Dennis Diken

Rock Report–The Smithereens: Smokin’ Into 2012 At B.B. King’s, Times Square! The Mac Wire Checks In With Dennis Diken!

By Anne M. Raso


The Smithereens’ Winter Tour is coming to your town soon and–dare we say it–leaving smithereens in their wake. Why? Because they are one of the rare bands that have been together over 30 years but still play at the top of their game.


The Smithereens’ current album, 2011, reunited the legendary band with Green Thoughts producer Don Dixon and was released April of last year. It reached #17 on the iTunes album charts and  garnered accolades and awards along the way–but most recently it wound up on numerous end of year “best of” lists from famous DJs and radio stations (including Little Steven’s Underground Garage show on Sirius) and classic rock magazines. As for the follow-up album to 2001, no studio time has been booked yet but Diken tells us, “We are so gassed by the reaction that 2011 received and we are enthused about cutting a new LP (I still think of them as long players) this year. Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive to us!”


This coming Saturday, January 21st, the ‘Reens will be blowin’ up BB King’s in Times Square and this show is an annual traditional for tristate area ‘Reens fans. They fans line up outside the world-famous venue hours in advance even when the temperature falls below zero, but it’s a more pleasant line than outside most shows–that’s because the band’s devoted large following seems to all know each other (as well as the band, since they make it a point of talking to fans after the show and doing a merchandise signing table). 



Diken comments that the band always looks forward to the NYC show: “We love playing B.B.’s, it’s a nice room and the stage sound is very good. That’s an important factor that an audience may never consider but how we hear ourselves is so crucial. The crew there is helpful, especially the monitor man. on another note, it always feels like a homecoming to us. Our NJ/NY/CT/PA fans (they are the best!) and cousins and friends always show up and are very vocal in their response to our set. We feed off their energy and it’s great fun. also, I’m usually home before midnight!”


The Winter Tour is special this year because they’ve added a keyboardist, Andy Burton, a member of Ian Hunter’s Rant Band and Darlene Love’s backup group who recently performed with Garland Jeffreys on The David Letterman show back on October 7th. Besides touring with the ‘Reens, Andy is in the studio working on the new Ian Hunter CD. (Wow, that’s one busy guy!) 

We asked the band’s much-respected skinpounder Dennis Diken (whom we’ve dubbed “The Earl Of Pearl”) about their history with Burton and why they’ve decided to bring him out for the current shows and he responded, “We first met Andy Burton when he played keyboards with Richard X. Heyman as our support act on the Blow Up Tour (gee, I think it was the Blow Up Tour)–since then, I’ve played numerous sessions and live gigs with him. He’s a great keyboardist and a fine gent, to boot. when we decided to bring out someone to play organ, piano and string parts on some songs we haven’t done live in a while (and some that we always perform that feature keyboards). Andy was a natural choice.” 



The jovial Diken will not give up the not-usually-performed-live songs they will be playing with Burton, though. He just says, “Please come to the show and find out which one we’ve chosen!” 


Diken has plenty of side projects including the group Dennis Diken And Bell Sound, which channels all of the influential bands he grew up with (but we think, especially The Beach Boys). The Carteret, NJ native reveals, “I just cut a version of ‘Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)’ for a specific project with Bell Sound and special guests David Marks (original Beach Boys member) and Eddie Brigati of The Rascals. The session was held at Charlie Blood’s, my favorite joint, in Garfield, NJ.” 

You can catch the world-class sticksman (and rock historian, we might add) at The Bowery Electric in New York on Friday, February 2–he will be playing with (INCREDIBLY) three different bands that night. Besides Bell Sound, Dennis will be hittin’ the cans for the nouveau mod band Edward Rogers & The Biba Crowd (for more info, see edwardrogersmusic.com) and Marni Rice & Le Garage Cabaret (for more see dejouxmusic.com). Diken has also played with the legendary original New York punk scene band The Sic F*cks as well, so that will tell you about his diversity in musical tastes. If you are interested in the Bowery Electric show, tickets are a bargain at $8, showtime is 8PM with doors opening at 7:30. Tickets are available at the door and the location is 327 Bowery between 2nd and 3rd Streets, Manhattan. Phone is 212-288-0228 and they have an official Myspace page, www.myspace.com/boweryelectric1 and Facebook page that is simply called Bowery Electrik (yes, only the FB page is spelled with a “k” for some strange reason).



