The Smithereens at 40 (I can’t believe it either)
What started out as a couple of high school kids forming a band in 1980 has turned into a journey that continues with the Smithereens induction Sunday into the The Performing Arts category of the New Jersey Hall of Fame. The Smithereens are turning forty next year and yet it seems like only yesterday they broke on the scene with the perfect name to describe their music. They came to the New Jersey 101.5 studios to hang out during my show. How did they get that perfect name?
"I used to walk around with a little pocket notebook," Diken said. "And compiling lists of names for potential bands, and that was one of several hundred."
The Smithereens story could have come out of a young boy's dreams watching either "The Monkees" or "A Hard Days Night." Way back in 1980, guitarist Jim Babjak, drummer Dennis Diken, and bassist Mike Mesaros all grew up together in Carteret, and a change was made up town and the big man Pat DiNizio joined the band, What was that like?
"Mike and I know each other, really since third grade, 1966," Diken said. "...we kicked around for five years before we found Pat, and it was through a classified ad in The Aquarium...March of 1980 was the first gig, and that's coming up on 40 years."
Their alternative sound influenced by Buddy Holly would be an influence on the late Kurt Cobain.
"We all love Buddy," Diken said. "And Buddy was a big, big influence on Pat DiNizio's song writing."
They would and perform over 2500 live shows all over the world including the Stone Pony, where they'll be Saturday night with Marshall Crenshaw. Among the people the Smithereens have toured with include Tom Petty, Squeeze, The Pretenders, Lou Reed, and The Ramones, among others. Who did they have the most fun touring with?
"We got along great [with the Ramones]," Diken said. "...and we didn't get booed off the stage or have stuff thrown at us. They took it, the Ramones crows took it from us, and it worked.
As far as they've come is as close as they've stayed, with the Smithereens maintaining their Jersey Roots.
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