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The Smithereens

Dressed in leather, brandishing heavy guitars, and exhibiting an unabashed fetish for British Invasion pop, the Smithereens were an anomaly in the American college rock scene of the late '80s. Lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Pat DiNizio stood out not only with his strange beatnik goatee, but also because his catchy hooks were haunting, not punchy, and because his lyrics were morose. As time wore on, the group became more straightforward, turning into an excellent bar band, one that attacked pop songs with the weight of AC/DC. A few hits followed, but the Smithereens seemed hopelessly out of date in the alternative rock explosion of the early '90s, and they quietly faded into a working cult band.

Of course, the Smithereens essentially started out as a working band. After playing in several cover bands, including a handful of prog rock and metal groups, DiNizio was inspired to form his own band after listening to Buddy Holly. Placing an advertisement in a New York paper for musicians influenced by Holly, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and the Clash, DiNizio eventually came into contact with New Jersey high-school students Dennis Diken (drums), Jim Babjak (guitar), and Mike Mesaros (bass), who had all played together in school. By the end of 1980, they had independently released Girls About Town, an EP featuring four songs with "girl" in the title that was a moderate local success. For the next three years, the group played around New Jersey and New York, not releasing another record until 1983's Beauty and Sadness. While the EP earned some play on college radio and received a positive review in Rolling Stone, they still had trouble gaining an audience, so they began supporting traveling oldies artists like Otis Blackwell, with whom they recorded an album's worth of material, and the Beau Brummels.

By 1985, the Smithereens were growing frustrated by their lack of progress, as most of the demos they sent to labels were ignored. They did send a demo to Enigma, where Scott Vanderbilt, a former college DJ who was a fan of the band several years earlier, signed the group. In 1986, the band released its debut album, the Don Dixon-produced Especially for You, to positive reviews. On the strength of college airplay, as well as MTV's airing of "Blood and Roses" -- a video financed by a film studio that included the song in the B-movie Dangerously Close -- the album became a moderate hit, climbing to number 51 on the charts and leading to a major-label contract with Capitol. The Smithereens supported the album with an extensive tour, and they recorded their second record weeks after they left the road.

Green Thoughts appeared early in 1988, and the first single, "Only a Memory," not only became a college and modern rock hit, but it crossed over to album rock stations as well. The Smithereens made their attempt for big-time album rock success with their third album, 11. Hiring producer Ed Stasium brought a heavier guitar sound, which made "A Girl Like You" -- a song rejected as the theme for the comedy Say Anything -- a Top 40 hit, sending 11 to gold status. "Too Much Passion," the first single from their fourth album, Blow Up, indicated that the new record was more adventurous and produced, and the single did become a Top 40 hit, yet the album itself failed to replicate the success of its predecessor.

Blow Up was their last album for Capitol, and they moved to RCA for 1994's A Date with the Smithereens, their first album since Green Thoughts to be produced by Don Dixon. By that time, the alternative and mainstream rock scenes had been heavily altered by grunge, which essentially left the band without an avenue for their records to be heard. The album bombed, but the Smithereens retained a sizable cult following that helped them tour successfully into the late '90s. In 1995, they released a pair of compilations, the hits package Blown to Smithereens and the rarities collection Attack of the Smithereens.

After a five-year recording hiatus, the group returned to the studio for 1999's God Save the Smithereens. Another series of compilations and live recordings appeared between 2000 and 2006, with Meet the Smithereens! arriving the following year along with a holiday album, Christmas with the Smithereens. Live in Concert! Greatest Hits and More, recorded at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, NJ, appeared in 2008. Two tribute albums would follow, with B-Sides the Beatles arriving in 2008 and The Smithereens Play Tommy following in 2009. In 2011 they issued Smithereens 2011, their first album of original songs in 11 years. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

