Smashing Pumpkins – The Aeroplane Flies High (Single LP Edition)

In October 2020, I put together a couple of Smashing Pumpkins playlists. What this lead to was playing through their back catalogue from Gish to Adore and all points in between. Apart from the stylistic differences between the records (no doubt down increased budgets and Billy Corgan’s ego), the band hit a real purple patch around the recording of the ‘Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness’ album. I say band and not just Corgan because this was the last period where they actually were a band. James Iha contributed a good number of tunes during this period, he and D’Arcy actually contributed musically (instead of having any parts they played replayed by Corgan) and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin even contributed vocals to the song ‘Farewell & Goodnight’. The band dynamic would never be the same after Chamberlin was fired from the band during the Mellon Collie tour after he and touring keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin both suffered a drugs overdose. Melvin died but Chamberlin, who had struggling with substance abuse for a fews years before this time was given his marching orders to ostensibly protect his health. 

Corgan, and the rest of the band to a lesser extent, must have lived in rehearsal rooms and the studio, laying down numerous takes of what feels like 100 tunes before settling on the 28 that made up the original ‘Mellon Collie’ album. With so many musical outtakes left in the can, the Pumpkins ended up releasing many of them at the time as B-Sides to the ‘Mellon Collie’ singles which would be collected into a box set called ‘The Aeroplane Flies High’. I remember seeing this release before hearing about it and its presentation was what drew me in to begin with. The five singles had been collected in a box that look liked the carry cases used to transport 7 inch singles in, included a handle. 

The box set also contained some exclusive recordings of cover songs which were included on the ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’ single. When I initially played it, I found it impenetrable. There were 33 songs on it and the ‘Pastichio Medley’ seemed to take an eternity to finish. Come to think of it, that first play through of this box set might be the only time I have listened to that track all the way through. This set was not something to play all the way through, but to dip a toe into once in a while to take in the delights that could be unlocked and what delights they were to behold. This is not just some collection of third rate outtakes put out to fleece the fans of their hard earned cash. It proved to be full of A-Grade material that showcased a different dimension to the band and so I come to this collection. 

Whilst playing it again recently, I wondered what this set would sound like if it was complied as an album in the style of ‘Pisces Iscariot’. The band’s record label had had a go themselves at this by releasing a 12 track promo album from the box set back in 1996, but when playing the track in that order did not do the parent release justice. I thought that following the template of ‘Pisces Iscariot’ would allow for more songs as that contained 14 tracks. What I didn’t release until putting this compilation together was how long ‘Pisces Iscariot’ was, clocking in 57 minutes. That must have been a strain on the LP version, which as far as I can tell was not edited down. 

My version of ‘The Aeroplane Flies High’ clocks in at 51 minutes but is still based on the LP format. Therefore, both sides should match up in terms of side length, because back in the day, you had to take into consideration the cassette buying fans. Like ‘Pisces Iscariot’, there are 14 songs on the record, one written by James Iha (and includes guest vocals from Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt), a bonus 7 inch single (for those lucky enough to get hold of an early copy) and two cover versions. The biggest difference between this and ‘Pisces Iscariot’ is that the bonus single contain the cover versions.

This version does include one song that was released on the LP version of ‘Mellon Collie’ but as this only ever released in the UK back in 1996 and in very limited numbers, this would have been new to most listeners. 

What was evident from listening back to the deluxe editions of ‘Mellon Collie’ and ‘The Aeroplane Flies High’ is that Billy Corgan had great musical ideas to burn. If this album had been released instead of the box set, this would have been seen as more than just a spiritual successor to ‘Pisces Iscariot’ and been as big a hit as the box set had been (well, in the USA anyway). 

Side A

  1. Blank
  2. Transformer
  3. Set The Ray To Jerry
  4. Marquis In Spades
  5. The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)
  6. Medellia Of The Grey Skies

Side B

  1. …Said Sadly
  2. Mouths Of Babes
  3. Cherry
  4. Jupiter’s Lament
  5. Meladori Magpie
  6. Pennies
  7. The Last Song
  8. Tonite Reprise

Bonus 7” Single

  1. Clones (We’re All)
  2. You’re All I’ve Got Tonight

The front cover has been adapted from The Aeroplane Flies High Promo CD release.

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