A Song That I Listen To When I’m Happy | Headlights Pointed At the Dawn

22 Jul | 30 days of music / art / games / music / personal | 3 comments

I have a weird relationship with the Smashing Pumpkins. I can barely stand some of their (qualitatively) best work, but some of their least palatable I find endlessly fascinating. They’re a band that definitely defined a fairly significant chunk of my musical awakening, both for their music in and of itself and, more tragically, for the fact that they were the girl to whom I sang Depeche Mode’s favorite band.

The fact that I use that word, “tragically”, and mean it makes me probably a very pathetic individual. If not pathetic, then at least sad. But that’s not where we are.

“1979”. A song that I don’t think I am capable of listening to unless I’m in a good mood.

This is different than a song that actively makes me happy; while I suppose it’s theoretically capable of achieving that, it’s never really been given the chance. It’s not sneaky that way; I know it and listen to it as a happy song. That means, unfortunately, that whenever it comes up and I’m not in the mood for it, whether I’m listening to Mellon Collie or have my music on random or even if I’m just driving around in Grand Theft Auto, I’ll pass it over.

It’s just… happy. It’s difficult to explain the why, but it’s easy to explain the feeling. The first time I heard it, I thought of the title and flashed instantly back to Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69“, which is a song about young and dumb and having fun more than anything else for me. That connection, “Summer of ’69” to “1979”, seemed like the logical connection to me, a generational shift.

The song itself backs me up, at least in my mind. It’s driving and bouncy and a little ominous. Rather like my adolescence, I think. The video supports all that, too; it is, literally, kids running around and having a good time. I don’t know if I understood the metaphors when I was 13 and 14; I know I’ve come to understand a lot of what the Pumpkins were on about a lot better now than I did then.

But “1979” isn’t ever going to get that chance. It lives in its little capsule for me, a little place for me to go when I remember that I’m young and dumb and having fun, no matter how much I feel otherwise sometimes.

It’s a little way for me to never grow up.


  1. Adi

    I love the Punkins. My sister was a huge fan, so whenever she carted me around they were on the stereo. Ahhhh, 1995.

  2. V. Marc Fort

    I feel similarly about the Pumpkins. I was a huge fan during their first several albums…but they pretty much lost me after Adore.

    And then Billy Corgan lost his mind utterly and completely.

    1979 might be their last great single as far as I’m concerned.