For those of you wanting to catch the Smithereens at BB King Blues Club, here is all the basic info you’ll need. The club is conveniently located in the heart of Times Square at 237 West 42nd Street, in New York City, on January 21, at 8 PM.  Doors open at 6:30 PM. Tickets are $27 in advance and $32 day of show.  The venue phone is 212-997-4144, and the web site is http://www.bbkingblues.com.


Die-hard Smithereens fans who want to find out more details about the band’s history should check out leader Pat DiNizio’s open-ended limited engagement Las Vegas show “Confessions Of A Rock Star” (yes, there’s a book to go with it as well). The show, which features the great storytelling with is synonymous with DiNizio’s “living room concerts,” is performed Wednesday-Monday nights each week at 7 in The Riviera’s Crazy Girls Theater and it features not only DiNizio’s talented onstage trio, but an interesting montage of historical footage. For tickets (which are $29.95 plus fees), go to ticketmaster.com.


The Smithereens also have a Facebook fan page called The Smithereens Official Facebook Group For Band, which is an open FB group definitely worth checking out!

 

Photos of the Smithereens’ Union County Music Fest performance and Dennis Diken mcing the Bambi Kino show at the Bowery Electric are both by Anne Raso. Shot of keyboardist Andy Burton by Seth Glassman. The Smithereens b/w publicity shot courtesy The Smithereens (pictured left to right are lead guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Severo “Tha Thrilla” Journacion, drummer Dennis Diken and lead singer/rhythm guitarist Pat DiNizio).

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Top Concert Pick: A Double Dose of Dennis Diken— Sunday 9-18, Union County Music Fest, Clark, NJ

By Anne M. Raso


We make it no secret here that we think that Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken is the top sticksman in rock and roll, and this Sunday you have the rare chance to catch him with The Smithereens back to back with his side group, Bell Sound at The Union Country Music Fest. Bell Sound goes on at 1:15 PM and the Smithereens go on at 3:45 PM, and best of all, it is a free festival and there is easy access from NYC by NJ Transit trains from Penn Station. More info on the festival, which includes a set from Blondie at 8:45 PM on Saturday night and many other fine bands of renown, can be found at www.ucmusicfestcom.
    Bell Sound has been enjoying a lot of critical acclaim for their most recent release Late Music and we got to hear a bit of it recently when the band helmed a show at the Morris Museum that included many guest classic rock artists that included David and Eddie Brigati of Rascals fame and Scottish drummer Andy White, who played on The Beatles’ “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”  and who now resides in the Garden State.
    We caught up with Dennis this week and he seems very excited about bringing Bell Sound to a large crowd (and not far from where he resides in central NJ). He tells us, “I can’t believe that September marks two years since the release of Late
Music! But we’re delighted that people are still discovering and digging it; it’s very gratifying to hear from folks when they take the time to write. We’ve done some wonderful gigs in 2011 and we’re looking forward to playing the Union County Music Fest this year. We’ll be featuring songs from the album and offer a few surprises as well. It will be nice to see many of our NJ friends.”
     He goes on about Late Music, which definitely seems heavily Beach Boys influenced with its beautiful, deep vocal harmonies and sometimes flower powerish musical vibe which includes a use of late 60s style keyboards: “Many fine musicians helped Pete DiBella, Dave Amels and me in the making of Late Music. I’m grateful to have the support of a talented group of guys to play in the live lineup of Bell Sound. They all happen to be dear friends as well. (The group consists of) Dave Amels on keyboards and percussion, Chris Bolger on guitar, myself on drums, Steve Gaechter on keyboards, Mike Jodry  on guitar and Peter Stuart Kohman on bass. And we all sing!”
     We had to ask DD about how The Smithereens are still going strong 31 years later with their current album 2011 and that fact that it reached #17 on the iTunes charts less than two weeks “outta da box” back in April. The album has two hits singles so far: “Sorry” and “One Look At You.” The bespectacled, Hawaiian shirt-wearing skinpounder explains,” I’ve gotta say, the warm reception we’ve had  for 2011 means the world to me and the guys in The Smithereens. Many fans who haven’t seen us in years are coming out again and some people tell us that they are catching us for the first time. We’re honored that we can still make people feel good!” There is even a new Android app for The Smithereens–you can get more info about it at https://market.android.com/.

