Siamese Dream) Corgan would often improvise a speech during the extended bass break; as a result the song could extend to 8–10 minutes in length. The speech section is known among fans as the "I Am One rant", but is just one of many instances that the band considers "art breakdown", likely coined by drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. These rants were criticized, sometimes even by the other band members, due to their abrasive nature.[6] The rants were apparently based around the erosion of the belief structure in America's youth, and Corgan has stated they were the gestation for many ideas he later explored on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.[11] Some of the rants contained lyrics for future songs, most notably "Zero". The recording of "I Am One" on Vieuphoria / Earphoria features one such rant. The longest live performance took place at Lollapalooza on August 3, 1994 at just under 11 minutes in length.

Music video[edit | edit source]

A video was filmed in 1991, but never released (until 2001) due to the band being unhappy with the result. Footage from the video was instead used on the long form video, Vieuphoria, and the long version of the music video was released on the Greatest Hits Video Collection. Both were directed by Kevin Kerslake, who would later do videos for "Cherub Rock", "Empires" and "Spellbinding". In a conversation with Corgan in 2023 following the release of the "Spellbinding" video, Kerslake recalled he was the only person involved in shooting the video, with a budget roughly of "four digits", including the costs of the plane flight and hotel rooms.[12]

Lyrics[edit | edit source]

i am one as you are three
try to find a messiah in your trinity
your city to burn
your city to burn
try to look for something in your city to burn
you'll burn
am i as i seem?
i'm down
down, so down

time is right for a guiding light
try to turn to reasons in your bitter life
your city to burn
your city to burn
try to look for something
in your city to burn, you'll burn

see you, don't you just want to?
see you, i am one
see you, don't you just want to?
see you

see you, don't you just want to?
see you, i am one
see you, don't you just want to?
see you, i am one

Formats and track listing[edit | edit source]

US Limited Potential
1."I Am One"Billy Corgan, James Iha4:16
2."Not Worth Asking"Billy Corgan4:00
Gish CD version and UK 7" and 12" vinyl releases
1."I Am One"Billy Corgan, James Iha4:07
2."Plume"Billy Corgan, James Iha3:37
3."Starla" 11:01
UK 7" vinyl promo
1."I Am One"Billy Corgan, James Iha4:07
UK & Dutch 10" vinyl
1."I Am One"Billy Corgan, James iha4:07
2."Terrapin"Syd Barrett2:55
3."Bullet Train to Osaka"Billy Corgan4:16

UK flexi-disc sent by record label to promoters, radio stations, etc.

Release history[edit | edit source]

Released Label Catalog ID Format Country External sites
May 1990 Limited Potential LimP 006 7" US MusicBrainz [1]
1991 Hut Recordings Flexi-disc • 7" UK Discogs [3]
1991 Hut Recordings HUTEN 18 10" UK & Europe Discogs MusicBrainz [4]
August 24, 1992 Hut Recordings HUTCD 18 CD UK Discogs MusicBrainz [2]
August 24, 1992 Hut Recordings HUTEN 18 10" UK Discogs MusicBrainz [2]
August 24, 1992 Hut Recordings HUTT 18 12" UK Discogs [2]

Chart performance[edit | edit source]

Chart (1992) Peak
UK Singles (OCC)[13] 73

Single personnel[edit | edit source]

The Smashing Pumpkins[edit | edit source]

Technical personnel[edit | edit source]


The Ignoffo TapeBootleg
Reel Time Sessions IBootleg • Demo
The Smashing Pumpkins (promo)Promotional
I Am OneUS Limited PotentialSingle
GishMain releaseStudio
Trick Or Treat?Bootleg
Pumpkin SeedsBootleg
Siamese Dream2011 reissue bonus DVD – Live at the Metro (Live on August 14, 1993)Studio
Sunshine of Your Love (album)Bootleg
3 Feet HighBootleg • Live
The Cutting EdgeAugust 27, 1993 – Biddinghuizen, NL (soundboard / electric)Bootleg
Chicago Tapes and Unreleased DemosBootleg
PluggelectricAugust 27, 1993 – Biddinghuizen, NL (soundboard / electric)Bootleg
The Smashing Pumpkins 1991–1998Promotional CDPromotional • Compilation
The Smashing Pumpkins (Machina promo)Promotional
Greatest Hits Video Collection (1991–2000)Video
EarphoriaMain releaseLive
Rarities and B-SidesCompilation
MySpace Smashing Pumpkins TributeTribute
Inside the Dream MachineBootleg • Live
Mayonaise Dream: Broadcast from Tower Records. July 1993Bootleg • Live
Live at Kawasaki 2.24.92Live
Smashing Pumpkins 4/12/94Live

Tour stats

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Hyden, Steve. Smashing Pumpkins - Gish/Siamese Dream review. The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  2. "Official Singles Chart Top 75". Official Charts. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  3. "I Am One (Limited Potential single) by Smashing Pumpkins". Genius. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "The Official Smashing Pumpkins". The Official Smashing Pumpkins. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  5. Fricke, David. "Smashing Pumpkins Look Back in Wonder Archived September 9, 2009, at the w:Wayback Machine". Rolling Stone Magazine. December 20, 2000.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Smashing Pumpkins' Gish: 25 things you (probably) didn't know". WOW247. Archived from the original on July 31, 2016. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Billy Corgan. "I Am One" GISH Deep Dive
  8. Gish 2011 reissue liner notes
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Corgan, Billy. "Ebracer (with YUNGBLUD)". iHeartPodcasts. Retrieved October 13, 2022.
  10. "Greatest Hits - The Smashing Pumpkins | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  11. "RAYGUN". www.starla.org. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  12. "The Smashing Pumpkins' YouTube Premium Afterparty". YouTube. Retrieved June 28, 2023. ("Spellbinding" music video release after-party conversation with Corgan and Kerslake; available only to YouTube Premium members)
  13. "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 24, 2020.

External links[edit | edit source]