Jim Babjak Talks About The Smithereens and The Lost Album

Written by Randy Patterson

Posted October 2022

jim babjak croppedI love the story of the Smithereens because it’s much like our stories . . . at least, I can relate to it.

Four buddies graduate from high school in the seventies and decide to pursue their dreams on the side as they work allegedly responsible day jobs. In the case of the Jim Babjak, Pat DiNizio ,Mike Mesaros, and Dennis Diken, it was forming a band, getting a recording contract, and recording albums that resulted in an impressive string of hits. To jar your memory, some of those hits were “Too Much Passion”, “Only a Memory” and “A Girl Like You”.

Their work also led to some very impressive, high-profile collaborations with the likes of The Kinks, Lou Reed, Julian Lennon, Susanne Vega, Belinda Carlisle, and Graham Parker.

The Smithereens (named after the famous catchphrase screamed by a cartoon character, we all knew and loved, Yosemite Sam, recorded a total of two EPs, eleven studio albums (not counting seven compilation albums), and five live albums. These fed appearances on twenty-one soundtracks and other like-kind projects.

To add to that list, the band has just released a long-lost album called, well, The Lost Smithereens CoverClick Above To Order Your CopyAlbum. It was recorded in 1993 while the band was not under a record label. The album sat unreleased and “unlistened” to until now. And boy! Is it ever great stuff! It’s the kind of great rock and roll that we always loved and expected from The Smithereens.

The interview video, below, is from a recent chat I had with band founder and guitarist, Jim Babjak. We talked about the story behind this album, what he and his band mates have been up to, and other fun topics.

Please watch the interview and share it with your friends. You can also keep up with the Smithereens at their website, here, and with Jim Babjak, here, as well as on the band’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages. Be sure to also check out the official press release about The Lost Album. It is located underneath the interview video, below. Oh, and you can buy the album by clicking on the album cover to the right. 

 

The Boomerocity Interview With Jim Babjak

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SEMINAL ALT-ROCK BAND THE SMITHEREENS TO RELEASE THE LOST ALBUM, PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED FULL LENGTH RECORDED IN 1993 VIA SUNSET BLVD. RECORDS ON 9/23

The album from the beloved NJ quartet will delight fans and critics alike as it is comprised of rocking, raucous never before recorded songs. The Lost Album will be available on all digital platforms.

CARTERET, New Jersey -- In the fall of 1993 while they were in between contracts with Capitol and RCA, The Smithereens ventured into Crystal Sound Studios NYC to write and record a new album for their own label. The result of those one-month marathon recording sessions is this album, unheard by the outside world until now and appropriately titled The Lost Album. The Smithereens’ take no prisoners sound, reflecting their Garden State roots, has resonated with fans worldwide over the course of 17 albums and 2500+ live shows. They've also inspired generations of musicians, including Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, who cited The Smithereens as a major influence. Founded in New Jersey in 1980, The Smithereens have been creating electrifying, original rock’n’roll for 41 years. Jim Babjak (guitar) Dennis Diken (drums) and Mike Mesaros (bass) grew up together in Carteret and lead singer, the late Pat DiNizio, hailed from Scotch Plains. As The Smithereens’ fame escalated, they were in heavy rotation on MTV and appeared on The Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien, and Saturday Night Live. They’ve since performed on stages coast to coast from the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles to the Meadowlands Arena in NJ to Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, and internationally from Europe to Australia. Tour mates have included Tom Petty, Squeeze, The Pretenders, Lou Reed, and Ramones, among others.

In bassist Mike Mesaros’ “own write” –
The Lost Album has previously existed only as a sentimental “scrapbook” for Dennis, Pat, Jim, and me. Mine was tucked away in a dusty shoebox with other cassettes—forsaken raw nuggets of outtakes, demos, rough mixes, and silly chatter. Now, the inevitable turning of the clock and the tragic demise of friend and brother Pat has buffed and polished this collection of songs into emotional gold. The Lost Album remains only 80 percent finished and rough mixed. The feeling and style, however, are all there, outweighing any overdub or mix considerations. It is something new, yet vintage, emerging from its warm analog tomb into a cold digital world.

And so, The Lost Album lives. Listen and float with us in between labels purgatory. Pat D. Is in fine fettle and we are young, together, and tight. Cigarette smoke fills the studio like a mainline from the NJ Turnpike. It’s good and loud. Even playbacks. Beer is swilled and laughs are had with Den’s impersonations ruling the roost. It’s our traditional and comfortable atmosphere for makin’ us a record.

‘Round midnight, we exit Crystal Sound Studio A and jaywalk over to Studio B — O’Flynn’s Saloon. In due time a cab is hailed, and we head downtown to our village incubator, Kenny’s Castaways. We affectionately reckon with our uncle and mentor, Pat Kenny and invite the beloved man to a session. (He came). We’re jazzed about this project because, for the first time, we are producing ourselves and mum’s the word to the outside world. Somehow, it evokes the early days when we were our own best kept secret and a fan club of 4.

The next day our singer is AWOL. After Kenny’s we had followed the clarion call to Freddy’s, an extinct Little Italy speakeasy (Bud in cans or Smirnoff shots) run by our pal Sal where Pat was the jukebox Sinatra. By day it was a paper/tobacco stand/ soda fountain. Sal’s mama always had a big pot of sauce gurgling awaiting her cloud-like meatballs. The aroma permeated lower Manhattan to 6th Avenue.

As we three Carteret hangovers await the Scotch Plains boy’s arrival we are soothed by our ace engineer, pocket psychologist, and studio owner Larry Buxbaum. He supports us and believes in our project like an older brother with a bemused grin. Love and miss you, Larry. Thanks.

The Lost Album showcases some of DiNizio and Babjak’s best writing and never better group empathy and collaboration. At this point we were really listening to each other, and this was key in our individual styles meshing so well. A real band. We could be mean, sweet, joyful, or brooding. As need be. We still were in our prime — young, battle-scarred vets who were fluent in the lingua franca of rock ‘n roll but still not far removed from Jimmy’s garage and Pat’s basement. (We still aren’t.)

Out of a shoebox it came. New and vintage. Come back with us. Let’s Get Outa This World.
Tour dates are as follows:
10/14 WALL STREET THEATER NORWALK, CT
11/2 CITY WINERY CHICAGO, IL
11/3 POTAWATOMI HOTEL MILWAUKEE, WI
11/4 LUDLOW GARAGE CINCINNATI, OH
11/5 KNUCKLEHEADS KANSAS CITY, MO
with Marshall Crenshaw on lead vocals

12/3 CARTERET CARTERET, NJ
with Marshall Crenshaw and Robin Wilson

3/3/23 80s CRUISE
with Robin Wilson