LIGHT INTO DARK
the story of THE SMASHING PUMPKINS first released songs
THE OFFICIAL SITE OF HALO RECORDS
We're busy revamping the entire website, but couldn't wait to debut the new look with some very BIG news! Due to popular demand (and also due to our propensity to do things right but maddeningly slowly) LIGHT INTO DARK is finally being re-released on CD. Yes, you too can actually own and listen to what this record is about instead of hoarding your sealed copy of the vinyl and wondering, or even if you are wondering what vinyl is, you can still hear it & own a piece of Chicago music history for yourself.
History of LIGHT INTO DARK
I formed Halo Records way back in 1988 as an extension of my various involvements in the music business. In particular, I was managing an alternative rock band named Ghost Swami, who briefly had 2 videos on MTV but no record label at the time. The first of these videos was for the song "Halo", a favorite Swami tune of mine and the inspiration for the label's name. For various reasons too complicated to go into here, it made more sense to me at that time to release a compilation with a limited number of bands rather than a full Ghost Swami album. The other bands on the record came about in various ways.
Gold September was a relatively new band fronted by Mark Rew, later of Catherine, a band with many Pumpkins ties. They were managed by Nick Miller, who had just recently started working at Jam Productions and is today one of their top talent buyers. Price of Priesthood had done a number of shows with Ghost Swami, and had received some attention for their dark and well produced sound. Poster Children were actually from downstate Illinois, at the U.of Illinois in the Champaign/Urbana area. They came through then manager Chris Corpora, who also helped with the promotion of the record. They later went on to quite a successful recording career, releasing numerous albums even though never reaching major commercial success. Seven Letters was strictly a studio project, and their single cut turned out to be the lead track on the record. The others all had two, which I grouped into "Light" and "Dark" sides - hence the album's title.
And what of the sixth band? The Smashing Pumpkins, of course… Sometime in 1988, I was having dinner with my college roomate Tim and his soon to be wife Marianne, also an old friend of mine. She mentioned that she worked with this girl who was in a band, and that maybe I could manage them. [For the record, since I have never seen this anywhere else, not that anyone could possibly care, the restaurant she and Darcy worked at back then was called Dillinger's and it was on Lincoln Avenue just up the street from the Biograph Theatre, possibly where the Kinko's is now] With all the massive knowledge of a snot nosed punk with about a whole year of experience in the music business, I replied with "Well, maybe, but I can't just manage any old band - they have to be talented and we have to have a business relationship" or some such ridiculous drivel. Of course, nothing I said then would have made much of a difference. Marianne hooked me up with Darcy, who turned me over to Billy and my relationship with the Pumpkins went on from there. By this time Metro owner Joe Shanahan was helping the band, later more or less managing them himself until he hooked them up with their first professional manager a few years later. So I first heard became involved with them way back in the later part of 1988, shortly after they dumped the drum machine for Jimmy but still before their following really took off in Chicago.
A lot of care was put into the production of the record, and I think and hope that it still shows today. I was intentionally trying to get a certain consistency to the overall sound of the album. Most of the music fit together well on the record, and the studios used by the bands were all top notch. Ghost Swami and Poster Children both recorded at Chicago Recording Company (top notch studio and future home of much Pumpkins activity) with Iain Burgess, a legendary underground rock producer I hope is living happily in Europe somewhere. Gary Khan recorded Gold September at the old Pegasus Studios on Belmont, and Craig Williams' Dr. Caw produced Price of Priesthood. The Pumpkins tracks are credited to Mark Ignoffo at Reel Time Studios and produced by Billy. Seven Letters was a studio band produced by Jeff Murphy of Shoes fame that came through leader Al Hinkhouse's brother Lou Hinkhouse, producer of the award winning Pulse music show on local cable who also helped out the project considera blyThe graphics design and artwork production headed up by John Berg was excellent, and the booklet concept came off as well as I hoped. Perhaps not surprisingly, Billy did not want the Pumpkins' lyrics printed, and I honored their request. Instead, he gave me an enigmatic German quote that translated as "We all must bear much sorrow to enter God's kingdom". I don't know if the launch of this website qualifies as a Kingdom of God, but I can assure all of you reading this that much sorrow was borne in the production thereof…
The Light Into Dark project started with a bang at the official release party at Cabaret Metro on March 17, 1989. To kick things off, I splurged and hosted an industry party with free food (well, pizza) and open bar (only thing that mattered) downstairs at the Smart Bar for whatever media and industry people I could rustle up. As the records themselves were not ready (what a surprise...), I instead gave out the now semi famous cassette sampler tapes with one song from each of the six bands on the record. For the inquisitive, the SP track on the cassette is My Dahlia. The show itself, upstairs on Metro stage, started with a showing of the Seven Letters video to Gone By Dawn, and then all five live bands on the record each played a 30 minutes set. I vaguely remember we had about 600 people show up that night, not bad considering a nasty Ides of March attack from Mother Nature of freezing rain and drunken St. Pat's revelers on the roads. But Johnny Mars from WXRT showed up, Joe Shanahan was happy, the bands were great and all in all it was a spectacular night. Speaking of Mars, I believe his playing of My Dahlia on the legendary Big Beat radio show was the first ever airing of the Smashing Pumpkins on any commercial radio station anywhere (while college radio stations including WNUR, WRRG, and WZRD were on it even earlier). Unfortunately for Halo Records and the Light Into Dark project, after March 17 things went mostly downhill from there.
