Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Smithereens -- "Only a Memory"

Only a Memory - Green Thoughts

(Debuted May 21, 1988, Peaked #92, 4 Weeks on the Chart)

By 1988, I was listening to a lot less Top 40 and a lot more Rock and alternative radio. One example of how much is this song. It stalled at #92, which surprises me because if there was a personal soundtrack to the Summer of 1988, that song would be on it. However, it also hit #1 on the Modern Rock chart, which makes more sense since that was a period where I'd started turning away from Top 40 and embracing other (mainly guitar-heavy) formats.

The Smithereens came from New Jersey. Dennis Diken, Jim Babjak and Mike Mesaros were high school classmates and formed the band with singer/guitarist Pat DiNizio in 1980. They spent a few years working the clubs and bars around their home area and released an EP in 1983. A full-length LP followed in '86 but the group was still struggling to attract an audience despite very positive reviews and a cult following. That would change with the Green Thoughts album in 1988. "Only a Memory" led off that LP and was its first single.

The band's sound was different from much of the era's synth-heavy, dance beat-driven music. Their influences lay in British Invasion rock and the guitars were more than just a simple studio calculation. There were still catchy hooks to be heard, but it stood above the morass of what was passing for pop music in 1988 because it was familiar, yet very different. Unfortunately, they may have arrived a few years early. Had they first appeared in the 1990s as grunge changed the musical landscape, they may have gained a much larger following.

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