    The Mac Wire will be out in full force on Sunday! Yes, we show up at nearly ever Smithereens New York-New Jersey area show just because their lives sets never disappoint!  If you can stay still during one of their sets, you’d better check yourself for a pulse. Both The Smithereens and Bell Sound bring music to the table that pays homage to the best of the past, but takes it one step further. Both group’s level of consistency is amazing–and it’s very endearing just how much they love what they’re doing!

Photo Of Dennis Diken by Donna Diken, photo of The Smithereens by Anne Raso.

Groove With Dennis Diken & Bell Sound At The Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ on 8/20@8PM!

(Photo credit: Dennis Diken shot by Donna Diken.)

By Anne M. Raso

Classic rock fanatics–be sure to be at Morris Museum’s Bickford Theatre on Saturday, August 20th at 8:00 PM. Superstar skinpounder Dennis Diken will not only be performing with his group Bell Sound–his side project from The Smithereens–but he will share his memories of growing up in New Jersey “when rock & roll ruled our lives, and I wanted nothing more than to play in a band!” The name of the night’s program is Groovin’: A Musical Journey of Stories and Sounds and it will not disappoint!

In case you don’t know, Carteret, NJ native Diken has not only been the “man on the cans” for The Smithereens for 31 years now–plus started the Beach Boys-influenced Bell Sound–but he is also a noted rock historian and journalist. He has countless compilation album liner notes on legendary artists to his credit, including Louis Prima and The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Diken’s performance with Bell Sound and discussion at the Morris Museum promises to bring out some interesting “special guests”–possibly some who have memorabilia in the Museum’s current exhibition, Jersey Rocks: A History of Rock & Roll In The Garden State. (You can see Diken’s own rock memorabilia as part of The Smithereens’ display there, as well as Felix Cavaliere’s B-3 organ that he used on The Rascals’ “Good Lovin'” and countless other items from the likes of Joey Dee and the Starliters, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Dionne Warwick, the Shirelles, Connie Francis, Lesley Gore, The Angels, The Delicates, the Happenings, the Critters, the Duprees, Ricky Nelson, and the 1910 Fruitgum Company.)

Concert/discussion tickets include pre-performance admission to the Jersey Rocks exhibition. Tickets are $25 ($20 for museum members). For more info, please contact the box office at 973-971-3706 or go to morrismuseum.org. The museum is just a few short miles from the NJ Transit train station in Morristown, so there is easy access from New York City and all of northern and central New Jersey. The Museum’s address is 6 Normandy Heights Road (at the corner of Columbia Turnpike).

Diken promises a fun night for all and we can’t wait to see who sits in with Bell Sound or who turns up in the audience to ask questions.  Pardon the pun, but members of themacwire.com staff will be there “with bells on” and you should be, too! Heck, it’s worth going to see for the world’s greatest rock drummer alone–and we’re not saying that just because our whole staff is from New Jersey! DD pounds the cans like no one else can! (If you can’t make it to the Morris Museum, at least be sure to check out Diken’s work with Bell Sound, Late Music, and The Smithereens’ latest disc, 2011!)

