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Billy Corgan Debuts New Song Inspired by Highland Park Shooting

'Photograph' is about how 'something like this turns everything upside down'
Courtesy of Billy Corgan & Chloé Mendel

Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan hosted a virtual benefit concert last night (July 27) for victims of the deadly July 4 mass shooting in his home base of Highland Park, Ill., and took the opportunity to debut a new song, “Photograph,” directly inspired by the incident.

Corgan said he got the idea after a local journalist asked him if he’d considered writing a song about the shooting, and afterwards, he appropriated a new Pumpkins track he’d been working on for that purpose. “I started playing something and thought, that could work. Took a nap, woke up and the song was spinning in my head,” he said. “This is my reaction, I guess you could say, to what happened. I don’t know if it’s a good song or a bad song, but it certainly expresses the way that I feel.”

Corgan elaborated that the opening scene of the song involves him “explaining to somebody that I found a photograph of us standing in the very spot where this horrible thing happened. Suddenly you look at a photograph and suddenly it has meaning: ‘Oh, my god. We were in that spot.’ That’s what something like this does. It turns everything upside down. Good things become bad. Bad things become good. Simple things become complicated. Complicated things suddenly have no meaning, and certainly no resonance.”

Later, “Photograph” ruminates on a dream where Corgan sees a “young woman dancing by herself. She’s obviously dancing in my dream for those we’ve lost. My reaction is to try to explain to her, or ask her for something, which is interesting, because if she’s mourning the dead and the wounded, why do I need something from her? But I think we all have that reaction sometimes, right? We wonder what this has done to all of us. You could say it’s selfish. You could say it’s focused. But that’s what the rest of the song is about.”

The concert was held at Madame ZuZu’s, a Highland Park teahouse where Corgan has occasionally performed in the past. “Photograph” can be heard at the 97-minute mark in the archived Web cast from the event.

“Our main thing is just to put on a real positive and unifying show while raising funds for the community. When you go through this, it’s like you don’t want to walk past where this happened,” Corgan told SPIN earlier this week. “I mean, we were there last night eating ice cream literally right beneath where the shooter was. We’re there all the time, and we have to reclaim our space in the community.”