Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time


The Smithereens - Especially For You[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]


In April 2015 the debut album by New Jersey quartet The Smithereens was featured in Part 2 of my Great Out Of The Gate series and, since 2016 marks its 30th anniversary, it’s a no-brainer choice for inclusion in Thirty Year Thursday. Here’s what I wrote about Especially For You last year:

New Jersey’s The Smithereens had been around since 1980, releasing a couple of independent EP’s, but their first full-length album is where the story officially began for anyone beyond their local scene. When the bass-driven single “Blood And Roses” hit the airwaves, it fit in perfectly with both classic rock & current music. Here was a band steeped in ‘60s British Invasion groups like The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks and The Hollies, but in lead vocalist/songwriter Pat DiNizio they had a unique talent who used those artists as inspiration for songs that sounded like no one other than The Smithereens. His bandmates (lead guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken) were deceptively sophisticated, providing clever arrangements to seemingly straight-ahead songs like “Time And Time Again,” “Strangers When We Meet” and “Behind The Wall Of Sleep.” As good as their rockers are, it’s the subtler tracks that make Especially For You so special. Suzanne Vega adds sweet harmonies to the lovely “In A Lonely Place,” and the acoustic break-up song “Cigarette” is an accordion-accented delight. My college cover band played a few Smithereens songs which were always well-received, and since I went to school in New Jersey I’ve always felt a close connection to their music. They went on to release more great records but Especially For You is probably their most diverse collection of songs and it holds up extremely well nearly 3 decades later.

There are plenty of killer songs in addition to those mentioned above, like “Listen To Me Girl” with its insistent midtempo groove, the bouncy “Crazy Mixed-Up Kid” and brooding album closer “Alone At Midnight.” Throughout it all there are jangly chords & killer riffs from Babjak, the Ringo-meets-Keith Moon drumming of Diken, Mesaros playing the exact groove that each song needs (a bigger compliment than it sounds) and DiNizio’s plaintive-yet-commanding voice. Don Dixon, who’s an incredibly talented musician in his own right but made his name as co-producer of REM’s first two albums, helped them deliver a radio-friendly collection of songs that straddles the line between retro & modern without a hint of the sonic overkill that was prevalent at the time. Somehow it still sounds just as fresh (to my ears, at least) 30 years after it was released.

For another enthusiastic endorsement of Especially For You, check out Wardo’s post here.

14 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – THE SMITHEREENS “ESPECIALLY FOR YOU”

  1. jcbradleyjr
    July 14, 2016

    I remember this record well. I had just graduated from school and was living with some friends – working my first job. Because of the first job income boost (from no money as a college student to some money now working) I had more disposable time and a lot more disposable income, so I spent a lot of time watching MTV (they still played videos then) and buying music. Because I’d always been on something of a tight budget, I’d bought a lot of music but rarely anything I knew absolutely nothing about. That year I started buying a lot of records “sight unseen,” because I had the money to do so, I guess. I totally bought this record after seeing the videos for “Behind a Wall of Sleep” and “Blood and Roses.” I seem to recall that one of the songs may have been used in a movie and the video was taken from that – but I could be wrong. Loved this record at first listen. I ended up buying 3-4 other of their albums/cd’s (their greatest hits collection is exceptionally good) but this one is still my favorite. And you are right – still sounds as good as it did in 1986.


    • wardo68
      July 14, 2016

      Yup — heard “Blood And Roses” while working on a roof the summer before my freshman year at college, and the entire album has held up very well indeed.


      • I’m glad we feel the same way about this album, Wardo. I’ve added a link to your post about Especially For You, just above the highlighted videos.


    • I remember that feeling of going from little disposable income to actually having spending money, which allowed my music collecting habits to shift into overdrive. I’m glad The Smithereens’ debut benefited from your situation at the time. They’re one of those great bands that people often forget about, until you hear one of their songs and you’re reminded just how many good records they released.


  2. Kevin
    July 14, 2016

    I remember almost buying this record several times, but 1986 was such a banner year, musically, it kept getting pushed back. Two years later I did buy Green Thoughts, which I liked a lot, but I never regained the curiosity to go back and buy this one. It slipped through the cracks. Very good band.


    • Kevin, I love “Green Thoughts” (as well as the two albums that followed) but their debut is probably the most diverse album in their discography. Next time you’re in a Smithereens mood I highly recommend you give it a shot. Hope it lives up to the hype.


  3. Murphy's Law
    July 15, 2016

    An underappreciated band. They remind me of The Cars in that they combine elements of mainstream rock and more alternative sounds.


    • Hmm, I hadn’t made a Cars-Smithereens connection, but the fact that they appealed to both rock & “alternative” fans is certainly a common factor. Good call.


  4. Jeff Kempin
    July 18, 2016

    I didn’t get into the Smithereens until a little later, when A Girl Like You was a hit on the radio. THen I went back and checked them out more thoroughly. Great band and Pat DiNizio is a great singer. They were one of those bands that were retro before retro was cool.
    I should also thank you, Rich, for exposing me to Wardo’s site. His tastes and mine are virtually alike, and I’ve been going through the Everybody’s Dummy entries voracioulsy. But I love your stuff too, don’t get me wrong!


    • Hi Jeff. I agree that DiNizio is a great singer. His voice may have a limited range but it’s so distinctive and the perfect fit for his unique songwriting.

      I agree about Wardo’s site. Not sure how he remains so prolific with his excellent reviews but I’m always impressed. Too bad he’s not on WordPress, though. I think he would have a bigger following here. Glad I was able to point you in his direction. Happy reading.


      • wardo68
        October 16, 2016

        I only just now saw these nice words. Thanks Jeff, for checking me out, and thanks to Rich for always making me think!


      • Ward, hopefully you remember to think on your own more frequently. 😀


  5. Pingback: Thirty Year Thursday – ERIC JOHNSON “TONES” | KamerTunesBlog

  6. Pingback: Satur-debut – THE SMITHEREENS “ESPECIALLY FOR YOU” | KamerTunesBlog

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