Billy Corgan says Nirvana stole his sound to create “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

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Billy Corgan, the driving force behind The Smashing Pumpkins, is a pivotal figure in the music scene, whose influence has been felt by a range of artists, including, but not limited to, Marilyn Manson and Mark Hoppus.

Yet, a recent revelation indicates that Corgan’s musical influence may have been more pervasive than previously thought, specifically in the work of the legendary band Nirvana.

To delve into the details, the timeline takes us back to 1991. During this period, The Smashing Pumpkins were in a creative partnership with Butch Vig, a renowned producer.

Their collaboration was solidified with the successful recording of albums ‘Gish’ and ‘Siamese Dream’. Vig’s commendable work on these albums secured his position as the go-to producer for The Smashing Pumpkins.

This professional relationship subsequently paved the way for Vig’s involvement in Nirvana’s groundbreaking ‘Nevermind’ album.

In a recent interview with Rick Beato, Corgan brought up an anecdote from his past involving Vig. He spoke about a particular day they spent together at a serene lake in Wisconsin.

In this idyllic setting, Vig introduced Corgan to a demo of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, played on a classic boombox, before it was released to the world. Corgan’s first impression was a sense of familiarity, as the riff seemed reminiscent of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling”.

Soon after, he also recognized something strikingly familiar about the guitar sound – it appeared to be directly borrowed from The Smashing Pumpkins’ own distinctive tone.

When confronted about his observations, Vig’s response was a casual acknowledgment of Corgan’s accusation, with a simple “Yeah, I guess I did”. Interestingly, such an incident seems less likely in today’s tightly-regulated music industry.

There had always been murmurs about potential “plagiarism” in the industry. Cobain, in fact, openly admitted to being inspired by Boston, which aligns with Corgan’s initial impression.

Dave Grohl also shared that the Gap Band had been a significant influence on him. However, strangely enough, the distinctive sound of The Smashing Pumpkins never seemed to enter this conversation.

Could it be a mere coincidence? That seems unlikely. To get the full story, you can watch the interview here:

It’s important to note, however, that Billy Corgan isn’t completely innocent in this narrative of influence and imitation. He openly confessed to having “mirrored” compositions from his own favorite bands.

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