How Bush Really Felt About The Smashing Pumpkins

It goes without saying that not all of the biggest rock bands of the 1990s were from Seattle. Thanks to their 1994 debut album, “Sixteen Stone,” English band Bush became a household name, though as Ultimate Guitar pointed out, they were frequently panned by critics who felt they were a derivative bunch of Nirvana wannabes who didn’t bring anything new to the table. Meanwhile, over in Chicago, the Smashing Pumpkins made a huge splash with their sophomore release, 1993’s “Siamese Dream,” and followed that up two years later with the double album “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.” All those albums we mentioned are more than enough to bring back memories of when guitar-driven rock was still relevant in the grander scheme of things.

Although Bush and Smashing Pumpkins couldn’t be any more different in terms of their sound, they had their share of similarities. Both acts had, and still have charismatic frontmen who are also known for the high-profile female musicians they dated – Bush’s Gavin Rossdale was once married to Gwen Stefani, while Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins was in a relationship with Courtney Love before her marriage to Kurt Cobain. And of course, there’s the aforementioned fact that both bands were on top of the rock world in the mid-’90s. One would think that they would at least have been kindred spirits, but the members of Bush had more than a few interesting things to say about Smashing Pumpkins back in the day.

Bush's members saw Smashing Pumpkins as a derivative band

Critics of Bush may see this as a case of the pot calling the kettle black, but the Brits were less than complimentary about the Smashing Pumpkins during both bands’ commercial peak. Speaking to Guitar World in 1997 (via Orleans is Burning), Gavin Rossdale defended his band against allegations of being a Nirvana rip-off by suggesting that the Pumpkins sounded like Jane’s Addiction on their debut album, 1991’s “Gish.” 

As for “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” the singer offered another hot take while slagging the double album. “Well, [it sounds like] Elton John at the beginning — horrible piano,” Rossdale quipped. “But it sounds like they want to be some sort of a hi-fi coffee-table rock band now. It’s quite heavy metal, some of it? I think it’s horrible.” Bassist Nigel Pulsford then doubled down on the “heavy metal” assessment, saying that the Pumpkins sounded too much like Judas Priest on “Mellon Collie.”

Now it would normally be a compliment if someone compared a band’s piano parts to the ones composed by Sir Elton, and it wouldn’t be an insult either to say an album sounds a lot like one that Rob Halford and company would release. (Unless, perhaps, you’re talking about “Turbo.”) But Rossdale and Pulsford made it rather clear in that interview that they weren’t fans of Elton John or of heavy metal in general — at least at that time.

The Bush vs. Smashing Pumpkins feud appears to be over

They say that time heals all wounds, and that seems to be what has happened in the years since Rossdale and Pulsford made those caustic comments about the Smashing Pumpkins. According to Alternative Nation, Bush opened for the Pumpkins in Vienna in 2013, and that might have been the first sign that everything was good between the two bands. Five years later, Billy Corgan seemed to confirm this, as he said in an Instagram story Q&A session that he “[loves] Gavin, like a lot,” adding that there’s no longer any “heat” between the two frontmen, to borrow a wrestling term.

Earlier this year, Rossdale and Corgan were once again on the same bill, as the two of them were among the scheduled guests for “A Bowie Celebration: Just for One Day!” — a virtual tribute event celebrating what would have been the late David Bowie’s 74th birthday, according to Billboard.

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