Remembering Pat DiNizio – The Smithereens

Spotify compiles user stats at the end of the year, which is interesting to get a little insight into your listening habits.  Plus they also provide a custom playlist based on your favorite songs.  Anyway I mention this because I do listen to a lot of music and try to highlight some of the best material I come across in my weekly emails.  While Spotify is not the only source of music I listen to, it is a primary one.  According to Spotify this past year I listened to over 6K songs by over 1300 artists for almost 43K minutes.  I’ll save you on the math – that’s 716 hours or pretty much 30 full days.  So one entire month of the year was spent listening to music (thankfully I multitask).
Slow again with new releases as we sprint to the end of 2017.  Eminem has a new album with a lot of big names involved  Rick Rubin and Dr. Dre serving as executive producers and featuring appearances from Ed Sheeran, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Kehlani, X Ambassadors, P!nk and more – hopefully “Revival” is an entertaining listen.  N.E.R.D. have come out with a new S/T album after a seven year gap.  The trio of Pharrell, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley bring out guns that easily match or surpass Eminem’s cast – Rihanna, Future, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Andre 3000 and once again Ed Sheeran contributed to the album, among others.
Who is Pat DiNizio?  Well, if you’re asking that question that’s exactly why I’m writing this.  DiNizio was the front man for The Smithereens and he passed away this week at the age of 62.  The Smithereens, though they had some success, were a greatly underrated band who wrote some terrific songs.  Most of their success happened in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s before they got lost in the grunge wave.  DiNizio was inspired to start his own band by Buddy Holly, after playing in several cover bands (including prog and metal).  He placed an ad in a NY paper looking for musicians who were influenced by Holly, Elvis Costello, The Clash and Nick Lowe.  He eventually came across 3 high school students in NJ who had played together in school.  Dennis Diken on drums, Jim Babjak on guitar and Mike Mesaros on bass.  This was back in 1980.  They released an EP that year that had moderate local success.  They spent the next 3 years playing in the NY/NJ area and then released a second EP in ’83.  It got some play on college radio and a positive review in Rolling Stone magazine, but they were still having problems growing their audience.  They spent the next two years traveling and playing on the road, opening up for established artists.  Now it was 1985, 5 years together and they were frustrated by their lack of progress.  Their demos were being ignored by record labels.  They finally got signed by Enigma and worked with producer Don Dixon to release their first LP “Especially For You” in 1986.  Thanks to more college airplay and an MTV played video for “Blood And Roses” the album was a moderate hit, almost cracking the Billboard Top 50.  This earned them a contract with Capitol.  Over a 5 year period The Smithereens released four excellent albums.  Most popular was album #3 “11”, due to a top 40 charting by “A Girl Like You” and earning the album gold status.  After 3 albums with Capitol, they moved over to RCA in ’94.  By then grunge had taken over and the band was no longer growing their fan base.  However, they had a sizeable cult following and toured throughout the ‘90s, while releasing a few compilation albums and one more with original material.  Once the 21st century rolled around, the band was still together, releasing compilations, live albums and even a holiday album.  They released tribute albums to the Beatles and The Who (I have a great live recording of them covering “The Seeker”).  In 2011, they released their final studio album and the first one with original songs in 11 years titled “Smithereens 2011”.
Even this year, The Smithereens were planning some tours.  Unfortunately DiNizio had some injuries and they had to be canceled.  They had a tour planned in January ’18, but now they’ll have to cancel their upcoming shows with Pat DiNizio’s passing.  Since he was the main songwriter, lead singer and guitarist for the band, it’s safe to say The Smithereens have also been put to rest.  But they have a terrific legacy and the type of music they played is timeless.  Some of their career highlights beyond what I mentioned previously include gold and platinum records, appearances on The Tonight Show, MTV Unplugged and Saturday Night Live. They spent 37 years together as a band, a huge accomplishment by itself.  In addition to his work with The Smithereens, DiNizio also released four solo albums and worked as a program director for XM Radio’s “Unsigned Channel”.  He also ran the grants program for Jim Beam Brands’ “Benefitting Emerging Artists in Music”. If you’re not familiar with The Smithereens or haven’t listened to them in 20 years, I suggest you go pull up some of their music.  Their debut album “Especially For You” is as good a place as any to start.  Here are a few songs below you should check out.
Blood And Roses – Probably my favorite song by this band, this was how I first became aware of The Smithereens.  Of their debut album “Especially For You”, this song features a killer bass line and a whole lot of melancholy.   
Only A Memory – The lead track and hit song from their second album “Green Thoughts”.  You’ll start to notice a theme of melancholy now, but that’s one of the things that made The Smithereens stand out.  Very well-crafted songs that have a twist of darker themes.  The Beatles going off to the darkside.
A Girl Like You – Again, the hit song placed as track #1, this time on their 3rd album “11”.  The guitars were cranked up a bit more on this album, the drums sounded louder.  The band and label were going for greater commercial success.
“Strangers When We Meet” – This was the very 1st track on their first album “Especially For You”.  Wanted to highlight a slightly softer side of the band.  There are some greater instrumental sections near the end of the song.

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