Song of the Week – Behind the Wall of Sleep, The Smithereens


Last Tuesday, December 12th, Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens died at the age of 62. DiNizio was the main creative force behind the New Jersey based band; its lead singer, guitarist and main songwriter.

As a power pop fanatic, I always enjoyed the music of The Smithereens and was able to see them in concert back in the late ‘80s.

They had several “modern rock” hits played by progressive FM radio stations, including “Blood and Roses,” Only a Memory” and “A Girl Like You.”

Today’s SotW was another, “Behind the Wall of Sleep” from their 1986 debut, Especially for You.

The song opens with an obscure reference to Jean Shrimpton (does DiNinzio sing Jeannie Shipton?) who was a super model that, along with Twiggy, helped set of the mini skirt craze in the mid ‘60s.

She had hair like Jeannie Shrimpton back in 1965
She had legs that never ended, I was halfway paralyzed
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

The woman the song was about was a girl named Kim Ernst, the bassist for an all-female, Boston based band called The Bristols.

The music is equally influenced by the British Invasion and garage rock sounds of the ‘60s. All very mod. In fact, The Smithereens recorded two albums of Beatles’ covers. Meet the Smithereens (2007) was a song for song replica of Meet the Beatles. B-Sides The Beatles (2008) was just as it says – covers of Beatles’ B-sides.

On the rarities compilation The Attack of the Smithereens (1995) the band exposed some of their other early influences with covers of The Beau Brummels’ “Just a Little,” and Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s “Something Stupid” – fun stuff worth hearing.

So long Pat, may you rest in peace.

Enjoy… until next week.

3 thoughts on “Song of the Week – Behind the Wall of Sleep, The Smithereens

  1. Always liked them when they came on the radio and “Wall of Sleep” remains my fave of theirs. They had a vision and fully realized it. The Beatles influence is out front, but where do we think their other elements came from? I’m having trouble pinning it down. Slowed-down punk? I don’t hear the garage influence that Tom mentions, or I do but only in the broadest sense. Please help me.

  2. Look at the stache! These guys are Beatle influenced, love the Beau Brummels, and the Searchers, but I think the reason they don’t conform is because they’re original. Not uninfluenced, but synthesizing instead of copying. Songwriting ends up being the filter point. They also wrote a lot of bad songs. But the riffs were the same.

  3. Another comment: I think they weren’t riff based. They liked words and sounds and lots of stuff that shows up in a different place. Good for the Smithereens. They did better than most.

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