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


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.”