According to various interviews with lead singer Billy Corgan, this song's lyric is an ironic attack on the "indie" credibility in Chicago's music scene that had him frustrated - the old complaint about bands going to major labels and becoming sellouts. In Rolling Stone, Corgan said: "I won't play some one else's game anymore. This album was really a strong affirmation to myself: 'F--k you, I don't care. I'm going to do this.' The funny part about it is that it's working. Which says to me I should have trusted myself all along."
The Siamese Dream album contains 13 tracks and runs over an hour; their previous album Gish was 10 songs with a running time of about 45 minutes. Since CDs were now the format of choice and could hold more music, the band was pushed by Virgin Records to fill more of it, which put pressure on the band and affected their workflow.
According to Billy Corgan, this pressure to produce kept him from refining this song. Speaking with Creem magazine, he said: "I wrote 'Cherub Rock' in half an hour. I heard it one day while I was driving up the road and it was one of the last songs I wrote before we did the album. The thing is, there's parts of me that wonder what would have happened if I'd spent four hours writing it, and not done something else. How much better a song would it have been?"
Smashing Pumpkins played this song when they were the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, October 30, 1993.
Kevin Kerslake directed the music video, which he shot with a Super-8 camera. He also used a Super-8 on Nirvana's video for "Sliver
" and Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" to create a low-fi look.
Corgan was in a dark place around the time he wrote the song. "I was suicidal, and I'd been plotting my own death for about two months," he told NME in 2011. "If you've ever read anything about the warning signs of suicide one of them is you give away all your stuff, and I'd given away all my stuff, I gave away all my records, I started giving away my guitars. I was fantasizing about my own death, I started thinking what my funeral would be like and what music would be played, I was at that level of insanity."