THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Behind The Wall Of Sleep

This chapter from my forthcoming book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) was originally distributed privately to my paid patrons on June 1, 2019. This is its first public appearance. You can become a patron of Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) for just $2 a month.
An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, THIS is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

THE SMITHEREENS: “Behind The Wall Of Sleep”
Single from the album Especially For You, Enigma Records, 1986
Beauty and sadness.

These are the things our lives can offer us: the beauty of art and appreciation, friendship, creation, participation, romance, passion, family, trust; the sadness of loss, longing, distance, frailty, mortality, disillusion. The parameters of our experience in this world are rendered in large part by our unequal shares in the beauty of sadness and the sadness of beauty.

There are myriad ways this dance of beauty and sadness can manifest. In this moment, let us speak of its relationship with a band called The Smithereens, and the fans who found the beauty within their sadness.

The Smithereens were from Carteret, New Jersey, blown into the scene in 1980. Drumming by Dennis Diken. Bass by Mike Mesaros. Guitars by Jim Babjak and Pat DiNizio. They channeled The Beatles, The Kinks, Buddy Holly, The Beau Brummels, and everything that was ever cool in pop music. All sang, but DiNizio was the principal songwriter and the guy in front, his voice spinning tales of love lost, found, unrequited, doomed from the start, or discarded with cruel indifference. The hearts on their sleeves had been battered. But the beat went on.

Their first release was a 1980 EP, Girls About Town, establishing the group’s raison d’être by collecting four songs with “girl” in the title (three DiNizio compositions and a cover of The Beach Boys’ “Girl Don’t Tell Me”). The Beauty And Sadness EP followed in 1983, with their first LP Especially For You reaching retail in 1986.

Especially For You is a stunning work, inspired by the British Invasion, influenced by punk and new wave, informed by the inner grit of classic soul, yet in unerring pursuit of its own belligerent vision. “Cigarette” is a devastatingly poignant portrait of true love slipping away, “Strangers When We Meet” and “Time And Time Again” bop like nobody’s natural business, and “Blood And Roses” broods like a bad boy who’s given up on being good. 

The album also includes “Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” a darkly fascinating snapshot of obsession, casually emanating hints of danger while falling in too deep to dream of rescue, another paperback-ready slice of pulpy pop noir.

She was tall and cool and pretty
And she dressed as black as coal
If she asked me to, I’d murder
I would gladly lose my soul

MTV and FM radio succumbed to The Smithereens’ alchemic alloy of menace and yearning. There was more to come, public interest probably peaking with the group’s third album 11 in 1989. Although The Smithereens continued to create smoldering works of cantankerous brilliance even into this newfangled new millennium, a crowd of people turned away. The masses were lost. The music of The Smithereens became the possession solely of its faithful, its diehard fans.

Fans like The Front Line.

I only know this story second hand, as it was related to me by some of these Smithereens fans who called themselves by that name, The Front Line. The Front Line was a small group of fans, three couples, who saw The Smithereens as often as opportunity allowed. They called themselves The Front Line because that’s where they were at a Smithereens show: fixed in their spots in front of the stage, with only the sweet veil of dreams (beyond the wall of sleep) separating them from this band they loved; Rich and Kathy Firestone in front of Jim Babjak, John and Melissa Palmer before Pat DiNizio, Steven and Gail Molinari in the line of sight of Mike Mesaros. The band knew them and appreciated them. How could anyone not love and appreciate The Front Line?

The Molinaris divorced. Gail Molinari was taken by cancer in 2014. Within the band itself, Jim Babjak’s beloved wife Betty was also claimed by cancer in 2016. Pat DiNizio died in December of 2017.

Now I lie in bed and think of her
Sometimes I even weep
And I dream of her behind the wall of sleep

The night Pat DiNizio died, I was otherwise occupied. I was waiting in the ER with my mother, who had fallen at home for the second time in a matter of days. Beauty and sadness. While in the ER, I received messages from the Firestones, going through their own process of dealing with impending bad news, as DiNizio slipped away. 

