Lex on Pat DiNizio (The Smithereens, solo)

Especially For You.

It was the 1980s, and I hated most of the then “uber-hip” Top 40 crap that I heard on the radio.  There were only a few bands that I thought were worth their weight and gold: R.E.M., the Police, U2, the Replacements, the Clash, and a few others.  It was a short, lonely list.  Aside from these bands, I didn’t hear too much of anything that could be called music.

And then I heard the Smithereens.

I don’t remember much about the first time I heard a song by the Smithereens.  Maybe it was the video for “Blood and Roses,” which appeared on MTV (when it was still “all music, all the time”).  It was enough for me to borrow a copy of their first full-length album, Especially For You, from Clover Club Larry.  At the time, Larry was known for his distaste for what he called “modern pop crap.”  He was ahead of the times and looked towards “alternative” music to feed his musical hunger.  So I borrowed his copy of the Smithereens’ album, took it home, and dropped the record player needle on the vinyl.

And I was hooked.

From the opening song “Strangers When We Met” to the end song “Alone After Midnight,” I heard something that was both simultaneously new and familiar.  There was something in the band’s collective soul that saluted the heroes that I admired from the 60s (the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks), but re-tooled for the modern musical world.  When I heard Pat sing “Crazy Mixed-Up Kid,” I thought that these guys were the musical saviors of my generation.  With other stand-out songs, like “Groovy Tuesday” and “Last Cigarette,” they made me believe that truly great songwriting and performance was not a thing of the past; it was still very much alive and breathing through their own music.

And Pat’s writing pushed me further into exploring the world of songwriting.

I learned most of the songs from Especially For You by ear.  I got to know the songs inside and out, and started copying Pat’s choice of guitar chords, his vocal style, and his knack for writing short, sharp, accessible power-pop tunes until I could find my own voice.  When I started working with kids at the Boys and Girls Club of Hollywood, I would bring in my guitar and play “Crazy Mixed-Up Kid” or “Behind The Wall of Sleep” for the children who’d dare me to pick up my acoustic and “play something.”

And I have to say, that “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” hooked me instantly.  I was forever falling in love with bass players who happened to be girls (a quick nod to Kathy Valentine of the GoGos – I still love you, girl!).  I understood.  I got it. And those lyrics hit me hard!

I continue to buy music by the Smithereens, and Pat’s solo stuff.  There is a craftsmanship in his writing that I cannot describe.  I can say that there is something in his voice, words and melodies that seem so effortless and direct.  Pat is one of the guys from my “awkward teen experience” that still resonates as clear as a bell.  Thank you Pat, for 25 plus years of amazing music and for the inspiration that ultimately culminated in me having the balls to find my own power-pop muse.  I love you, man!

(Lex Neon is also known as Alex Oliver, the quirky and often eccentric musical genius of “sunshine pop / rock” band Poppermost.  Check out their music and Lex’s rock rantings at http://www.poppermost.com/).

Note: Original release date of the ‘currently listening’ album below is listed as 1986.

Currently listening:
Especially for You
By The Smithereens
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~ by Poppermost on October 19, 2009.

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