“Disarm you with a smile,
and leave you like they left me here,
to wither in denial.”
Disarm (1993) :: The Smashing Pumpkins
Me and The Smashing Pumpkins have had a dodgy past. A favorite band of an ex, one of those exes that are part of a relationship that ends bad, it took a very long time for me to separate the band from the guy, and from the memories. But, I did eventually, and when I got over my shit I started to discover their music on my own terms, applying new memories and meaning to them, and finding my own favorites.
“Disarm” is one of those discovered favorites. Its a bring-on-the-tears kind of song though, but not because of that messed up relationship from the past, but because it feels like it speaks to childhood, to abandonment issues, and the holes that parental losses leave in one’s heart. It hits on those later losses, those grown-up losses, of love and friendship, that disarm you, and leave you shaken and sad.
There is loneliness and disappointment at the core of this song, to me, and a feeling of inevitability. I listen to it when I’m blue, when I’m in that feeling sorry for me place, and when I’m clawing for a little bit of understanding.
There is an odd sense of hope here though, and a connectivity of humanity. Maybe it is in the lyric “the killer in me is the killer in you”, a tough lyric to hear this week, after what happened in Florida, but below the surface, and beyond the literal meaning, I think it means that pain is universal, hurt and loneliness and loss, we all feel it, and we all carry the weight of our childhood pain, too.
That we share in a collective legacy, of sorts.
Maybe there is comfort in that. I know, on some bad days, when I play this song, I feel the strength in not being alone – even if I still hurt.
“Disarm”was the third single released from The Smashing Pumpkins’ second album, Siamese Dream. It was written by Billy Corgan, who considers it the most personally important song on the album.
The BBC banned the song from appearing on Top of the Pops, because of the lyric “cut that little child“, and it received little radio airplay in the United Kingdom.That lyric along with lyrics like “what I choose is my choice” and “the killer in me is the killer in you” has also led to some controversy, as some read it as a reference to abortion.
Billy Corgan has stated that the song reflects the shaky relationship he had with his parents while growing up.
However, even with the ban and the limited radio time, it still peaked at # 11 on the UK Singles Chart. In the U.S., the song failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100 but it peaked # 48 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart, it also peaked at # 5on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and # 8 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.