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Sunday
Jan072018

Farewell To A “Guy That Had No Place To Go"

A tribute to Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens, who should have, at some point, been the biggest rock and roll star in the world.

It was a fairly uneventful drive right after the holiday season, I’d had the radio playing in the background, turned to the legendary WMMR in Philadelphia, and the DJ was talking about who we lost in 2017, talent like Mary Tyler Moore, Chuck Berry, Tom Petty and then…Pat DiNizio…singer for “The Smithereeens”.

I was surprised to hear about Pat. He’d passed in December, and I was just hearing about it now. This was sadly reminiscent of the career of “The Smithereens”, we’d only sort of hear about them from time to time.

However, for me, this was a band I’d loved very dearly for a very long time. They’d had maybe a modest hit or two that you’d hear maybe in passing, for me I’d heard “A Girl Like You” when I was in 8th or 9th Grade. I loved the guitar, that immediately jumped out at me, and I’ve always been sucker for a great lyric and this song had it, “First love, heartbreak, tough luck, big mistake, what else can you do.” I was HOOKED on this song, and as luck would have it, soon enough, during computer class, a classmate Paul said “hey, you ever hear of The Smithereens? I’m giving away their record ‘11’ want it?” My excitement likely threw off the negotiations, as the cost went from “free” to “3 dollars”, a small price to be able to listen to songs like “A Girl Like You” as much as I wanted.

Don’t know why “11” didn’t click fo Paul, but it clicked for me, those crunchy guitars, those sinister bass lines coupled with those lurking drums, those perfectly crafted power pop songs, I didn’t just want to hear more, I HAD to hear more like this. Fortunately, for my music situation, I got a job in 9th Grade at 14 years old, and 95% of my paychecks from this job from 14 to 18 went towards buying music. My 9th grade year was spent purchasing as much music by “The Smithereens”, “The Ramones” and “The Replacements” as humanly possible, this also kicked off a very weird era of my life, where I’d show up, 14–15 years old at 21 and over rock clubs to try and see “The Smithereens” and “The Ramones” (“The Replacements” were already broken up but, fear not, dear readers, I caught them later on a reunion tour) and I’d fail to see them every time. I’d hang out on the sidewalk though, trying to hear what I was missing. This was a bit of my life’s version of “Almost Famous”… though a far less successful version of it.

I wanted to talk about “The Smithereens” to anyone that would listen, but very few would listen to me babble about how much I loved “Blood and Roses” (that song has this line “I want to love, but it comes out wrong, I want to live, but I don’t belong” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Those are some great lyrics) or how I was able to collect Smithereens’ b-sides and had so many of them I compiled them into a full length record called “Tracy’s World” so I could have an extra record in my collection that no one else had (I did this a lot and designed the record cover everything and released it under “Access Records” which was my own record label that I made up when I’d do these and I’d hand them out to anyone remotely interested in hearing them…I think the only one who has a copy of “Tracy’s World” other than me was my high school history teacher)

While I was working, getting through high school and trying not to act like a complete buffoon so maybe someday, some girl would like me, I also had an archive of Smithereens live performance (ever meet a fan of the band “Phish”? They have an amazing mental archive of live performances, right off the top of their heads, I had something similar for “The Smithereens”), I knew, if anyone asked, I could tell them that The Smithereens “Dennis Miller Live!” performance of “Top Of The Pops” sounded great and was worth it for Pat trying to make jokes after it, or that the guitar player Jim sang a line to “Blues Before and After” on “Saturday Night Live”, because I knew, eventually, it was just a matter of time before the world realized this band was great, and had so many catchy power pop tunes and when everyone got into them, I was going to be the guy to welcome them all to the “club”.

So, needless to say, if there was a soundtrack to my young adult life, “The Smithereens” would have been a prominent part of it, and after I’d heard that we lost Pat in December 2017, I thought a lot about him, and remember a story I’d heard about him, that he’d done a tour, where he’d come to fan’s living rooms and play a set for free. I laughed because I thought about how my teenage self would have done all he could to get one of those performances and would have recorded it and released it under his imaginary record label “Access Records”… where my high school history teacher would be the only one to ask for a copy.

Rest in peace, Pat DiNizio, the voice in the band “The Smithereens”,that, even for a brief moment, deserved to be the biggest rock stars on the planet.

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