Now I know I’m one of many who would like to be your friend
And I’ve got to find a way to let you know I’m not like them

Our obsessions drive us, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our interests can give us focus and delight, spark, comfort, perhaps even meaning, or at least a step toward meaning. Neither beauty nor sadness alone can tell our stories. And without them, we have no stories to tell, no life to live. We have no other refuge. We persevere. We have nothing else we can do, and nowhere else we can go.

Not even behind the wall of sleep.

“Behind The Wall Of Sleep” written by Pat DiNizio, D-Tunes Music/La Rana Music BMI

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Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1)

Categories
Video of The Day

The Smithereens / Only A Memory

The Legal Matters / Chapter Three

The Legal Matters

Chapter Three (Futureman Records 2021)

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/chapter-three


We’re not even halfway into the year, and already an abundance of phenomenal music has been released. Parked right at the top.of the pile is the third album from The Legal Matters, which is appropriately dubbed Chapter Three. Comprised of singers, songwriters and instrumentalists Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith, the Michigan-based band roped in “unofficial member” Donny Brown to play drums on this remarkable album.

 Brimming brightly with layers of luscious harmonies and reels of rock solid melodies, Chapter Three spools out one serviceable pop tune after another. Echoes of artists such as The Beach Boys, The Eagles, The Smithereens and Matthew Sweet may be apparent, yet The Legal Matters possess the proper tools to refurbish these influences into their own recognizable style.

 An exquisite  ballad, The Painter, pins heart-wrenching lyrics to plush and expansive arrangements, resulting in a spellbinding survey of sadness and beauty. Vibrant vocals, teeming with power and polish, aided by a spot of swirling Hammond organ fills a la Procol Harum, also carpet the striking track.

 Conceived of shifting tempos, Independence Well Spent juggles soft textures with a menacing crunch, and the jingling bounce of Please Make A Sound captures everything that constitutes a perfect pop song. Spiked with the whirring zoom of a synthesizer, Light Up The Sky illuminates the band’s incredible lung prowess and telepathic musicianship to towering heights. 

Fashioned of a dance hall beat that would prompt Ray Davies to glow with paternal pride, The World Is Mine pedals in as a subsequent revelation, while the atmospheric patterns of Passing Chord yields a lovely choral pop vibe.

 Stuffed to the stars with smooth and stately pop pleasures, Chapter Three is the kind of album that has no expiration date. These great songs are so timeless that they could have been recorded in any era. The Legal Matters boast both the talent and wisdom to craft and perform long-lasting music, and having said that, I can hardly wait to hear their next chapter of sonic creations. 

Categories
Pop Sunday

Dan Markell / Give Me The Word

Dan Markell

Give Me The Word

(Fermada Nowhere Music) 2020


For the past couple of decades, Southern California singer, songwriter and multi-faceted instrumentalist Dan Markell has been a familiar face on the independent pop scene. 

Highly praised albums such as “Big Deals” and “Eleven Shades Of Dan Markell,” as well as appearances on compilation sets like “Yellow Pills” and “International Pop Overthrow” have put him on the map, along with collaborations with former Wings drummer Denny Seiwell, Jim Babjak and Dennis Diken of The Smithereens, Coz Canler of The Romantics, Clem Burke of Blondie and The Empty Hearts fame, and  Standells guitarist Tony Valentino. 


Dan’s latest offering is an updated version of a song included on “Eleven Shades Of Dan Markell,” which was released in 2011. Grooving to an even-tempered rhythm, “Give Me The Word” simmers with a soulfully sensuous feel fueled by smoky horns and seductive melodies. Dan’s harmonious vocals – mirroring those of Squeeze and Crowded House – are flawlessly in sync with the sound and motion of this regal song that ropes together soul influences with pop aspirations in a cool and classy manner.


Dan’s revision of “Give Me The Word” is bound to not only pique interest in his back catalog, but make listeners eager to hear his next move. 

Categories
Pop-A-Looza TV

The Smithereens / House We Used To Live In

From The SmithereensGreen Thoughts Lp, released as a single on August 3, 1988.

Categories
Birthdays

Pat DiNizio

Born on this day in 1955, in Plainfield, New Jersey, the great Pat DiNizio. DiNizio was a member of The Smithereens, an actor, a film producer and an aspiring politician.

Librarians With Hickeys / Long Overdue

Librarians With Hickeys

Long Overdue (Big Stir Records)

https://bigstirrecords.com/librarians-with-hickeys


A funny band name is always guaranteed to spark interest, but often overshadows its music. However, that is not the case with Librarians With Hickeys, whose cleverly-chiseled songs are as attention-grabbing as their moniker.


Consisting of Ray Carmen on vocals, guitar, ukulele and keyboards, Mike Crooker on guitar, keyboards and backing vocals, Andrew Wilco on bass and Rob Crossley on drums and piano, the Akron, Ohio-based quartet gathered a universal following with a pair of singles  they issued last year. Encouraged by the positive response, the band began working on a complete album, Long Overdue, which will be released August 14th by Big Stir Records.


The band’s debut album wisely contains the two singles that put them on the map. Radiating to a repertoire rigged with glistening guitars, yearning harmonies and the heart-stopping hum of a harpsichord, Until There Was You is a poptastic prize of the highest order. The subsequent single, Black Velvet Dress is directed by a hypnotizing  beat layered with shimmering textures. 

Photo by Grace Carmen


Punctured with a trippy psychedelic air prompted by the plucking of a backwards guitar, Obsession punches in as another A-grade track heard on Long Overdue, not to neglect the pure pop pleasantries of That Time Is Now featuring acclaimed vocalist Lisa Mychols.


Amplified by driving instrumentation grooving and swinging with a go-go sixties flavor, Looking For Home also receives a big round of applause, while the whimsical Be My Plus One is embedded with the sweet strum of a ukulele. Ray’s daughter Grace lends her vibrant vocal power to the grand and gorgeous Silent Stars, where the hooky and neatly-groomed Next Time yields a brace of cool saxophone fills.

By mating old-school pop properties with frequent art rock flirtations, Librarians With Hickeys have produced an album that is both comfortably familiar and novel. The band’s bright and breezy vocal expressions, compounded by melodic strength, are sure to satisfy fans of artists such as Shoes, The Beach Boys and The Smithereens
Assessing Long Overdue, Librarians With Hickeys have gotten off to a mighty good start. No matter what the current trend is, we all love catchy pop songs, and here’s a band whose contributions are most welcome. 

Categories
Video of The Day

The Smithereens / A Girl Like You

There’s nothing we like more on a friday afternoon here at Pop-A-Looza HQ, than a solid piece of rawk. Here they are, ladies & gentlemen, The Savage Young Smithereens!!

Categories
Quick Spins

Marshall Crenshaw Miracle Of Science

Marshall Crenshaw

Miracle of Science (Shiny-Tone)

http://www.marshallcrenshaw.com

With the release of 1996’s Miracle of Science, alt-pop favorite Marshall Crenshaw had a bit of a career renaissance. Comparisons were immediately drawn between this new record and his stellar 1982 self-titled debut. Much to the delight of guitar-pop fans everywhere, he seemed to have rediscovered his muse, and in a big way.

Here, Miracle of Science gets the reissue treatment from Crenshaw’s own Shiny-Tone Records label. In edition, Shiny-Tone will give another go ‘round to 1996’s #447, 2003’s What’s In The Bag? And 1998’s The 9 Volt Years. All will be welcome to this writer.

“What Do You Dream Of” and “Who Stole The Train” are two of Crenshaw’s best, indeed, he almost sings them with the energy he had in ’82. “Twenty-Five Forty-One” is a great warning song about the downside of getting a place with your girl. The cover of Billy Page’s “The “In” Crowd” is peppy and fun, as is the imaginary TV theme song, “Theme From Flaregun.”

For Crenshaw’s collecting fans, Shiny-Tone adds three additional unreleased tracks; “Rouh Na Selim Nevers (Seven Miles An Hour backwards)”, and demos of “What The Hell I Got” and “Misty Dreamer.” Even without the extra added tracks, Miracle of Science is one of his absolute best, and well worth another listen.

D.P.