To do that, we (momentarily) have to go back to January 20th, 1964, almost forty three years ago. It's on that day that a quartet from Liverpool, England had their very first U.S. released record entitled Meet The Beatles hit the stores here on the other side of the pond. The impact that album had at the time was tremendous and today, music and musicians around the world are still being influenced by the powerful sounds found there.
Such is the case with the New Jersey-based foursome, The Smithereens. Formed in 1980, lead singer and guitar player Pat DiNizio, guitarist Jim Babjak, then bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken, the band has never denied the importance the (1960's) British Invasion brought to their sound. And The Beatles have to be at the top of that list.
It's logical then that the two factions join together in a glorious meld of Pop Music and sensibilities as The Smitties release a song-for-song tribute of that first Beatles record in the United States. Thus, Meet The Beatles begets Meet The Smithereens.
Before you get your panties in a bunch, notice I didn't say that this is a by rote replication. Indeed, The Smitties manage to pay homage to the Fab Four while still sounding, well…like The Smithereens.
Sonically, this is still the album you became enamored with years ago. The beginning one-two-three-four countdown at the start of "I Saw Her Standing There" is there. So is the distinctive guitar strumming that kicks off "This Boy." The harmonica that introduces "Little Child" remains as does that Bossa Nova feel to "Til There Was You."
The vocals are where you will find the difference; no matter how hard anyone might try The Beatles sound remains unique. I don't mean that in a bad way, just to let you know that The Smitties are smart enough to not try to clone them. One thing The Beatles gave us were those amazing harmonies, so tight that sometimes two or three voices truly became one. The Smitties sound has always shown their allegiance to those structures we all loved and learned from listening to John, Paul, George and Ringo. And they certainly do them right on Meet The Smithereens.
There are other touches within the record that knock me out. On Meet The Beatles George sang "Don't Bother Me" and Ringo "I Wanna Be Your Man." In turn, their counterparts Jim (guitar) and Dennis (drums) do the same. Very cool.
The liner notes are awesome too. Drummer Dennis gives his take on how that first Beatle album affected him and what it meant to record this disc. Along those same lines, Beatle author/historian Bruce Spizer speaks of his correlations between the two. So do guitarist/composer/writer Lenny Kaye (The Patti Smith Group) and Andy Babiuk, author of the book Beatles Gear. Dennis Mitchell, host of radio's syndicated "Dennis Mitchell's Breakfast With The Beatles", concert promoter Sid Bernstein and Dave Connelly of All Music Guide all talk about the importance of Meet The Beatles.
The common ground they all share in their musings is the sheer exuberance so fundamental to The Beatles sound, especially on that first (U.S.) album. It was a spark that transcended over the airwaves and through those teeny tiny speakers that record players had back then. Just listening to it had a power that made you feel glad you were alive that still stands to this day.
It's The Smitties own brand of magic that makes Meet The Smithereens a real tribute to The Beatles. In the liner notes Andy Babiuk is quoted as saying "This is a record that all Smithereens fans should enjoy because; let's face it, without the Beatles there would be no Smithereens." I'm going to be bold enough to change that up a bit. I think most Beatles fans will enjoy this disc as well.
Pat, Jimmy and Dennis, along with Severo Jornacion on bass, will be doing select dates around the U.S. Their tour schedule is updated regularly on their official website.