Tuesday, February 4, 2014

No. 121 – Glass and the Ghost Children

Performer: Smashing Pumpkins
Songwriters: Billy Corgan
Original Release: MACHINA/The Machines of God
Year: 2000
Definitive Version: None.

MACHINA is another of those albums that I don’t understand why it wasn’t bigger than it was—same as Binaural by my favorite Nineties band, Pearl Jam, which, of course, came out the same year. After the disaster that was Adore, MACHINA, to me, represented a return to the majestic rock swale that was Smashing Pumpkins’ sprawling Mellon Collie. It bombed to the extent that MACHINA II was released online as a free download, in the prehistoric (pre-iTunes) days of the Internet.

It’s said critics and fans found the concept of MACHINA too dense. I didn’t even know it was supposed to be a concept album; I gave up trying to decipher Billy Corgan’s lyrics long before. That said, I agree that perhaps Corgan botched it by breaking it up into two albums—and then not running the songs in order—although that that was mostly due to Warner Bros. telling him: no double albums.

That they said this despite the fact that Mellon Collie—a double album—sold a zillion copies five years before. I guess they were reeling too much from the big drop in sales from Adore, but then, it’s a record company. History has shown repeatedly that they aren’t run by the smartest folks.

I loved MACHINA, and this two-part suite was the pinnacle. The first half is as good as anything the Pumpkins ever did and would be somewhere in the second half of the top 100 if it stood alone (or lasted the entire 10 minutes of the song). Funny thing: I listened to Glass and the Ghost Children a lot when it came out in 2000, but for some reason, I associate it with things that happened post-breakup with Debbie.

When you go through such a big breakup, or at least one that involves a partner you’ve been with long enough to include in family functions, you aren’t the only one who goes through the breakup. I didn’t realize this after I split with Beth, and maybe it didn’t apply then. However, when Debbie and I broke up, I wasn’t the only one who lost something.

Because of the Great Rift, holidays spent with my side of the family included Mom. After Debbie and I bought our house in 1997, Jin and Scott (and Shani) would come to Columbus at Christmas, and we’d do presents and dinner there. That meant I’d drive over to get Mom and bring her over for the festivities. Jin and Scott were glad to include Mom and even gladder that it wasn’t at her place.

That ended with the breakup. When the holiday season rolled around in 2001, Mom wanted everyone to get together at my place just like before. However, I was in no mood to host in an apartment where I didn’t want to be some attempt to re-create old celebrations. Mom pressed it a few times until I finally said I’d do it at her place but not mine, period.

What I came to realize through that was how much Mom suffered from my breakup with Debbie. Part of it was the nature of their relationship. Debbie still had her mother, of course, so it wasn’t as though she thought of Mom as a surrogate. Instead it was the circumstances of our relationship. Debbie and Mom definitely bonded over a mutual feeling of exclusion by Dad.

More of it was that, because of Debbie, Mom participated more in family get-togethers, unlike years past when we’d all gather at Dad’s. In a way, Mom had a family situation that she hadn’t had in nearly 20 years. When Debbie and I broke up, Mom saw that that “family time” during the holidays would end.

It was unfortunate, and I sympathized—maybe even apologized for it—but I wasn’t going to relent. It would be too painful, and there was no going back.

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