Billy Corgan is alt-rock's great asshole genius. His meticulous arrangements and Kubrick-esque demand for flawless takes made for timeless music at the Smashing Pumpkins' peak, material that's arguably aged better than those of their peers. He's been the one constant member in a revolving door lineup that even longtime drumming powerhouse Jimmy Chamberlin wasn't immune to being removed from. So, the news in January that the Pumpkins' classic 90s lineup of Corgan on guitar and vocals, Chamberlin on drums, and James Iha on guitar would be reuniting for a new album and tour was greeted with enthusiasm. Then things got messy when people wondered where original bassist D'arcy Wretzky was.
Wretzky, who left the group in 1999 shortly before their initial breakup, revealed that she had not been asked to join the reunion lineup. Corgan denied the claims, saying in a statement that he repeatedly reached out to Wretzky but that she turned down his invitations. This week, Wretzky reportedly shared private text correspondence between herself and Corgan with Alternative Nation which told a different story.
Essentially, the texts seem to suggest that Corgan became increasingly skeptical in Wretzky's ability to play the Pumpkins' music to his standards due to a shoulder injury. Though Wretzky insists that she is well enough to play, Corgan then offers her to come on as merely a guest performer, citing how Guns N' Roses brought their former drummer Steven Adler out on their own reunion shows. He eventually becomes dismissive, talking about Wretzky as though she's just a part of the nostalgic brand: "you deserve to be on a t-shirt ... but if you don't want to be on a t-shirt then the kids are happy to buy something else," he writes.
This exchange seems to be the latest in a long history of Wretzky, along with James Iha, getting sidelined by Corgan's perfectionism. On the band's 1993 classic Siamese Dream, Corgan played all the bass and guitar parts, saying that it was a matter of nailing the parts quicker, though the story goes that he'd already been replacing them even after final takes were approved. This was also due to the fractious state of the band, with Corgan attempting to ward off depressive thoughts, Wretzky and Iha undergoing a stressful breakup with each other, and Chamberlin suffering from drug addiction. Wretzky also admitted to Blender in 2001 (in a piece where she' – yet again – uncharitably described as a "sex symbol") that Corgan is a more efficient player, saying "he can do something in three takes where it would maybe take me twenty.”
The full lineup did indeed perform their assigned parts on the best-selling Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness before the underrated Adore began their fragmentation in 1998. Since then, Wretzky's place has been taken by a shifting cast of several other experienced women musicians including Nicole Fiorentino and Hole's Melissa Auf der Mar, which really makes you wonder what kind of statement Corgan's making about the importance of Wretzky's place in the Pumpkins' image and legacy. Still, the fact that even Corgan's famously contentious relationship with Iha can apparently become water under the bridge but that Wretzky is apparently still not good enough for the man in charge after decades is damned sad. You can read more about the Smashing Pumpkins' reunion drama here.
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This article originally appeared on Noisey CA.