Billy Corgan Reveals Song He Thought Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Ripped Off

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Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan remembered Butch Vig playing him Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the first time in a new Billboard live video. Alternative Nation transcribed Corgan’s comments.

“Of course when I’m driving down the road and they play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ I have the same generational memory of the first time I heard the song, sitting on a riverbank with Butch Vig. He was playing a cassette while he was making the album, I was one of the first people in the world to hear that song in the world on a cassette on a boombox.”

He added, “It was July 4th of 1991. He’d just come back from California, we were watching fireworks or something as the sun came down, and he said, ‘Do you want to hear the new Nirvana album?’ I was like, ‘Sure.’ So he had a boombox, and he presses play, and you hear the Teen Spirit [riff]. I thought, ‘Wait, that’s More Than A Feeling by Boston.’

That’s what I thought, and in a beautiful synchronicity, not too long after that, maybe six months to a year later, we were in Tokyo and Nirvana was playing, and we went to see them play. They got to the moment in the show where they were going to play Teen Spirit, you got a sense of here it comes, and Kurt [Cobain] started playing ‘More Than A Feeling.’ Of course it went right over the heads of the crowd, but it was like okay, I’m not crazy.”

  • Carrie Walker

    Awesome, I hope you appreciate all of the love that you are holding. I hope you give some of the money to a charity that will help some young person to have a better life. Chris was certainly a one of a kind. May he rest in PEACE.😢

  • Raj

    The melody in SLTS is E A G C and Boston’s MTAF is G C Em D, on SLTS the power chords are F F# G and G# but a lot similarities even Kurt recognized it and played MTAF in a mocking way amusing to him.

  • Amanda Rae Lee

    “Of course it went right over the heads of the crowd” … what a self bloated egomaniac. I am sure there were other people there that noticed the similarities and thats why Kurt did it… but no one else gives a fuck because they are not there judging, scrutinizing, and tearing apart other peoples work. What a haughty jack-ass.

    • nomad

      William feels the need to genius-splain song similarities to fans because it goes right over our heads! He has always been an egomaniac.

  • clouds

    Kurt was too much of a fine artist to miss the similarities . He also had a great sense of humor and that is why he played More Than A Feeling when everyone was expecting Smells like Teen Spirit.
    Kurt had a lot of other fine qualities that Billy Corgan seems obviously lacking.

  • John

    I don’t see anywhere where Billy is saying Nirvana ripped anybody off. Headline sensationalism at it’s finest.

  • disqus_FQgrm4l56P

    According to Cobain himself, it was “Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult.