The Smithereens

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The Smithereens
Diken, Babjak, and DiNizio in 2009
Diken, Babjak, and DiNizio in 2009
Background information
OriginCarteret, New Jersey, U.S.
Years active1980–present
MembersJim Babjak
Mike Mesaros
Dennis Diken
Past membersPat DiNizio
Severo Jornacion

The Smithereens are an American rock band from Carteret, New Jersey, United States.[1] The group formed in 1980 with members Pat DiNizio (vocals & guitar), Jim Babjak (guitar & vocals), Mike Mesaros (bass guitar & vocals), and Dennis Diken (drums & percussion). This original lineup continued until 2006, when Mesaros left the band and Severo Jornacion took over on bass guitar until Mesaros' return in 2016. After DiNizio died in 2017, the band continued performing live shows as a trio (Babjak, Mesaros and Diken) with various guest vocalists.

The band are perhaps best known for a string of hits in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, including "Only a Memory", "A Girl Like You" and "Too Much Passion". The Smithereens have collaborated with numerous musicians, both in the studio (Belinda Carlisle, Julian Lennon, Lou Reed, Suzanne Vega) and live (Graham Parker and The Kinks). The band's name comes from a Yosemite Sam catchphrase, "Varmint, I'm a-gonna blow you to smithereens!"[2]


The Smithereens in Grapevine, Texas, 2007.

Babjak, Diken, and Mesaros are all from Carteret, New Jersey and graduated from Carteret High School in 1975. In 1980, they formed the band with DiNizio, who was from Scotch Plains, New Jersey.[3] DiNizio had placed a classified ad in The Aquarian Weekly looking for a drummer to help on a demo tape – Diken answered it, and later introduced his schoolmates Babjak and Mesaros as well.[4]

The band's name derives from the cartoon character Yosemite Sam who had the expression, "Ya better say your prayers, ya flea-bitten varmint … I’m-a-gonna blow ya to smithereens!". The Smithereens are known for writing and playing catchy 1960s-influenced power pop. The group gained publicity when the single "Blood and Roses" from its first album was included on the soundtrack for Dangerously Close, and the music video got moderate rotation on MTV. "Blood and Roses" was also featured on the 1980s TV show Miami Vice during the episode 'The Savage' (first aired February 6, 1987).

Babjak (left) and Jornacion in 2009 in Rochester, Minnesota

Along with a basic East coast roots-rock sound that owed much to musicians who inspired DiNizio, including the Who, the Clash, Elvis Costello, and Nick Lowe, The Smithereens deployed a uniquely retro obsession with Mod, the late British Invasion pop of John's Children and the Move, and other artifacts of 1950s and 1960s culture that lent its music substance. DiNizio said his single biggest influence was Buddy Holly: "Listening to Buddy Holly, I rediscovered my enjoyment of simple pop structures and pretty melodies....I've always thought of him as a kindred spirit."[4] Likewise, The Who and The Kinks were major influences on Babjak and Diken.

The title and lyrics of their song, "In a Lonely Place," appear to be based on the 1950 Humphrey Bogart film of the same title because of Bogart's lines: "I was born the day I met you, lived a while when you loved me, died a little when we broke apart." The title and artwork for the album 11 were a nod to the original 1960 Ocean's 11 film.[5][6]

The Smithereens starred as themselves and were featured as the entertainment in the indoor beach party scene of the 1986 Troma film Class of Nuke 'Em High, playing the song "Much Too Much".[7] The soundtrack to the film was not released until 2014.[8]

The highest position a Smithereens album attained on the Billboard pop charts was in 1990, when 11 peaked at No. 41 on the strength of the single "A Girl Like You" (which hit No. 38). "A Girl Like You" was originally written to be the title track for the 1989 Cameron Crowe film Say Anything....[6] The album also featured a duet between DiNizio and Belinda Carlisle on Blue Period.

