Music Video Theater: Smashing Pumpkins – “1979”



That wishful affection for the past in which we’re removed from long enough to choose what we want to remember. We romanticize the few great events and tuck away the few terrible times, and all the so-so in-between moments that make up the majority of our lives are blurred into something vague – If you’re many years out of school and trying to recite your teenage years, you’ll probably reduce an entire set of years to “it was alright”.

Our memories are not so much records of past events but rather self-created mirages that fit into our own interpretations, which change as we get older. When I was 16 and growing up in Indiana, I thought everything was lame and that there was nothing ever to do. But I’m older and about to graduate college, and I already look back at my high school years and think how nice it was when my only responsibility was to get through high school, and I know I will feel the same way for college pretty soon.

Nostalgia then is the kind of memory that’s distorted to the point when we can only see the fragment remains of what we think we miss, and the mundane moments become extraordinary events that we’re sure that, if we had a time machine, we would go back and not take those moments for granted.

Nostalgia is tricky because it makes us believe in a past that might have never existed, but it makes for some great inspiration for music.

The music video for Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” is all about nostalgia. The video follows a single day of a group of teenagers driving around a city, going to parties, and doing what kids do when they’re restless and have nothing else to do. Nothing about this video is extraordinary, but when you put these memories to music (and what sweet music we have here) you long for those simpler times when you had the freedom and will to tee-pee houses, hook up in showers, and vandalize convenience stores.

Billy Corgan was 12 years old in 1979 growing up in the Chicago suburbs. Though I cannot speak on his behalf on what his childhood was actually like, I’m sure the inspiration for this song and music video came from that every now and then feeling of missing those days giving his home the bird and just hanging out at home with no career and no one to depend on him. But in the video he smirks when he remembers being one of those bored kids. He remembers that growing up wasn’t that fun, but he also knows now that it’s not so bad compared to what follows.

So to me, this music video is an ode to the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia – a wishfulness for something we know was not as special as we want to believe it was.

Oh – and this is just a great fucking song.



The band makes some great cameos in this video. In addition to the entire band playing in a house show, the convenience store clerk is James Iha, the annoyed neighbor is D’arcy Wretzky, and Jimmy Chamberlin and “Gooch” (the band’s manager) play the policemen.

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