The Smithereens

Beatlemania Turns 50 With The World’s Biggest Beatles Celebration In NYC

On February 7, 1964, The Beatles arrived in America and the world has never been the same. On February 7, 2014, The Fest for Beatles Fans, the world’s longest running Beatles celebration, will honor this moment with a 50th Anniversary event in New York City, the launch pad for the band’s world domination. Event founder Mark Lapidos announced that the 2014 Fest will take place on Friday, February 7 through Sunday, February 9 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City, with the dates and days of the week corresponding exactly to the dates of the Beatles’ 1964 arrival at JFK Airport, and performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Lapidos says, “We’re going all out to make this celebration of the Beatles’ 50th Anniversary and The Fest’s own 40th Anniversary, into our biggest and best show ever! It is exciting to return to New York City, to the very place where it all started in America.”

Guests at the New York Fest will include many close associates of the Beatles, several of whom were also chart topping British Invasion music stars including Donovan (“Mellow Yellow”), Peter Asher (Peter & Gordon “World Without Love” and former A&R at Apple Records), Billy J. Kramer (“Bad To Me”), Chad & Jeremy (“Yesterday’s Gone”), and former UK head of the Beatles Fan Club, Freda Kelly who is profiled in the recent documentary “Good Ol’ Freda.” Featuring more live music than ever before, additional guests include Ringo Starr’s current musical director Mark Rivera and former producer Mark Hudson, the Smithereens, Birds of Paradox (Steve Holley of Wings, and Gary Van Scyoc & Adam Ippolito of John Lennon’s 1972 concert band, the Nutopians), Ed Sullivan Show production executive Vince Calandra who stood in for George Harrison during “Sullivan” TV rehearsals, last season of NBC’s “The Voice” finalist Garrett Gardner, and Beatles tribute band Liverpool.

  
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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).

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.

Check Out Pat DiNizio & The Scotch Plainsmen At The City Winery, NYC, 8/22/11

By Anne M. Raso

HEY BULLDOGS, BEATLES FANS AND FOLKS WHO JUST LIKE GREAT CLASSIC ROCK PLAYED BY A ROCK LEGEND: GET READY TO HEAR BEATLES COVERS LIKE YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD THEM BEFORE!

For those of you who weren’t around for The Scotch Plainsmen’s first show at the City Winery back on January 5th of this year, you don’t know what you missed. The group, formed by Smithereens’ lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Pat DiNizio puts an interesting spin on Beatles’ tunes. Wait a second–that is putting it too mildly. Their versions of Beatles’ songs are actually more interesting to listen to than the originals (at least in this writer’s opinion).

Rhythm guitarist Sam Fairley talks about the group’s inception: “The band was the brainchild of Pat, born out of his love for The Beatles. Bruce Pike (bass), Tommy Frangione (rhythm guitar) and I had played with Pat at his October 2008 Living Room Concert (in his house in Scotch Plains, NJ) and he asked us if we would be interested in playing in a Beatles tribute band as a side project. We all jumped at the chance. We have a great time and thoroughly enjoy playing the music with Pat.”

While the January show at the City Winery was comprised of Let It Be played in sequence with a Beatles free-for-all or latter day “mix and match” of material towards the end of the set, the Plainsmens’ show on August 22nd will focus on Beatles’ movie music. The band received a lot of accolades for their Beatles’ movie music set played at DiNizio’s Annual Picnic And Fan Jam held each Memorial Day Weekend in (where else?) Scotch Plains! Bassist Pike (AKA “The Rev”) missed that show due to a heart attack and broken rib and we are happy to say that he is back and ready to rock. We here at this website don’t know about what “bonus” Beatles tracks will be added towards the end of the upcoming City Winery set, but we’re always up for a surprise! Besides DiNizio (who only sings at these shows even though he both sings and plays rhythm guitar with The Smithereens), the aforementioned rhythm guitarists Fairley and Frangione and bassist Pike, keyboardist David Solomon, lead guitarist Tim Donald and drummer Bill Truluck round out the band–and each gets to do a little singing and solos of other sorts!

DiNizio explains, “Our last set at the City Winery was very well received but centered on just one particular phase of the Beatles story–the very end. By performing songs from all of their movies, we can really dip into all phases of their career, including the initial innocence of Beatlemania. Moving ahead to the later years, you can really hear how the music progressed on songs like ‘I Am The Walrus’ and even ‘Hey Bulldog.’ Even the songs from their last film, where the band was breaking up, went on to become classics with proven staying power.”

“That was the thing about the Beatles,” says DiNizio. “Even when they were tossed into what could have been a quick cash-in on their initial fame (referring to their first movie, A Hard Day’s Night) they wrote songs and turned in performances that delivered what’s been dubbed ‘the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals.'”

The general seating tickets to this not-to-be-missed show are only $12 in advance but be aware that for the $35 ticket you get a wine pairing included. Since this is the City Winery, there are wines actually matched to certain Beatles’ songs that the Scotch Plainsmen play and if we recall correctly, we got at least six glasses last time! (Of course, if you don’t like wine, you can order scotch, LOL, but there are no specials despite the group’s name!) The food is also great but we can dedicate an entire posting to that! To purchase advanced tickets, go to www.citywinery.com. The address of the City Winery is 155 Varick Street between Spring and Vandam Streets, phone is (212) 608-0555. For further info, email info@citywinery.com. Showtime is at 8PM but doors open at 6PM

(Photo of Pat Dinizio And Bruce Pike from January 5th, 2011 City Winery show by Anne Raso; shot of Pat DiNizio courtesy Pat DiNizio and City Winery.)

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 Weekend Concert Pick—The Smithereens At Maplewoodstock, Sunday 7/10, 7:30 PM

By Anne M. Raso

The Smithereens are a one-of-a-kind band–not only have they been together in their almost-original lineup since March 1980 (original bassist Mike Messaros left the band five years ago and the high energy Left Coaster Severo “The Thrilla From Manila” Journacion stepped in) but they have remained true to their original Rickenbacker-infused sound. They sound something like if you put the Byrds, The Beatles, Lee Hazlewood and a few classic 60s garage bands in a blender and hit the “pulverize” button. Each of the four musicians–singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist Pat DiNizio, axeman Jim Babjak, drummer Dennis Diken and the aforementioned bassman Severo Journacion–all excel at what they do and still make pertinent new music. Their long-awaited 2011 album–whose title’s a play on the name of the Smithereens’ 1989 hit album 11–hit the iTunes chart at #17 only a week or two “out of the box” back in early April, something that most bands who have been around for 30-plus years have only dreamed of doing. The first single from the album, “Sorry,” has also been garnering a lot of radio airplay.

After the Smithereens’ set, they will be doing one of their customary meet and greet/merchandise signing for their fans, and you will undoubtedly notice seem to have an up-close and personal relationship with each fan. Lots of hugs and handshakes are exchanged. It’s a remarkable thing we noticed the first time we met the band at Rock Con in East Rutherford, NJ, last summer and there was a bee line for their table at the event–not to mention a wild crowd reaction to their performance. So be sure to bring your copy of 2011 to the Maplewoodstock show to be signed or buy one there! The group’s back catalog will also be there to purchase and get signed–and we are secretly hoping that DiNizio will have copies of his recent autobiography Confessions Of A Rock Star on hand as well.

DiNizio told us his philosophy towards being close with his fans and the band always giving their “all” in an interview we conducted by phone last year right before the band’s 30th anniversary concert in Carteret, NJ (where the group received keys to the city). He revealed, “You need to like people and be fairly loquacious and hang out with people and sort of embrace that…and unfortunately, most rock musicians I know have ran away from the very people who have been kind enough to buy records they have made and bought concert tickets. These same folks who owe people their livelihood tend to run away from them. I guess it is just the so-called artistic temperament. But even going back to the days I owned by own garbage business, I was always very friendly with my customers and I knew I had to give them more than they were paying for—that is just common sense in terms of business, and that is what the Smithereens do. We give people more value for their money than what they actually pay for because of what they have done for us. They deserve it.” ‘Nuff said?

