Lead singer Billy Corgan wrote this about making the transition out of youth and into adulthood. He remembered being in high school and having adult responsibilities like a car and job, but still being very much a youth and dependent on his parents.
Corgan chose 1979 for the title because it rhymed with many of the words he wanted to use in the lyrics. (thanks, Susan - Scarsdale, MT)
Corgan (from VH1 Storytellers): "Sometimes, when I write a song, I see a picture in my head. For some reason, it's of the obscure memory I have." The memory that goes with this song is from when he was around 18 years old. He was driving down a road near his home on a rainy night, and was waiting at a traffic light. He says that the picture "emotionally connotes a feeling of waiting for something to happen, and not being quite there yet, but it's just around the corner."
This was the last song written for Mellon Collie. Corgan told the producer that he thought it had a lot of potential, so the producer gave Corgan 24 hours to make it work, or else it wouldn't be on the album. He went home that night and came up with the lyrics, and they recorded it the next day. (thanks, Peter - Greer, SC, for above 2)
Corgan had a version of this written long before it was released, but he didn't think it fit the mood of any of their previous albums.
The video took 3 days to shoot and included a scene where a bunch of kids are at a party, and Smashing Pumpkins are the house band. The original tape of this scene was lost after a crew member forgot that had placed it on top of his car and drove away. A new video was cobbled together with unused footage, plus new footage shot by the group. The production assistant who drove off without the tapes was sentenced to stand in the city center with a sandwich board that said: "Lost Tapes, reward for return" on it. (thanks, Alex - Oxford, England)
This was nominated for 2 Grammys - Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance.
Billy Corgan once joked, "We wrote this song for Michael Jackson, but found he couldn't do the Moonwalk to it." (thanks, BONES - New Plymouth, New Zealand)