From SPCodex, The Smashing Pumpkins wiki
Single by The Smashing Pumpkins
ReleasedDecember 1990
Format7" and 12" vinyl
Studio sessions
Length3:40 (single version)
3:32 (Gish version)
LabelSub Pop
Songwriter(s)Billy Corgan
Producer(s)Butch Vig, Billy Corgan
The Smashing Pumpkins singles chronology
"I Am One"

"Tristessa" is the second ever release by The Smashing Pumpkins, and their first, and only, release on Sub Pop. Sub Pop released it as their "Single of the Month".[1] It was written by Billy Corgan and later re-recorded for their debut album, Gish. The title is a direct allusion to Jack Kerouac's 1960 novella of the same name.[2] There were about 4,000 of the original 7" single pressed in pink vinyl,[3] while the rest were pressed in black vinyl. A failure to change the wax color between pressings resulted in about 100 that were pressed in grey-colored wax. These are especially rare and have sold for several hundred dollars apiece.[3]

Following the release of "Tristessa", the Smashing Pumpkins were targets of a bidding war by multiple record labels, and ended up signing to Caroline Records.[4][5][6] Unlike "I Am One", which was also re-recorded for Gish, "Tristessa" did not receive a second single release, and neither version of the song appears on the 2001 greatest hits collection, Rotten Apples.

Background[edit | edit source]

Corgan got the title from a Jack Kerouac book someone had given him that was written about a Mexican prostitute. Corgan said he loved the idea of a girl named Tristessa.[7][8]

In a 2020 Instagram video, Corgan said that while he loves the guitar tones on the song, he never thought much of the composition compared to the other tracks. He as far as to say that it's the song he regrets the most, and felt later songs such as "Drown" would have been a better fit.[8]

The song was written in around 2 to 3 days, and was performed live before releasing it as a single on Sub Pop. The Gish re-recording "brought no improvement on arrangement" and was "complete insanity", but that he's grateful helped build such a successful record.[8]

The backside of the single is a photo of Jimmy Chamberlin with his bowl haircut. He was not on the front cover because he didn't show up for photo shoot.[9]

Critical reception[edit | edit source]

CMJ called it "a grinding, drawled-out, lascivious rocker with a chisel-sharp pop aesthetic".[10] The Chicago Sun-Times said it was an "epic rocker".[11] In 2007, Spinner wrote, "a decade after the onset of diminishing returns, 'Tristessa' remains an absolute monster".[12]

Lyrics[edit | edit source]

pledge of faith i hardly break
struggle to return
blurry mind so hypnotized
fast enough to burn

wonder where you are?

soul take soul as eye take eye
i will wait for you
want to believe your wish to receive
want to believe in you

hang on to your life

i love you true
surely i do
i love you true
surely i do
surely i do
surely i do
no, no, no

did you ever wake up and find yourself alone?
did you ever wake up far from home?
want to believe your wish to receive
want to believe in you

Track listing[edit | edit source]

All tracks are written by Billy Corgan.

2."La Dolly Vita"4:15
German 12" bonus track

Release history[edit | edit source]

Released Label Catalog ID Format Country External sites
December 1990 Sub Pop SP90 7" vinyl US Discogs MusicBrainz [1]
December 1990 Sub Pop SP 10/137 12" vinyl Germany Discogs MusicBrainz [1][2]


GishMain releaseStudio
Mashed PotatoesBootleg
Live at Kawasaki 2.24.92Live
The Rubano Tapes Vol. 2Live

Tour stats

References[edit | edit source]

  1. (November 26, 2000). "Mellon Collie Billy Singer Reflects on Life Before, During and after The Smashing Pumpkins", Chicago Tribune, p. 7.1.
  2. Hanson, Amy (2004). Smashing Pumpkins: Tales of a Scorched Earth. Helter Skelter Pub. p. 49. ISBN 1-900924-68-4.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Chuck Miller, Tracy L. Schmidt (2004). Warman's American records: identification and price guide. Krause Publications. p. 36. ISBN 0-87349-814-3.
  4. Konig, Bill (February 7, 2000). "Smashing Pumpkins Return to Rock", CMJ New Music Report 61 (6): 1.
  5. Gulla, Bob (2006). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Rock History: The grunge and post-grunge years, 1991–2005. Greenwood Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-313-32981-8.
  6. Ali, Lorraine (October 17, 1993). "Gourds a-Flyin': Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan doesn't really expect the band's alternative rock to take anyone completely by surprise. He just unleashes his emotions and tries to deliver a sonic assault diverse enough to match", Los Angeles Times, p. 60.
  7. Partridge, Kenneth. "The Smashing Pumpkins' 'Gish' at 25: Classic Track-by-Track Look Back". Consequence of Sound.
  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.
  9. Trivia game at the November 20, 2019 Billy Corgan solo show (see banter section)
  10. (January 5, 2004). "1991", CMJ New Music Report 78 (847): 30.
  11. Corcoran, Michael (June 9, 1991). "Smashing Pumpkins sounds totally fresh: Local band's debut is whipped delight", Chicago Sun-Times, p. 11.
  12. Sullivan, James (January 29, 2007). "IFLTS: 'Tristessa,' Smashing Pumpkins", Spinner. Retrieved August 31, 2011.

External links[edit | edit source]