52 guitarists, week 11—Billy Corgan

For many, the early nineties was a dark time for guitar lovers. The popularity of the standard guitar solo was waning and the grunge era was booming. Not grunge—in my opinion at least—but making some incredible noise in the grunge era was The Smashing Pumpkins. The man responsible for the majority of that noise was of course Billy Corgan. What Billy did with his guitar still amazes me to this day. I’ve always been in awe of any guitarist who can truly control the screaming feedback of a guitar. Billy not only managed this, he also managed to incorporate many of those sounds into the songs themselves the way most of us incorporate regular guitar playing.

In the early days of The Smashing Pumpkins success, Billy Corgan was writing some absolutely amazing guitar riffs and/or pieces. Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness are two of my favourite releases. Both have amazing guitar tracks. Not just for riffs or solos, but for total guitar presence. Cherub Rock, Quiet, Today and Soma from Siamese Dream are total rock packages. I’m a big fan of the guitar tone throughout this album too. What’s not to love?!

When it comes to solo guitar work, Soma is one of the best too. The way that song builds is amazing. the solo itself … Well you judge the sound, technique and passion for yourself from this live performance.

When it came to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, tracks like Zero and Bullet With Butterfly Wings were incredibly popular. For me though, nothing compares to the track. The studio version of that song gets me moving each and every time I hear it. Live, it’s pretty impressive too.

There’s so much to like on that release.

I think what I admire most about Billy Corgan though is his ability to reinvent himself as a guitar player with each new album release. Sure, I love the earlier stuff the most, but even the last two releases have guitar moments I wish I had to skill to create.

There are many guitarists who attempt this kind of versatility, and not all do so with any degree of success. Mostly because their fans don’t stand for it. Billy Corgan however almost sets the expectation that the next album will be incredibly different from what you heard last. He does so in a way that to date has still left me loving each and every release by The Smashing Pumpkins. Sure I like some more than others, but I’m yet to hear an album and not like it.

That there is a skill. Guitar playing and song writing versatility. Those are skills that Billy Corgan has that I admire the most. That and his unappreciated ability to play some downright wicked guitar. The man can shred.

This is not a top guitarists list and there is no significance in the order the guitarists are placed in the list. This is simply a collection of guitarists that have been influential to me.

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