Jim Babjak and Pat DiNizio perform with the Smithereens in Grapevine, Texas, 2007.

The basic tracks for their most recent studio album of original material, titled 2011, were recorded in early October 2010 and the album was released on April 5, 2011.

Jim Babjak performs with the Smithereens in Grapevine, Texas, 2007.

The Smithereens were the final band to perform at the fabled Bleecker Street nightclub Kenny's Castaways in Greenwich Village, New York City, in October 2012.[9]

In June 2013, The Smithereens toured as support for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.[10]

Original bass player Mike Mesaros reunited with the band in 2016 and 2017 for select performances and continued to tour in 2018 through the present.[11][12]

DiNizio died in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, on December 12, 2017, at the age of 62. According to bandmates, his health declined following a series of issues that began in 2015, resulting in nerve damage that limited the use of his right hand and arm.[13]

Dennis Diken performs with the Smithereens in Grapevine, Texas, 2007.

The surviving members of the band, including Mesaros, performed together as The Smithereens in a tribute show to DiNizio on January 13, 2018, at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ.[14] In a five-hour concert, the band was joined by Steven Van Zandt, Dave Davies, Ted Leo, Robin Wilson, Lenny Kaye, Southside Johnny, Marshall Crenshaw, Bebe Buell, Richard Barone, Tony Shanahan, Graham Maby, Freedy Johnston, Kenny Howes, John Jorgenson, Peter Zaremba, Keith Streng, producer Ed Stasium, Andy Burton, and various other musicians.[14] The Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarship was established at the Count Basie's Performing Arts Academy.

In 2018, Babjak, Diken and Mesaros decided to continue the band's musical legacy and tour with different guest vocalists, including Marshall Crenshaw and Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms, separately taking over lead vocal duties at concerts throughout the United States, including shows in NYC, Chicago, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Virginia.[15]

On May 25, 2018, the band released Covers on Sunset Blvd. Records, featuring 22 of the band's favorite songs first recorded by other artists. The CD includes rarities from the vault and some previously unreleased tracks.

On November 16, 2018, The Smithereens were nominated for induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, Performing Arts Category, Class of 2018.

2022 marks The Smithereens' 42nd continuous year as a band.

In July 2020, the band released a 7-inch vinyl single of their cover of the Beatles' 1962 single "Love Me Do" and its B-side "P.S. I Love You".[16] "Love Me Do" was originally recorded in 2008 during sessions for B-Sides The Beatles but was not considered for inclusion on the album. Both tracks feature session drummer Andy White, who originally performed on the Beatles versions. Mike Mesaros added new bass parts to both tracks and Kristin Pinell of the Grip Weeds guests on melodica.[17]

In September 2022, The Smithereens released The Lost Album. It was originally recorded in 1993 between their recording contracts with Capitol and RCA. Eleven of the songs on The Lost Album (minus the Babjak-penned "I'm Sexy") previously appeared on DiNizio's 1995 Song Demos release (MCA Publishing).[18] Selected songs were also previously included on DiNizio's Songs and Sounds (1997)[19], Pat DiNizio (2005),[20] and The Best of Pat Dinizio (2015)[21].


  • Jim Babjak - lead guitar, backing vocals (1980–present)
  • Dennis Diken - drums, percussion, backing vocals (1980–present)
  • Mike Mesaros (born December 11, 1957) - bass guitar, backing vocals (1980-2005, 2016, 2017–present)

Former members[edit]

  • Pat DiNizio - lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1980-2017, deceased)
  • Severo "The Thrilla" Jornacion - bass guitar, backing vocals (2005-2017, touring substitute 2017–present)


The Smithereens, in 2015: Jim Babjak, Pat DiNizio, Dennis Diken, The Thrilla, and guest Andy Burton

Studio albums[edit]

Extended plays[edit]

Live albums[edit]


Soundtracks and other appearances[edit]



Year Song AUS
UK Indie
US Mod. Rock
US Main. Rock
1986 "Blood and Roses" 99 14 Especially for You
"Behind the Wall of Sleep" 8 23
"In a Lonely Place" 5
1987 "Strangers When We Meet" 21
1988 "Only a Memory" 92 1 Green Thoughts
"House We Used to Live In" 14
"Drown in My Own Tears" 34
1989 "A Girl Like You" 62 38 3 2 11
1990 "Blues Before and After" 94 18 7
"Yesterday Girl" 76 16 20
"Blue Period" (with Belinda Carlisle) 99
1991 "Top of the Pops" 77 58 2 19 Blow Up
"Tell Me When Did Things Go So Wrong" 11 28
"Too Much Passion" 87 22 33 37
"Girl in Room 12" (Radio promo)[32]
1992 "Get a Hold of My Heart" (Radio promo)[33]
"Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer" (Radio promo)[34] Non-album single
1994 "Miles From Nowhere" 17 A Date with the Smithereens
"Sick Of Seattle" (Radio promo)[35]
"Everything I Have Is Blue (Gtr. Mix)" (Radio promo)[36]
"Time Won't Let Me" (from the Motion Picture Timecop)[37] Non-album single
1997 "Downbound Train" One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen
1999 "She's Got a Way" (Radio promo)[38] God Save The Smithereens
2011 "Sorry"[39] 2011
"One Look At You"[40]
2020 "Love Me Do"[41] Non-album single
2022 "Out of This World" The Lost Album

Music Videos[edit]

Title Year Director Album
"Blood And Roses" 1986 Albert Pyun[42] Especially For You
"Behind The Wall Of Sleep" Ken Welzer[42]
"In A Lonely Place" Ken Ross / Richard Levine[42]
"Only A Memory" 1988 Jim Yukich[42] Green Thoughts
"House We Used To Live In" Jim Yukich[42]
"Drown In My Own Tears" Jim Yukich / Jeff Zimmerman[42]
"A Girl Like You" 1989 John Lloyd Miller[42] 11
"Blues Before And After" 1990 John Lloyd Miller[42]
"Yesterday Girl" Gregory P. Alosio[42]
"Blue Period" John Lloyd Miller[42]
"Top Of The Pops" 1991 John Lloyd Miller[43] Blow Up
"Too Much Passion" Jeff Stein[44]
"Miles From Nowhere" 1994 unknown A Date With The Smithereens
"Time Won't Let Me" Nigel Dick[45] Non-album single
"Sorry" 2011 John Rokosny / Andriette Redmann[46][47] 2011
"One Look at You"


