In interest of full disclosure here’s the conflict of interest statement Popdose Legal forces us to write on occasions like these: Fellow music critics use my Smithereens addiction as a cudgel against me, challenging my very ability to evaluate music in general because of it. The whole thing started innocently with a dubbed cassette copy of Green Thoughts my brother Jim — fourteen years my senior, to this day more a rocker than some of my peers — sent me freshman year of college soon after its release in 1988. Then came, I’m ashamed to admit (being a card-carrying member of the, never-flinching, nary smiling, hardassed Objective Rock Critic’s Union and all) joining the fan club. It didn’t stop there; I went on to win a trivia contest.
A pal in college, Bryan, heard me jamming Smithereens 11 junior year at cerebrum-melting volume, pulled out the CD booklet and proclaimed at the top of his lungs that I kinda resembled lead singer Pat DiNizio. Had he left it at that instead of hammering me for it over the next two years, a decade later I wouldn’t have had to run Pat down at a solo gig with a PR photo and have him sign the photo “To Bryan and Tracie, best wishes on your wedding, Pat DiNizio” and given it to them at the reception.
Finally, my two children were conceived under the autographed ‘Reens poster that hangs over our bed:
OK, now with that out of the way, let us begin. Last week came the release 2011, the first original music from the Smithereens in the new millennium. Since 1999’s God Save the Smithereens, DiNizio released his second solo studio record, some home-cooked covers material, a Buddy Holly cover album, and oh yeah dumped a metric f-ton of old Smithereens tape in the interim. The band did a couple Beatles cover albums as well as its own interpretation of The Who’s Tommy, and — gasp — a Christmas disc. (I would insert a joke here about DiNizio being a former garbageman from Scotch Plains, N.J., but as a dad and a former freelance writer, I know firsthand that people’s gotta scratch out a living somehow, even after the well starts drying up. It’s all good, bro.)
Don Dixon of early R.E.M. fame produced the set; he’d overseen the Smithereens’ seminal records Especially for You and Green Thoughts, as well as the edgy post-Seattle A Date With the Smithereens. He also produced DiNizio’s solo effort Songs and Sounds. Dixon, who popularized ’80s jangle-pop, perfectly matches the band’s musical ethos, sharing with them a deep affection for the melodic ’60s rock of the Beatles and Nuggets oeuvre.
Blue Period: Songs for the New Same Old Depression
The kick inside is in the line that finally gets to you
And it feels so good to hurt so bad
And suffer just enough to sing the blues
—Bernie Taupin/Elton John
I’ve long been a believer in the catharsis that occurs when periods of depression have a soundtrack. That unnamed darkness that envelopes you when you are in your lowest moments has no voice—it is up to you to provide that, to give it some form or substance so you can engage it, perhaps handle it, keep it from killing you in small increments.
Such blue periods can be long and unsettling, and we sometimes fear they will do us in. This soundtrack is here for you, for those times; the catharsis is real, and healing. – RS
We soldier on this week with more songs from the bottom three-fifths of the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1980s, made by artists whose names begin with the letter S. Enjoy.
“It’s Only Love” — 1989, #57 (download)
I’m sure if I lived in England, Simply Red would mean a lot more to me than they do. I’ve always claimed to like them, especially their 1986 Top 40 hit “Money$ Too Tight (To Mention),” but I don’t believe I really know anything outside of their singles. And “It’s Only Love” isn’t one that I remember, as it was the only one out of five U.S. singles that didn’t hit the Top 40 from ’85 to ’89. In that same period, Mick Hucknall’s band had three times that many singles chart over in the UK.
Single Bullet Theory
“Keep It Tight” — 1983, #78 (download)
This song would probably be rarer if it wasn’t on one of those Just Can’t Get Enough Rhino comps (volume 8, if you’re playing at home), but getting your hands on the original album is very tough. Named of course after the theory used by the Warren Commission to explain JFK’s assassination, I’ve only been able to find sketchy details on the group. I believe they were a D.C.-based band, and their self-titled debut on Nemperor Records was probably their only major release. Beyond that, “Keep It Tight” appears to be quite rare.