Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

14Mar/0915

The Smithereens – Now and Then

Gotta give thanks here at the top to Brian and The Frontloader for helping to spread the word about my current vinyl contest in support of Record Store Day.

Yes kids, a contest in which YOU can win some free vinyl from your good ol' buddy Matt here at Addicted to Vinyl. All I need you to do is share with me your story about the first album/CD purchase you ever made.

Click here and lay it on me in the comments!

Bruce at Not Lame Records caught my eye this evening with a Twitter message pointing me towards a page's worth of collected Smithereens videos courtesy of threedonia.com. One video in particular snagged my interest - an obviously live performance of "Now and Then" from the Blow Up album!

In the early 90s, quite a few people owned a copy of 11, the Smithereens album that caught a good amount of attention and radio/TV play with the single "A Girl Like You." 11 was in fact, the album that opened my eyes to the recorded genius of The Smithereens.

The Smithereens - Blow Up

I picked up 11, and slowly made my way through acquiring the rest of the catalog, and then anxiously awaited new releases from the band. Blow Up was an unfortunately titled album for the band, as things really did blow up for the band after the release, and not in a good way. The album was sadly overlooked, and the followup album A Date With The Smithereens (their first album for RCA after parting ways with Capitol Records,) suffered the same lack of attention from the record buying public.

It's a total shame, because both albums are great and in the same league with 11. I ended up seeing The Smithereens at least 4 times on the Date tour, including a show at the Newport in Columbus where scheduled openers The Grays were replaced at the last minute by this band called Weezer. That's right, I saw Weezer in front of a crowd of about 10 people that had showed up early to see the no-name opening bands. The show happened slightly prior to the release of "The Blue Album," and after that album was released, you know the rest of the story. On this night in Columbus, OH, they were far from being stars, and were the first band on the bill before Cindy Lee Berryhill, and a subsequent headlining set from The Smithereens. This show still rates as the best show I ever saw Weezer perform.

Back to The Smithereens..

I've always wished that I could take some friends back in a time machine to those days when The Smithereens were performing epic shows where the setlist went out the window within a half hour of the band taking the stage. I was amazed at the impressive grip that the band had on their catalog - they really could perform any song that was requested, no matter what album, no matter how obscure.

Thanks to this rare video of the band's appearance on The Dennis Miller Show, you can catch a small glimpse of the amazing unit made up of singer Pat Dinizio, guitarist Jim Babjak, eternally youthful bass player Mike Mesaros, and band historian/drummer Dennis Diken. I sometimes forget that Blow Up has some of my favorite Smithereens tracks - tracks like "Girl In Room 12," "Evening Dress," and "Now and Then." "The video below of "Now and Then" will give you a great appreciation for Babjak as a guitarist. I've always admired the modesty in his playing, and his ability to subtly drop a solo on you full of riffs that rip your face off. Here in Ohio, he was always good for a request for "White Castle Blues" as well!

Here's the other track that was performed on that night on The Dennis Miller Show - "Top of the Pops," which includes a short interview with the band on the tail end of the clip.

While we're on the subject of "Now and Then," I thought I'd share a rare live version featuring The Cowsills (who also backed the band on this song on Blow Up.)

The Smithereens - Now and Then (live)

Remembering the request-heavy shows that I saw in the 90s, I have to share one more track with you - a live version of "Groovy Tuesday" from the BBC, which was always one of my favorites to shout out (followed closely by "Time and Time Again.")

The Smithereens - Groovy Tuesday (BBC)

The 'Reens have a busy year on tap, some of which I've detailed previously here. Frontman Pat Dinizio also has a new limited edition autobiography on the way, packaged with some pretty cool items, and his annual Memorial Day fan shows have just been announced.

Dinizio is currently on the road touring an extensive winter living room tour - Check out the tour dates here.

Relevant Links:

The Smithereens - Blow Up - CD or MP3 Download

  • stereo dictator

    Hey Matt, Great stuff as usual. You’re right that “Blow Up” and “A Date With” were unjustly ignored. Both are really good records.

    Cool video from the Dennis Miller Show. I can remember when he was still funny and not political.

  • Greg Makris

    How are you Matt? My name is Greg and I saw them about 12 times from 1988 to 1994. They would open with “Drown In My Own Tears”, then “Green Thoughts” and after that, “Groovy Tuesday”. From then (this is 1990) “Room Without A View”, and on. I met them several times after shows, and they were top-notch guys. The one song I never heard them play live was “Listen To Me Girl”. They played it other places (rarely) but I never heard it. Hey, If you ever want to get a hold of me, feel free. Bye!

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  • John

    I was at that Columbus show! Rivers Cuomo had long hair and Pat Wilson’s drumkit looked dinky compared to Dennis Diken’s. Years later I interviewed Matt Sharp for a Rentals feature and asked if he had remembered that show. He said he did.