Tuesday, 28 May 2013

When Billy Corgan sings, the floor is made of lava

The Grunge era seems destined to be remembered not for the music, or the flannel shirts, but for the enduringly popular parlour game: 'When Billy Corgan sings, the floor is made of lava.' In our house this is often played over Easter, although there is no reason why it cannot be enjoyed at any time of the year.

The conceit behind the game (which can be played by anyone, from ages 8-89) is that Smashing Pumpkins lead singer Billy Corgan's vocals are so searing in their power and insight, that they alter the molecular structure of carpet, bare floorboards, and kitchen and bathroom tiles, transforming these ordinarily benign surfaces into super-heated molten rock, capable of reducing a human-being to a crispy mound of smouldering ash in mere 100ths of a second! It is imperative, within the context of the game, that when Grunge-siren, Corgan, opens his mouth to sing, one seeks asylum on the nearest climbable object, these having been judged impervious to his vocal register. Lino is also unaffected by Corgan and will not transform into lava when he sings. If you have any lino-covered surfaces in your home then these should be excluded from the gaming area.

I have been playing 'When Billy Corgan sings, the floor is made of lava' professionally since 2010. Below I will outline some opening strategies that will hopefully make the game more enjoyable for amateur players:

Quasar which opens the most recent Pumpkins album, Oceania, gifts players a generous 45 seconds before the floor turns to lava (figuratively speaking – remember this is pretend lava. You are in no actual danger!) This should allow ample time for all but the most unfit or physically impaired participants to reach a place of sanctuary. Remember that there are no prizes for succumbing to the lava while attempting to assist a fellow player. When the magma flows, you will be consumed. Your weakness will invariably be noted by your fellow players and may be used against you in future games.

Doomsday Clock (from the Zeitgeist album) grants players 27 seconds to scramble to safety.

Significantly more challenging is The Everlasting Gaze – the lead track from Machina / The Machines of God which allots a mere 9 seconds to find refuge. To Shiela from Adore is only marginally more generous, allowing players only 11 seconds. I recommend that these albums are only used by veterans of the game, with at least 3 years experience, in a house where there is a lot of climbable furniture.

A good entry level album is Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, whose opening instrumental (lasting two minutes and 53 seconds) added to the 45 second intro of Tonight, Tonight, affords players a luxurious amount of time to elude the encroaching lava flow. As a professional player I am able to traverse the length of my house several times during this period and will often up the stakes by making myself a cup of tea. A WORD OF WARNING: This generous period of time can often lead to hubris that can catch seasoned, over-confident players off guard. This occurred during the 2011 finals when hot favourite, Michael Robb, was eliminated during the opening heats.

The 58 second intro of Cherub Rock (from Siamese Dream) and the 55 seconds of I Am One (from Gish) are good choices for intermediate players.

I hope that the tips I have outlined above will improve the games of existing players and encourage others to take up the sport.

To my fellow professionals, I will see you all at the 'When Billy Corgan sings, the floor is made of lava' National Championships at the Birmingham NEC in July.

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