So it comes as no surprise that The Mac Wire’s concert pick for this coming weekend is the ‘Reens’ free show as the headliners at Maplewoodstock, a free two-day annual event in Maplewood, NJ, that features dozens of bands old and new as well as plenty of food stands that range from all-American cupcakes to Ethiopian delights. (The official website is www.maplewoodstock.com but be sure to “like” Maplewoodstock on Facebook as well!) The quaint central NJ town is only 40 minutes by train from Penn Station, so there is no reason for New Yorkers who are Smithereeens’ fans and-or hardcore foodies not to attend! Oh, and don’t be afraid to shout out what Smithereens’ song you would like to hear next–they have been known to stray from the set list now and then! (Smithereeens’ fan will get that final pun–“Now And Then” is one of their most-loved tracks often requested at shows!)

Show Pick Of The Week–Pat Dinizio Guests With The Les Paul Trio…Plus Acoustic Smithereens And His Fabulous Beatles Cover Band The Scotch Plainsmen!

Rock Out At NYC’S Iridium Next Monday Night, May 9th, With Pat DiNizio In Three Styles: Jamming With The Les Paul Trio, Playing Acoustic Smithereens And Performing With His Highly Acclaimed Beatles Cover Band, The Scotch Plainsmen!

Photos And Text By Anne M. Raso

Where will we be next Monday, May 9th at 8 PM? At the Iridium in NYC (1650 Broadway between 50th and 51st Streets), checking out the traditional Monday night set by the Les Paul Trio with extra special guest Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens.
     DiNizio wears many hats both figuratively and literally–and besides jamming with the LPT featuring the fabulous Lou Pallo on the two-toned Gibson guitar named in his honor–the Smithereens’ head songwriter/singer/rhythm guitarist will be performing an acoustic Smithereens set and an vast assortment of singalong tunes with members of his Beatles cover band The Scotch Plainsmen.
     To be more specific, DiNizio will be having his talented bass player Bruce Pike, aka “The Rev” (since he is also the pastor of a NJ church) in tow, not to mention sizzlin’ Sam Fairley on guitar. These Jersey boys know how to rock and put an interesting spin on Beatles’ classics. We caught their show at the City Winery back on January 5th–the Plainsmen played the Let It Be album in its entirety to a full house and then later went back into the older Beatles catalog for songs the audience could not help but sing along to).
    As for the acoustic Smithereens set, DiNizio makes them special by sharing the “stories behind the songs” (he does not have the time to do this in a regular Smithereens set) and re-tells tales from his recently released autobiography Confessions Of A Rock Star. The Scotch Plains, NJ, native also throws in a song or two from his highly-acclaimed solo albums, and often takes requests.

The band at Pat DiNizio’s Fourth Annual Memorial Day Picnic event in Scotch Plains, NJ.
DiNizio sings “Dear Prudence” at the City Winery show.
 DiNizio and bassist Pike sing “Hey Jude” at The City Winery on January 5th, 2011

    Doors at the Iridium open at 7 for the 8PM show and keep in mind that there is a second set at 10PM well worth staying for.  The phone number for the Iridium Jazz Club is 212-582-2121 and the official website address is http://www.theiridium.com. If you go to the club’s official Facebook fan page Iridium Jazz Club and click on “Like,” you can then click on their Weekly Discounts link and get half price on the later set of this and many other fine shows (regular ticket price is $30). This themacwire.com staff member has to add that this is our favorite club in Manhattan both for its acoustics and intimate setting (and did we forget to mention the food, LOL)?
     For more info on Pat DiNizio, go to www.patdinizio.com and www.officialsmithereens.com. Just for the record, the Scotch Plainsmen will also be appearing at DiNizio’s Fifth Annual Memorial Day Picnic, Fan Jam And Concert on May 29th (tickets can be purchased at Dinizio’s site mentioned above) alongside The Smithereens—whose new CD, 2011, charted at #17 on the iTunes charts its first week out of the box last month. We got a tip that the theme of the Scotch Plainsmens’ set at the Memorial Day “picnic” will be Beatles movie tunes!
    Also of note is the fact Bruce Pike—a very talented bassist influenced by Jack Bruce and Chris Squire–is in a second band worth checking out called Home At Last which is also performing at DiNizio’s highly acclaimed Memorial Day weekend event. (Be sure to check The Home At Last Fan Page on Facebook.) Home At Last has six CDs in their catalog and the current one, Somewhere In The Vicinity, was recorded live with DiNizio as a guest vocalist.