jkleven
I watched them play at the Fargo Civic Center in 1988 (+/-) and it was FANTASTIC. Green Thoughts was almost always the kick-off record to our college house parties ca. 1990. Love 'em.
arkhammer7
These guys got good pop
I'm going to see the Smithereens Jan 25 @ The State Theatre in Falls Church. Hope it's good !!!
A little gentler than their norm , but very nice .
mrsnarula
One of my favorite bands...hand s down. They still rock live, too! First concert I brought my kids to see as well. Rock On Pat!
GOD bless the SMITHEREENS.
They just don't make 'em like this anymore..... . . .
Love them. Good memories....
Smithereens are the exception to the rule that cover albums/gimmi c k s are a last resort when the band is untalented. They just did it cuz they could...
When a band has to resort to gimmicks, it reveals the band is deficient in talent. Thumbs down
A REAL band....
Amazing band...first 4 albums rule, 2011 is great, and I need to see them live.
kvons1
Miles From Nowhere----- s u m s it up nicely. Smithereens- - - d e c e n t group of the times.
jkleven
Their new album 2011 has reminded me to dust off the old Smithereens collection. I spent A LOT of time listening to these guys during our college ('89-'92) house-party days. Green Thoughts was always a party-starte r for me!
big_unit4
Babjak is one bad a** guitar player.
THE SMITHEREENS just played a July 4th show in Frederick, Maryland (Washington D.C. area) - my first time seeing them. What a MASSIVE sound, so much chemistry, riffs, and ENERGY live! I visited the area from Florida, and sought this show out. NOT disappointed . The Smithereens did a (FREE!) meet & greet after the show, and signed my copy of 11 I brought (plus my new copy of the great 2011 I bought there). If you loved them on college radio in the 80s, The Smithereens are *still* great today!!
Love this band. Pat is such a great songwriter.. . .
apryl_wime
The old 930 Club in dc is where I saw them back in the day.
dennislieb
Just saw them Sunday night, Oct 9th at the Muskfest Cafe on the grounds of the revitalized Bethlehem Steel plant in Bethlehem Pa. They rocked the place down...peopl e jumping on stage to sing with the band. They stayed around after to chat with fans. Very genuine and friendly guys who know how to play danceable rock and roll.
linda19812
I saw them years ago at a little place on the East End of Long Island and loved them ever since. I totally dig the punchy bass riffs!
Can't wait to see them in Chicago Tonight.
Just a great,"worki n g class" band from Jersey !
david.pawlak
Saw Pat DiNizio do one of his "back yard jam sessions" near Yorkville, IL. at a friends house. // he's a really cool, personable dude who still has some good pipes on him! It was too cool to hear him jam in my buddies living room and tell his rock-n-roll stories... whoa!
m_cd_31
Sounds just like Elvis Costello singing. Love it!
Wish they would get back together! Saw them live and the rocked! Have all of their music!
Blown to Smithereens always survives the cut when I reduce my CD collection. These guys play solid music, no compromise.
don't care what anybody says...these guys are "good times". Would fork out money any day to "drown my sorrows" with these dudes doin the honors.
mbfinch6
I really like this band, my 15yr old daughter cannot stand them however, can't figure these kids nowadays.
They will be playing in Carteret New Jersey the first weekend of September for more information call 732-541-3801
ed_bandas
One of my favorite stations I have! I really dug this band in the 80's in college and Pandora has really revived some great memories.
92tcm3
agreed
tmork_1
good band
The Smithereens were my favorite band in the late 80s and 1990s. I saw them at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa. in 1990. Unforgettabl e show. Now that I can listen to practically any music in the world on Pandora, Smithereens Radio is still one of my favorites. I realize my love of them was no passing fancy. Love DiNizio's lyrics and that he resembles Maynard G. Krebs. Has any noticed that many of his song titles are the names of 1950s films, especially romantic dramas?
cheeseheadki t t y
Saw them at the WXRT Christmas Is For Kids charity concert at the Riviera theatre in 1991, they absolutely had the entire place in the palms of their hands, they were that good. One of the best, most high energy shows I have ever seen.
dcarr5
Great college alt-rock band...reall y good stuff
b**chin rock.....
Saw 'em twice back in the '90's. Great band. Just straight ahead rock and catchy as hell hooks and riffs.
kjr66
The Smithereens are like your favorite pair of jeans. Day-in, day-out you depend on and enjoy them but somehow they go under appreciated. The accesability of straight-for w a r d early Rock & Roll riffs combined with a sub-pop, Brit invasion sensibility makes them one of my favorites. I don't always wear my favoite jeans, but when I do, I count on them being as comfortable as the Smithereens.
steve.alvis
Yes, Smithereens Saw them at a outdoor Knoxville Tn show. so much energy!Best alternative- p o p bands of the early 1990s
husker_dood
the second cassette i ever bought...gre a t songs
Smithereens have some great songs.
They are incredible live to this day! See them if you can!
This description does not acknowledge two very ambitious Beatles tribute albums they've recently released . . .
jan2886
do they play in NJ...would love to see them
Behind the Wall of Sleep is a flatout rock feast!
The Smithereens are one of the most consistent and dedicated musicians I have ever heard. Their music is pure rock-and-rol l and has always been so--no bowing to the charts to play what's hot. In a Lonely Place is my favorite.
One of my favorite bands to see live !
These guys can really work up a sweat on stage....goo d stuff !

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