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Jimmy Chamberlin, Billy Corgan talk Pumpkins With Chris Isaak

March 23, 2009 |  7:01 pm

One of the comments that struck me the most when I looked in on the taping of Smashing Pumpkins’ performance in December for “The Chris Isaak Hour,” now set to air April 2 on A&E’s Biography channel, came from drummer Jimmy Chamberlin as he and singer-guitarist Billy Corgan sat on a sofa talking to the show’s host.

They were discussing the principles that have guided the band through its career. Chamberlin, who is now out of the group (he and Corgan started in the Chicago suburbs nearly 20 years ago) summed it up this way: “Legacy above finances; artistry above fame.” I hope that part of the discussion made the final cut.

Corgan also discussed his checkered relationships with Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, noting from his experience sharing bills with Nirvana that Cobain “had the ability to make everyone raise their game.” He also talked about what he had to overcome as the Pumpkins got off the ground. “My own father told me ‘You’ll never succeed with that voice; you’ve got to get a singer.' ”

For the performance segments, the Pumpkins used its expanded nine-piece configuration in half a dozen songs, including such recent-vintage material as “99 Floors,” “Owata” and “A Song for a Son” as well as a rendition of the Beatles’ “Nowhere Man,” to which Isaak added harmony vocals.

An endearing moment that very likely won’t air was when Corgan lost it in the middle of the Lennon-McCartney tune. “I’m laughing to myself for no other reason than I’m having a good time,” he said.

--Randy Lewis

Photo credit: A&E