OUR TOP LABOR DAY WEEKEND CONCERT PICK–Smithereens 30th Anniversary Homecoming Concert!

By Anne M. Raso

What can we say? Be there or be bored! At 8PM on Saturday, September 4th, 2010 at Carteret Park, Carteret, NJ is the Smithereens 30th Anniversary Homecoming Concert–the guys will also be getting the key to the city and there will be post concert fireworks. (Directions and other pertinent information can be found at officialsmithereens.com and http://www.ci.carteret.nj.us/.) If you want to be extremely picky about your Smithereens history, three of the members (guitarist Jim Babjak, drummer Dennis Diken and original bassist Mike Mesaros) actually knew each other in high school in Carteret, circa 1971. (Lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Pat DiNizio found the three aspiring musicians through an ad he placed in the Aquarian Weekly music paper in 1980.) Hmm, since three of the band members have known each other since 1971, does this mean they can get away with doing a 40th Anniversary Homecoming Concert next year?!
       We caught up with Pat DiNizio yesterday by phone as the band rehearsed in the East Village for the much anticipated free show and tried to get as any details out of him as we could regarding the set. The band still tours almost as much as the old days, and Pat does a lot of intimate solo shows called Living Room Concerts where you can actually get up onstage and perform with him (although there really is no stage in a living room)! There are many of these shows coming up across the country, so please be sure to check out patdinizio.com for more details.
    But back to Saturday’s show (which we have been talking about to anyone who’ll listen although we just personally started listening to them after seeing their blistering set at Rock Con four or five weeks ago). As you Smithereens fans already know, the band is in 3/4s of its original lineup who first got their start playing the Court Tavern in (you guessed it), Carteret, NJ. Mike Mesaros retired a few years ago (he is in the San Francisco area and is rumored to be in the restaurant business) and was replaced a few years ago by Severo Jornacion, aka “The Thrilla From Manila.”  We’re still laughing about the urban legend that when “The Thrilla” learned he was replacing Mesaros in the Smithereens, he bought a Sopranos boxed set to “learn what guys from New Jersey are like.”  Pat has described himself as “Tony Soprano without the homicidal tendencies” in one article, but Tony is not as nearly as hip and savvy!
   Of course, we asked Pat if Mike would be returning for the show on Saturday and he told us, “I don’t know–that’s a surprise! I do not know. I have not been in contact with him but he was asked to stop by his old hometown…and the rumor is that he is coming but I am not sure. I can’t say. If I were you writing about or whatever, I would take I any way you want it.” (If you want our editorial staff’s honest opinion, we think that this means YES but it is supposed to be a surprise!)

 As for other surprise guests, the singer/songwriter/guitarist who seems to have the drive, energy and smarts of three or four people combined states, “As of this time there are no plans other than the band itself to perform but if any of the artists we invited come to the show they are welcome to come to the stage and perform with us.”

    And the all-important question we had for Pat was about Saturday’s set list! He revealed, “I would say that that since we are playing where the group started in Carteret, NJ, we will go back to 1980 and play some of the songs we were doing when we first formed because some of our friends who were there at the beginning will most likely turn up. We’ll see if that will bring smiles to their faces. We will probably go back and do songs off of both of our Beatles tribute albums which did very well as well as an album we released recently called The Smithereens Play Tommy…and we will do some of the recent compositions that were on our Smithereens Live In Concert album that have actually never been officially recorded in a recording studio so it will definitely be an eclectic and interesting mix of our radio hits to “deep cuts” as they now call them and selections from recent albums.”

Photo: Courtesy of Anne Raso Collection

 We have nothing further to say except that we are awaiting the Smithereens 30th Anniversary Concert with anticipation because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal and as Pat puts it, “We give people more value for their money than what they actually pay for because of what they have done for us.” Let us add that the band is still playing at the top of their game (unlike many others who have been around for as long) and that they seem to really play off the energy of their fans, no matter what size venue they are performing in. We here at themacwire.com wish them at least 30 more good years!

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