Pat Dinizio & Buddy Holly

The MAC WIRE’S Top Concert Pick For This Coming Weekend–The Smithereens at B.B. King’s, NYC, Saturday, January 15th, 8PM!

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Photo: Anne Raso

     By Anne M. Raso
The annual Smithereens’ mid-January show at B.B. King’s in NYC has become somewhat of a musical “must-see” in the past few years. All the band’s New York tristate area fans seem to congregate at this concert like it’s some sort of rock and roll convention and the guys can usually count on a sellout. There are dozens of YouTube videos from past shows at the famous Times Square club as a testimony to this, and some diehard ‘Reenies do fly in from out of state and even out of the country.

Besides all the hits (“Blood And Roses,” “Only A Memory,” “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” and several more), the ‘Reens do fabulous Beatles’ and Who covers from their three recent CDs Meet The Smithereens, B-Sides The Beatles and The Smithereens Play Tommy. It might have seemed like a gargantuan task, but the Smithereens really did these songs justice (even though they initially met with some criticism for doing covers of such monumentally influential material). 

The Smithereens’ large grapevine of fans has been spewing out rumors of new material from the band’s forthcoming CD being performed at B.B. King’s on Saturday. This will be their first CD of original studio material to be released in over 10 years and is highly anticipated by fans. (The project will be released on Koch Records this May and DiNizio just got done the penning of the lyrics over the winter holiday according to his Facebook page, although he took plenty of time out to post vintage pics of the group and some of his favorite vintage music clips.)

I have caught the Smithereens live twice, lead singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist Pat DiNizio’s acoustic solo “Living Room” shows live twice and DiNizio’s Beatles cover band The Scotch Plainsmen once all the last five to six months; each show is uniquely different and features DiNizio’s unique stories behind the songs. The band–consisting of DiNizio, guitarist Jim Babjak, drummer Dennis Diken and bassist Severo “Tha Thrilla” Journacion (the newest member of the group who replaced original bassist Mike Messaros left in 2006) is working with legendary Don Dixon on their new CD and word on the street is that the sound is in keeping with their original take-no-prisoners power pop and good old-fashioned “hard rock” (something that sadly does not exist much these days since everything released seems to be mixed with EMO, R&B, country or rap).

Of further note, DiNizio’s tales of life as a veteran rocker will be coming out in a special audiobook/documentary combo in about three months called Confessions Of A Rock Star–it contains a whopping eight hours worth of audio and visual material. An earlier version of this project was released on a USB bracelet over a year ago in limited edition, and now they are nearly impossible to score.

Photo: Anne Raso

If you are lucky enough to score tickets to Saturday’s show and you are new to Smithereens concerts, you’ll find that the band has a certain indescribable “something “that draws you in besides just insanely catchy guitar hooks and timeless songwriting. They seem to genuinely be enjoying themselves onstage at all times. The highlights of a ‘Reens show include the solos by Babjak and Journacion that are done standing out in the crowd (it gets loud and crazy)! It is also flattering to the band that so many diehard fans of the Kinks, The Who and The Beatles come to their shows and consider the Smithereens in the same league. The ‘Reens are very fan friendly and you can easily meet them after shows when they come out to press the flesh and sign merchandise. In addition, the band seems to have many real friendships with his fans outside of the concert halls and theaters they perform in.

For more info on Saturday’s NYC show and other Smithereens concerts, go to their official sites, smithereens.com or patdinizio.com. As we “go to press,” you can still buy tickets that will be held at will call for $27 plus fees atwww.bbkingsblues.com (if you wait to buy at the box office–if any tickets are left on Saturday–they will be priced at $32 plus fees). B.B. King’s is located at 237 West 42nd Street just east of Eighth Avenue in NYC; phone 212-997-4144. Be there…or stay home and “drown in your own tears” (Yes, that is a play on a popular Smithereens’ song title in case you are not in the know!)


