It was long ago. It seems like yesterday.
The first time I ever heard of The Smithereens was when I walked into Hammerjacks and saw them on a tip from their publicist, who told me they were going to be a band to be reckoned with once their album dropped.
This was very early in my music critic phase – if you do the math on my 1968 birthday and the 1986 label you’ll see that I was 17 that summer – and I was trying hard to find the bands that were on the way up.
I wanted to be Cameron Crowe – writing about the relevant bands before they were relevant!
I was one of the first national writers to pimp The Rembrandts, Soundgarden, The Black Crowes and Live as well during this era, plus a bunch of local and regional bands that didn’t make as many hits or sell as many records.
I had over 1,000 bylines as a music critic at The Baltimore Evening Sun but The Smithereens were the band that was my “Stillwater” on the #AlmostFamous journey.
I wrote at length about the lads in the band and my friendship with Pat DiNizio when he died two years ago. I still keep in touch with Jim Babjak (the originator of the ‘cheers’ autograph) and see them whenever I can, now that they tour with Marshall Crenshaw or Robin Wilson (The Gin Blossoms are also awesome!) doing lead vocals on their incredible catalog of songs.
They are a true New Jersey Hall of Fame garage band who loved The Ramones and The Who and pop culture and rock and roll.
If you love rock and roll and you’ve heard “Blood and Roses” or “A Girl Like You,” I implore you to buy the first six albums in their catalog and watch a couple of legit videos of their live energy during the late 1980s.
Even though every song is rooted in some kind of beauty or sadness, I had some very, very good times with The Smithereens. They adopted me. And I am grateful.
One night at Bohager’s after a dozen crabs and several beers, we jumped on stage and did three Smithereens songs and the place went crazy. After that, we wound up inside Leadbetters at Fells Point with Ed Lauer jamming Beatles songs with Ira Elliott from Nada Surf until daybreak.
I am very grateful for that fun memory.
Drop the needle on “Strangers When We Meet” and pray for a White Castle to go.
And as bassist (and early sports radio foil for a young “Nasty Nestor”) Mike Mesaros once told me: “When in San Francisco, your first stop must be Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant on Geary in the Richmond District. Order a margarita and ask for Julio Bermejo. Tell him I sent you!”
The rest is tequila and world rock and roll history…
Cindy Lundin Mesaros