Billy Corgan Reveals Who Kurt Cobain Ripped Off For “Come As You Are”

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Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan discussed the 90’s alternative rock sound that Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins helped popularize in a new Build interview. Alternative Nation transcribed Corgan’s comments, where he described “Come As You Are” as being ‘right out of’ Killing Joke.

“Power. We considered it like if Curtis Mayfield was the softer dynamic of the band, Metallica and Slayer were the [other side]. Because a lot of alternative bands would stop at power, because to them it was a bit beneath them, like heavy metal was ‘not cool.’ I’m not saying we were the only ones, but Nirvana and the Pumpkins kind of opened the door, where it was cooler for alternative bands to be heavy. Before that, not a lot of alternative bands were heavy, unless it was Stoogesish, because it was seen as kind of punk. Metal moves were verboten in alternative world.”

The interviewer said that Nirvana went Melvins route.

Corgan said, “I think there’s a lot of Black Sabbath in Nirvana that people don’t hear. In fact, obviously Come As You Are was right out Killing Joke, and Killing Joke was very influenced by Sabbath. So there’s a direct lineage from Judas Priest and Sabbath through Killing Joke to alternative music, but the problem is you would get in the room with a critic who would look down his nose at the heavy metal influences, so the bands just wouldn’t mention it.”

Billy Corgan remembered Butch Vig playing him Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the first time in a Billboard live video last year, and how he thought the riff was lifted from Boston’s “More Than A Feeling”. 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.”