Looking Back: Pat DiNizio’s Jersey Shore Roots & Lasting Impact
Anyone who is remotely interested in the great rock bands/artists/musicians of New Jersey knows that The Smithereens belong on Page One. Really, really close to the top of the page at that.
As a very proud native son of the great Garden State, I’ve always been an advocate for local musicians. Back in the 80’s when I was the music director, and eventually the program director at WPST I was very much a man on that mission, and at that point in my career, a guy with a platform to do just that. And so I did. And I’m happy that I still get to do more of the same here at 105.7 The Hawk.
The Smithereens were a band that was red hot on the Central Jersey club scene in the early 80’s and the buzz was undeniable and finally, in 1986 they signed with Enigma Records, which was distributed through Capitol.
Pat DiNizio was the band’s principal songwriter and lead vocalist. He was certainly a force of nature. He was a music historian who I always thought wrote great rock songs with pop sensibilities. As a student of the golden days of AM radio out of New York City in the 1960’s that makes all the sense in the world.
I first met him and the band when their first album “Especially For You” came out. One listen and we were all in. And so it went. I loved seeing them live, especially at the Stone Pony.
They always represented Jersey so well.
Two ‘events’ that really stand out for me:
October 18 & 19, 2001 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. They were a big part of the Alliance of Neighbors benefit shows following 9/11. They brought it in a big way on both of those nights. I’m listening to their set from 10/19 as I write this and they were so locked in. And as anyone who ever had the good fortune to see them perform live knows, that’s the way that it always went. There were spirits in the house that night that definitely needed to be lifted, and the Smithereens got it done.
January 16, 2016, at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park when they headlined Light Of Day 16. Another landmark performance hall and legendary theater, and another dynamic performance. This one a full-on headline set with many tasty nuggets and all the hits.
Pat played 2 different station shows for 105.7 The Hawk over the years. One at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood and one at the Headliner in Neptune.
And I was bound and determined to have him come and perform live on the 10th anniversary Bruce Brunch show that we were doing live from the River Rock in Brick in December 2013. It was essential to have E Street in the house (thank you Max and Vini), but I really wanted someone who’d never been on before to perform and that was Pat.
Pat DiNizio told such great stories that morning. He’d done a special for ESPN called “7th Inning Stretch” and had interviewed Bruce for it. He really lit up talking about it. They had a catch and discussed baseball and music (duh) and the piece was priceless. It still is—and easy to still find on Youtube:
We talked radio and the Beatles and records and his race for the United States Senate and New Jersey and it was as great as I had hoped it would be.
Pat performed 2 songs that morning, one of Bruce’s (“Downbound Train”) and one of his (“Blood And Roses”).
This Sunday morning on the Bruce Brunch, I’ll be playing back a chunk of the interview as well as the songs.
Pat DiNizio and the Smithereens are such a big part of the musical fabric of New Jersey. Every time that I ever crossed paths with the guy was a happy occasion. Every time that I saw the band or one of his solo performances was a happy occasion. The band is a staple on Pete Lepore’s “Attic Alternative” show that precedes the Bruce Brunch every Sunday morning. Whether I’m in the car or in the studio, when the Smithereens come on—the knob gets turned to 11.
I’m saddened by his passing. I trust that he’s at peace. And turning knobs throughout the great beyond up to 11 when and wherever possible.
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