Pat Dinizio of The Smithereens With The Scotch Plainsmen To Perform

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Pat DiNizio and The Scotch Plainsmen will be performing LET IT BE in its 
entirety this coming Wednesday night, January 5th at the City Winery, 155 Varick 
Street, NYC (for more info, go to citywinery.com)

THE SCOTCH PLAINSMEN are the brainchild of Smithereens frontman Pat Dinizio.
While it’s no secret Dinizio has been carrying the Beatle torch his entire lifetime, this ensemble gives him the outlet to continue to perform Fab Four tunes without cluttering the Smithereens calendar. Yes, the Smithereens did two critically acclaimed Beatles tribute albums and are known to throw in some Lennon & McCartney staples into their live sets, but with the Scotch Plainsmen, Dinizio can really indulge himself with this exciting new outlet.
“We wanted to do something to set us apart from the many Beatles copy bands out there. So, we’ve peeled it down to its essence – just the music. We don’t have a “Paul” guy or a “John” guy per se`. Heck, there are seven of us up there. We interchange vocal parts based on who can deliver it best. With even have three guitar players to try and capture that rich texture the Beatles used to get through multi-tracking and other studio techniques. And there are absolutely no tape loops or pre-recorded sounds. Everything you hear is performed 100% live, unlike a lot of the copy bands out there”.
And of course, the fake moustaches, over-the-top cockney accents and Sgt. Pepper suits are nowhere to be found,” Dinizio adds only half-jokingly.
The Fab Four fabric is indeed an integral part of the band’s genesis and DNA. Dinizio met his musical cohort, acoustic guitarist Tommy Frangione, at a chance encounter on a return trip from a Chicago Beatlefest. “I saw this guy wearing a Beatles Apple Records t-shirt, and spotted his Beatle Brunch gig bag. I knew he was a kindred spirit!”. So there at O’Hare airport, some 800 miles from home, these two residents of rural Scotch Plains, NJ forged a friendship that has travelled the Merseybeat Road culminating in the formation of this newest entry to the Beatles tribute circuit.
As the Smithereens released their well received interpretation of “Meet The Beatles” (a record Dinizio cites as the single most important album ever released), Frangione introduced them to Joe Johnson, host of the long running nationally syndicated Beatle Brunch radio program. Johnson loved the record so much, he dedicated an entire show to the disc, helping to introduce the band to many of his 2 million weekly listeners.
By popular demand, a followup release was arranged, with the unique concept of covering songs the Fabs buried on the flip-sides of their mega-selling hits, entitled appropriately enough, “B-Sides The Beatles”.  An associate producer for Beatle Brunch (as well as writer for Beatlefan magazine, and reigning trivia maven at the long running Fest For Beatles Fans), Frangione was enlisted to write the liner notes. In addition, that’s Tom and his older brother donning the Beatles Halloween costumes in the rear sleeve photo.
Adding reverance to the proceedings, Frangione arranged for Andy White (the studio drummer at the Beatles first EMI session) to reprise his role behind the kit for the disc’s centerpiece “P.S. I Love You”, which was voted one of the top 200 tracks released that year. Coinciding with the album launch, White joined the Smithereens onstage at a benefit concert to perform the song, as well as its chart-topping A-side, “Love Me Do”.
Along the way, Pat and Tommy have done some local acoustic shows, but the most memorable gig they did together was at the site of the most famous of all Beatles concerts, Shea Stadium, as part of a VH1 benefit for Autism research. Together with Smithereens guitarist extraordinairre Jim Babjak, the trio included the Fabs’ own “Ticket To Ride” in the set. “I guess me, Tommy, Jimmy and John, Paul, George & Ringo are the only seven people ever to play that song at Shea” jokes Dinizio.
Another of Dinizio’s pioneering endeavors, the Living Room Concert series proved to be the next buiding block in the Scotch Plainsmen annals. Recruiting friends and fellow musicians from these intimate musical gems, Dinizio hand picked guitarist Sam Fairley (of the NJ based “Altman Brothers”) and bassist Bruce Pike (from the venerable “Home At Last”). “I wanted guys who ‘get’ the idea of soing this for fun, first and foremost. We’re all big Beatles fans, so the biggest differences we have involve which songs to play. There’s absolutely no ego, infighting, or any other hassle involved”. Pike recruited drummer Bill Truluck and lead guitarist Tim Donald from the south Jersey based “Rubber Souls”. Hailing from the Bronx, keyboardist David Solomon (the highly in-demand session player from the band Genetic Control) rounds out the group.
So with unabashed Beatlemania firmly anchoring their friendship and musical heritage, the band chooses “themed” sets to perform at select Dinizio shows. They have done shows featuring the White Album top-to-bottom, all 95 minutes of it), as well as those brimming with unbridled Beatle-geekness. One such example was an album based set featuring the Beatles classic “Rubber Soul”. Never content to leave well enough alone, the band embellished the now standard British CD lineup with tracks found on the US release (back in the ’60’s there was a lot of mixing and interchanging of album lineups) and the accompanying non-LP single “We Can Work It Out” / “Day Tripper”.
For tonight’s set at the City Winery, the band’s fabness is reflected in the Let It Be Chronicles”. In addition to each album track, songs from the “Let It Be” movie and famous rooftop concert finale will be included. Songs lifted from the widely bootlegged early version of the album (then titled “Get Back”) will be included as well, including “Teddy Boy” which Paul McCartney later rescued for inclusion on his own debut solo album.
Dinizio defends the setlist vigorously: “‘Let It Be’ is often dismissed as a loose, non-focused, rough around the edges affair. but it contained no fewer than three #1 singles (“Let It Be”, “Get Back” and “The Long & Winding Road” – ed). How many Beatle albums can make that claim?” he challenges. Chiming in as if scripted, Frangione offers up “two – ‘Magical Mystery Tour'” and ‘Help!“.
Like we’ve said, these guys are pretty hardcore. Give them a listen – we’re sure they’ll pass the audition.
Blown To Smithereens: The Best Of The Smithereens

