Classic Rock Wiki

"1979" is a song by American alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins. Released in 1996 as the second single from their third studio album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, "1979" was written by frontman Billy Corgan, and features loops and samples that were uncharacteristic of previous Smashing Pumpkins songs.[1] The song was written as a coming of age story by Corgan. In the year 1979, Corgan was 12 and this is what he considered his transition into adolescence. The song was popular with critics and fans; Allmusic's Amy Hanson called it a "somewhat surprising hit".[2] The song was nominated for the Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the Grammy Awards, and won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Alternative Video.

The song appears in Grand Theft Auto IV on the station Liberty Rock Radio 97.8, "1979" is also a playable song in Guitar Hero World Tour as part of The Smashing Pumpkins track pack DLC. The song also featured during the end credits of the sim racing game Gran Turismo 5.



  • 1 Background and music
  • 2 Reception
  • 3 Music video
  • 4 Track listing
  • 5 Chart positions
    • 5.1 Peak positions
    • 5.2 End of year charts
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links

Background and music[edit][]

According to statements in interviews, Corgan worked nonstop after the Siamese Dream tour and wrote about 56 songs for Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,[3] the last of which was "1979". As the Mellon Collie sessions came to a conclusion, "1979" was just a couple of chord changes and a snippet of a melody without words. When the time came to choose the songs that were to appear on the album, producer Flood said that "1979" was "not good enough" and wanted to drop it from the record. This, however, inspired Corgan to finish it in four hours. The next day, Flood heard "1979" once and decided immediately to put it on the album.[1] Corgan considers "1979" the most personally important song on Mellon Collie.[4]

The song features a sample of Corgan's voice repeated throughout. During recording, Corgan was singing "ooh" as the melody line, so he and Flood decided to record him singing to a tape. The pair electronically manipulated several samples and looped them against a drumbeat.[5]


"1979" is the Smashing Pumpkins' highest-charting single, reaching number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Mainstream Rock Tracks and on theModern Rock Tracks charts.[6] It peaked at number 54 on the U.S. Hot Digital Songs in 2005, nine years after first being released.[citation needed] Virgin credited the inclusion of the single's bonus tracks for driving sales.[7] The song was nominated for the Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the Grammy Awards. Pitchfork Media included the song at number 21 on their Top 200 Tracks of the 90s and said "'1979' was Billy Corgan asking, 'You know this feeling?' and the second you heard that guitar line the immediate answer was, 'I do-- tell me more.'"[8]

In a 1996 Spin interview, Corgan indicated that "1979" was probably the only indication he had for what the next Pumpkins album would sound like, "something that combines technology, and a rock sensibility, and pop, and whatever, and hopefully clicks. Between 'Bullet with Butterfly Wings' and '1979' you have the bookends of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. You've literally [heard] the end of the rock thing, and the beginning of the new thing".[9]

The song was voted #13 on Triple J Hottest 100, 1996, it was later voted #71 on the Hottest 100 of All Time, 1998 and was voted #35 on the Hottest 100 of All Time list of 2009.

Music video[edit][]

The music video for "1979" was directed by the team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who had previously directed the music video for "Rocket". Originally, the band approached another director (possibly Spike Jonze[1]) to film the video for "1979". His idea was that all the band members were residents in an alien hotel and they were all going to have specially made alien-elephant masks. This video would have cost over a million dollars.[10]

The video follows a day in the life of disaffected suburban teenagers driving around in a Dodge Charger. It is based on a concept Corgan created, featuring an idealized version of teenage life, while also trying to capture the feeling of being bored in the Chicago suburbs, where Corgan grew up. In the Video the Dodge Charger has Illinois license plates, although in the driving scenes the mountains of California are visible in the background shots. Originally, Corgan wanted a scene of violence, in which the convenience store was trashed by the teens at the end of the video, but Dayton and Faris convinced him to go for something more tame. Aside from Corgan appearing throughout the video in the backseat of a car, the other band members had small parts in the video; James Iha appears as a convenience store clerk, D'arcy Wretzky as an irate neighbor, Jimmy Chamberlin as a policeman, and all three of them appear together as the band in the party scene. Band manager "Gooch" plays Jimmy's partner.[10]

Upon finishing the video shoot, the band flew to New York to perform. However, all tapes of the footage were accidentally left sitting on top of a car, and were lost as the driver departed. The group later flew back to re-shoot the party scene.[10]

The "1979" video was highly acclaimed. It won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Alternative Video in 1996. It was one of Canadian cable television music channel MuchMusic's Countdown number-one videos of 1996. Billy Corgan considers it the Pumpkins' best video,[10] calling it "the closest we've ever come to realizing everything we wanted."[1]

The video for the 1998 song "Perfect" is a sequel to this one, and involves the same characters who are now older. The aforementioned incident with the loss of the original footage is parodied in one of the later video's final scenes, in which a cassette tape is left on top of a car and falls off as a character drives out of a parking lot at high speed, and is subsequently destroyed by another vehicle.

Track listing[edit][]

US 7" double A-side single [11]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "1979"   Billy Corgan 4:24
2. "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"   Billy Corgan 4:16

UK/US CD single/UK 12" [12][13][14]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "1979"   Billy Corgan 4:24
2. "Ugly"   Billy Corgan 2:28
3. "Believe"   James Iha 3:15
4. "Cherry"   Billy Corgan 4:02

1996 Re-issue/Max-CD[15]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "1979"   Billy Corgan 4:24
2. "Ugly"   Billy Corgan 2:28
3. "The Boy"   James Iha 3:04
4. "Cherry"   Billy Corgan 4:02
5. "Believe"   James Iha 3:15
6. "Set The Ray To Jerry"   Billy Corgan 4:10

1979 Mixes [16]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "1979 (Vocal Mix)"   Billy Corgan 5:08
2. "1979 (Instrumental Mix)"   Billy Corgan 5:17
3. "1979 (Moby Mix)"   Billy Corgan 6:39
4. "1979 (Cement Mix)"   Billy Corgan 4:40

Tracks 1, 2, and 4 are remixed by Roli Mosimann. Track 3 is remixed by Moby.[17]

Chart positions[edit][]

Peak positions[edit][]

Chart (1996)[18][19] Peak


Australia (ARIA)[20] 16
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[21] 37
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[22] 21
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 2
Canada Alternative 30 (RPM) 1
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[23] 11
France (SNEP)[24] 38
Ireland (IRMA) 6
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[25] 29
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[26] 9
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 16
US Billboard Hot 100 12
US Billboard Pop Songs 10
US Billboard Alternative Songs 1
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs 17
US Billboard Adult Pop Songs 30
US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 1