Pat DiNizio


No one should be allowed to die this time of year.  It’s just too sad.  Of course, lots of people do die during the holiday season.  Joe Cocker did.  John Lennon was robbed of his life in December.  My grandmother passed early in December some 20-odd years ago, and it will still go down as the most somber Christmas ever, even more so than last year’s muted celebration after Mom’s cancer diagnosis (but she’s doing okay right now).  And let’s not forget all those people who’ve lost everything they had in the SoCal fires this month, with at least one death being directly related to the blazes.  But I really hate just adding to the list of sadness this time of year.  I want people to celebrate and be happy.  To find joy in everything.

So my heart goes out to the friends and family of Smithereens lead singer Pat DiNizio, who passed yesterday at just 62.  It’s gonna be a difficult holiday for them (whatever holiday they celebrate. . . I make no presumptions).  I hope they can still take joy in knowing that he made a lot of people very happy with his special brand of Rock & Roll.

I like the Smithereens.  They were one of the band’s I discovered watching MTV.  Or maybe listening to the radio.  It’s been long enough that I’m not sure either way.  But either way, they were good.  Solid.  I’m not a big enough fan to need more than their greatest hits, but those songs make me pretty darn happy whenever I hear them.  “Behind the Wall of Sleep” has long been my favorite of theirs, an ode to a beautiful bass-playing girl.  The sound is chunky and fuzzy and utterly irresistable.  As a teenager, this kind of music was all I needed to brighten my mood.  Still is.  Thanks, Pat.

“Behind the Wall of Sleep”


Do you like the Smithereens?  Do you even know who the Smithereens are?

The Smithereens played good solid Rock music.  They had all the traditional influences of bands from their time (the Beatles, the Byrds, and the rest of the zoo), but they never quite sounded like any of them.  This is not a bad thing.

Their signature sound is almost kind of Grunge-y, you know, before Grunge even existed.  The guitars and bass are heavy, just a little fuzzed out.  The music rumbles, but is never ponderous.  The lyrics are both accessible and obscure.  It’s easy to understand the plight of the lovelorn guy in the song, but you might not get his references.  (In case you were wondering, this is Jeannie Shrimpton, an English model and actress from the 60s.  And here’s Bill Wyman playing bass.  I hope that clears things up.)  They were like hipsters before they had their own Wikipedia page.  Before Wikipedia even existed.

The Smithereens were both ahead and behind themselves in time.  They were an anachronism.  I still can’t quite place them anywhere.  The fact that they had their commercial success in the 80s while their music and look was influenced by the 60s, and that they still sound brand new proves that time really is an illusion.  I suppose the only thing that matters is what you do with it, and the Smithereens knew exactly how to play with it.