  • Smithereens 10, 1991


  1. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "The Smithereens | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2014.
  2. ^ Smith, Laurie Anne (November 16, 2007). "Smithereens Interview". SugarBuzz. Archived from the original on February 5, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  3. ^ Cahillane, Kevin (October 10, 2004). "Not Fade Away: The Smithereens' Monument to Persistence". The New York Times. Retrieved November 3, 2007. The band formed in 1980 when three Carteret High School graduates (class of 1975) and childhood friends (Mr. Babjak, Dennis Diken on drums and Mike Mesaros on bass) met Pat DiNizio, a Scotch Plains singer-songwriter-garbage man.
  4. ^ a b Morse, Steve (April 21, 1988). "Smithereens – '60s pop for the '80s". The Boston Globe. Boston, MA. Archived from the original on December 13, 2017. Retrieved December 19, 2016. – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  5. ^ Choi, Kelly (September 21, 2001). "'Ocean's 11' Déjà View". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 13, 2022.
  6. ^ a b Fanelli, Damian (June 20, 2012). "Smithereens 11: Guitarist Jim Babjak Breaks Down 11 Essential Smithereens Tracks". Guitar World. Retrieved December 13, 2022.
  7. ^ "Class of Nuke 'Em High". The Film Catalogue. Independent Film and Television Alliance. 2016. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  8. ^ ""Class of Nuke 'Em High" Soundtrack Finally Gets Official LP Release" (Press release). Troma Entertainment. July 22, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  9. ^ "The Smithereens to play closing show at Kenny's Castaways". Pat DiNizio. Retrieved July 27, 2014.
  10. ^ "Skyline Music | the Smithereens on Tour with Tom Petty". Archived from the original on June 24, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2012.
  11. ^ Jordan, Chris (October 5, 2016). "Original Smithereens to reunite for memorial concert". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  12. ^ Jordan, Chris (January 19, 2017). "The Smithereens: Carteret connection complete with Mesaros". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  13. ^ Slotnik, Daniel E. (December 13, 2017). "Pat DiNizio, Singer and Songwriter for the Smithereens, Dies at 62". The New York Times.
  14. ^ a b Angermiller, Michele Amabile (January 15, 2018). "Steven Van Zandt, Kinks' Dave Davies Pay Tribute to Smithereens' Pat Dinizio". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  15. ^ "» New shows with Marshall Crenshaw announced". Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  16. ^ ""LOVE ME DO"/"P.S. I LOVE YOU" SINGLE RELEASED!". July 5, 2020. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  17. ^ Dye, Robert (July 19, 2020). "The Smithereens Pay Tribute To The Beatles With "Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You" 45 RPM Release". American Songwriter. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  18. ^ Pat DiNizio - Song Demos, retrieved October 3, 2022
  19. ^ "The Pat Dinizio Foursome". Discogs. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  20. ^ Pat DiNizio - Pat DiNIzio, retrieved October 3, 2022
  21. ^ Pat DiNizio - The Best Of, retrieved October 3, 2022
  22. ^ "THE SMITHEREENS ANNOUNCE THE LOST ALBUM!". Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  23. ^ "The Smithereens Discography on Discogs, Appearances". Retrieved on 9 September 2018.
  24. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (pdf ed.). Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  25. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 279. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  26. ^ Steffen Hung. "The Smithereens - Too Much Passion". Retrieved 2014-07-27.
  27. ^ "Smithereens | full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  28. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997). Indie Hits 1980-1989. Cherry Red Books. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  29. ^ "The Smithereens Chart History (Hot 100)". Billbaord. Eldridge Industries. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  30. ^ "The Smithereens Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  31. ^ "The Smithereens Chart History (Mainstream Rock Airplay)". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  32. ^ "The Smithereens - Girl in Room 12". Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  33. ^ "The Smithereens - Get a Hold of My Heart". Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  34. ^ "The Smithereens - Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer". Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  35. ^ "The Smithereens - Sick Of Seattle (Vinyl)". Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  36. ^ "The Smithereens - Everything I Have Is Blue (CD)s". Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  37. ^ "The Smithereens - Time Won't Let Me (From The Motion Picture "Timecop")". Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  38. ^ "She's Got a Way". Rate Your Music. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  39. ^ "The return of the Smithereens!". The Smithereens Official Website.
  40. ^ "One Look At You". The Smithereens Official Website.
  41. ^ Jordan, Chris (July 7, 2020). "Smithereens release 'Love Me Do' cover with Beatles drummer not named Ringo Starr". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  42. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Smithereens 10" (DVD credits). Capitol Records. 2002. 07777-40003-9-0. Retrieved August 20, 2022.
  43. ^ "The Smithereens: Top of the Pops". IMDb. Retrieved September 3, 2022.
  44. ^ "The Smithereens: Too Much Passion". IMDb. Retrieved August 20, 2022.
  45. ^ "The Smithereens: Time Won't Let Me". IMDb. Retrieved August 20, 2022.
  46. ^ The Smithereens: Sorry (Music), April 14, 2011, retrieved October 21, 2022
  47. ^ The Smithereens: One Look at You (Music), August 11, 2011, retrieved October 21, 2022

External links[edit]