The Smithereens Marking 30th Anniversary With Big Homecoming Bash!

THE SMITHEREENS 30TH ANNIVERSARY HOMECOMING CONCERT, IN CARTERET SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
(Hometown Favorites to Perform and Receive Keys to Borough at Children’s Charity Carnival & Ethnic Day Festival) 

Carteret, NJ Mayor Dan Reiman and the Carteret Business Partnership will be presenting the Smithereens’ 30th Anniversary Homecoming Concert in true New Jersey style at Carteret Park, Elmora Ave, in Carteret, on September 4 at 8 PM.

The concert is part of the Children’s Charity Carnival & Ethnic Day Festival, which begins at 5 PM with special guest performances. Fireworks will follow The Smithereens.  The event is free to the public.

In conjunction with the Festival, the group and their parents–many immigrants–will be honored.  Very heartfelt is the story of The Smithereens’ guitarist Jim Babjak and his parents who struggled in a Hungarian refugee camp.   
  
Mayor Daniel J. Reiman will present the hometown heroes, The Smithereens with keys to the borough of Carteret.  Says Mayor Reiman, “As some of New Jersey’s homegrown rock n’ roll heroes, the Smithereens will provide for a very special highlight to our already popular Ethnic Day festival, and allow for a memorable evening that will join them as a part of our local history.” The phone numbers for the Festival are 732-541-3801 and 732-541-3817.  

It all started at Carteret Park for the Smithereens 30 years ago with Babjak, drummer Dennis Diken, and original bassist Mike Mesaros (who is now living in San Frncisco and invited to the ceremony).  Singer/guitarist Pat DiNizio joined a few weeks later.  Bassist Severo “The Thrilla” Jornacion joined the group four years ago.  

Recently the group released  “The Smithereens Play Tommy,” a tribute to the landmark rock opera  The Who’s Tommy. 

The Smithereens has released 7 albums — and reaching Gold and Platinum status along the way — during their career, spawned several Top 40 radio hits, including, “A Girl Like You,” “Too Much Passion,” “Blood and Roses” and more. It’s said that Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain listened to the Smithereens as he wrote ‘NEVERMIND.”
Blown To Smithereens: The Best Of The Smithereens