July 12, 1996: Smashing Pumpkins Death on Tour

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Mellon Collie cover-zoomRiding high on their mega-hit epic double album Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, the Smashing Pumpkins checked into New York City’s Regency Hotel at around 11 p.m. on July 11, 1996. The alternative rock band were slated to play two sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden starting the next night.

Drummer and founding member Jimmy Chamberlin and tour keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin went to a room, shot up heroin, and nodded out. Chamberlin woke at about 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t wake Melvoin. After further attempts to revive him with the assistance of the band’s head of security, a 911 call was made. Paramedics declared Melvoin dead at 4:30 a.m. He was 34 years old. Chamberlin was arrested for heroin possession.

Melvoin was part of a very musical family. Father Mike Melvoin was a jazz pianist and Los Angeles session player who had recorded with such classic rock acts as the Beach Boys (on Pet Sounds), John Lennon and Tom Waits, and had served as president and chairman of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. His twin sisters Wendy and Susannah were prominent members of Prince’s band the Revolution, among other musical activities and accomplishments. Jonathan previously played drums with the L.A. punk band The Dickies and Prince as well.

The Pumpkins eventually resumed their tour with two replacement musicians. Band leader, singer, songwriter and guitarist Billy Corgan later said that continuing the tour was a mistake he regrets. Infinite sadness indeed.

Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness debuted at #1 when it was released in 1995 and eventually sold more than 10 million copies in the U.S. The song “1979” became the band’s biggest chart hit, peaking at #12.

The Smashing Pumpkins broke up in 2000 but ultimately re-formed. Tickets to see them perform are available here and here.

Related: Current classic rock tour listings

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  1. Tommy Christo Dee
    #1 Tommy Christo Dee 13 July, 2024, 10:04

    Had tickets to these two shows.

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