The fateful week leading up to the big show started after I secured some press in both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, causing my phone at the office of my then day job to ring one too many times for my bosses' liking. This, along with plenty of irrelevant details I will skip over, led to my "slightly encouraged" resignation on March 16, the very day before the big show. While in retrospect it may sound good to say that I left a career in financial research & programming to pursue my dreams in the music business, the fact was that not only did I not have a clue as to what I was doing, I also did not have a clue as to how I would finish paying for it without that fat biweekly paycheck. Somehow, over the coming weeks, I managed to borrow enough to get it out, but there was very little left for marketing and promotion of the record. This forced me to turn my attentions on other trivial matters like trying to not starve and avoid total fiscal oblivion. I took to wearing a sandwich board spraypainted "will do anything in music business for money" and often did, leading to a somewhat hazy career of management, booking, and concert promotion. I did eventually meet and have some minor involvements with a few other "name" bands and artists, but nothing even remotely close to the hugeness of the Smashing Pumpkins.
All in all, the project was a great idea, and I'm proud to have been able to have produced a great record and a small piece of history. This is in spite of the lack of commercial success, for which I take full responsibility, as the talent on the record was clearly there. Another major factor helping to doom this project was the dawning of the age of the compact disc. When this record was conceived, vinyl was still an active medium; but by the time it came out in mid 1989 CDs were already pushing vinyl off shelves. By late 1989 it was increasingly difficult to find shelf space for a vinyl record, especially for a "fringe" market like "college rock" (""Sarcasm" intended"). And with the ever increasing disaster that was my financial situation back then, repressing on CD was never under serious consideration at that time. While I have no plans on releasing a CD of Light Into Dark at this time, that could change in the future if the interest is there.
As it stands, all the successful marketing in the world I could have done with this record would not have much impacted the soaring career of the Smashing Pumpkins. They came out with their own self released cassette shortly after Light Into Dark, with a full release on Limited Potential Records about six months later. The two Pumpkins cuts "My Dahlia" and "Sun" were recorded some months before the eventual release, and I don't believe they were actively performing either one even on the night of the record release party, although the bootleg experts would know that for sure. And one final tidbit for the history books, with a funny story to boot: Chris Corpora, manager of the Poster Children, also booked a club in Champaign called Trito's Uptown just around the corner from Mabel's. We did a record release party for LID at Trito's on May 4, 1989, with Poster Children headlining with The Smashing Pumpkins and Gold September. While I have not seen that date listed in the literature, I have documentation in the Images section. And the funny story? After a few hours sleep somewhere on someone's floor, I drove back to Chicago the next morning and took Jimmy Chamberlin back with me. I have an extremely vivid memory of him telling me that he really loved the Pumpkins music but he was going to have to quit them soon to go full time with his other band - cover band JP and the Cats - because "they paid a lot more bread". Fortunately for all of us he never did go through with that. And I saw in a recent Illinois Entertainer that JP and the Cats are still out there gigging away, so if Jimmy ever gets low on bread …
This only scratches the surface of the Light Into Dark story, but it will have to do for now. Please sign up for my email updates if you would like to be notified of additions to the site and any upcoming specials and sales. I would really appreciate it if you would please sign my guestbook with your comments. Thanks so much for visiting and investigating this interesting little early chapter in the history of the Smashing Pumpkins.