The Smithereens FAQ

Version 0.3

by Joe Clark

Last updated 960807

Most of the answers in this FAQ deriving from actual Smithereens quotes are based on an interview I had with the Smithereens on 6 August 1994 in Toronto. That's the second interview I did with the band (the first one didn't net much of interest), so I'll call it the Second Joe Clark Tapes.

You can find this FAQ at <smitherfaq.html>.

And now the questions. If no link is shown for a question, the question has no answer. Submit any information here.

  1. Who the heck are these Smithereens cats, anyway?
  2. How did the Smithereens meet? Is it true that Dennis, Mike, and Jim have known each other since grade school?
  3. Where do the lads live now?
  4. What is "Hand of Glory" about?
  5. What is "William Wilson" about?
  6. What is the influence of Yukio Mishima?
  7. What is "Afternoon Tea" about?
  8. What is "House We Used to Live In" about?
  9. Who are the female back-up singers in "Blue Period" and "A Girl Like You"?
  10. What is the Smithereens' role in the development of closed-captioned music videos?
  11. Are any of the Smithereens married? fathers?
  12. What is the complete Smithereens discography?
  13. How has Pat's hairline changed over the years? How has his taste in baldness-concealing headgear evolved?
  14. How is Dennis Diken's surname pronounced?
  15. How do I subscribe to the Smithereens Internet mailing list?
  16. Do the Smithereens have an official fan club?
  17. What other online resources on the Smithereens exist?
  18. Which Smithereens albums are available on vinyl?
  19. Are their music videos compiled somewhere?
  20. Who designed the cover artwork for Blow Up? How did it come about?
  21. Who designed the full-size poster promoting Blow Up in which the lads are shown in adjacent but separate photographs in which one Smithereen's eye leads into the next Smithereen's eye?
  22. What is White Castle, and [for omnivores and carnivores only] do they make good burgers?
  23. What was the Smithereens' involvement in the film soundtracks of Bull Durham and Timecop?
  24. What recordings are available on bootleg? What is available on radio show discs?
  25. Describe some of Pat's favourite guitars.
  26. Describe the Smithereens' experience with their various producers.
  27. Is the band about to break up? Does this seem perennially to be the case? What is the evidence of strife within the band, if any?
  28. Is it true that Pat appeared briefly in the film Singles?
  29. Whose ideas was it to include the prominent back-up orchestra in "Too Much Passion"?
  30. Is the slurring in the opening words of "Tell Me When Did Things Go So Wrong" ("Wwwwe used to walk in the sun...") deliberate?
  31. What did the Smithereens say during their CompuServe interview in 1994?
  32. Are the Smithereens big in Iceland? Did any male member of the Icelandic band the Sugarcubes make a drunken confession of love for any member of the Smithereens?

  1. The Smithereens are an American four-piece rock band. Principals:

    All the Smithereens sing, but Pat's voice is invariably the most prominent. The Smithereens' style is '60s-influenced rock & roll. [Back]

  2. How did the Smithereens meet? Is it true that Dennis, Mike, and Jim have known each other since grade school?

    From the Second Joe Clark Tapes:

    Joe: Where are you boys from, each of you?

    Jim: New Jersey.

    Joe, pronouncing it à la Nouveau-Jerseyaise: Joisey.

    Jim: Yeah, Jersey.

    Dennis: Cartaret and Scotch Plains.

    Jim: Well, you know that Mike and Dennis and I went to high school together.

    Joe: I know that now!

    Jim: [Laughs at Pat's strumming] Déjà vu! Pat went to Scotch Plains.

    Dennis: Jimmy, Mike and myself grew up in a town called Cartaret, New Jersey. It's a half hour south from New York City. [Back]

  3. Where do the lads live now?

    As of 1994, Pat lives in Chicago, Dennis and Jim in New York, and Mike in "the Bay Area." [Back]

  4. What is "Hand of Glory" about?

    This song, from the Smithereens' Especially for You, is explained thus (from the Second Joe Clark Tapes):

    Joe: All right. What is the song "Hand of Glory" about, and what are the damn fucking lyrics that I can't understand?

    Dennis: I'll give you Jim Silva's number. You can call him. He's the guy who wrote that.

    Pat: Jimmy Silva was a--

    Joe: He sung it. He must know.

    Pat: I sung it. I always felt I did a very piss-poor interpretation.

    Dennis: It's an obscure kind of lyric. It's about this medieval ritual to ward off evil spirits froma a person's house, where you take the hand of a freshly-hung felon, chop it off, pickle it with these various herbs and things in, dip it in tallow, light the fingers, run around the house several times, and what it's supposed to do is, for a robber that wants to rob the house, it makes the people inside the house asleep.

    Jim: No, it's an unborn hand. It's a--

    Dennis: Well, that's another interpretation of it. So there''s your answer.

    Pat: But anyway, to make a long story short

    Jim: That's some weird shit, man!

    Joe: [Laugh] That's even weirder than what I thought it was [namely, finding a severed hand in a railway yard]!

    Pat: I could never get behind the lyric of that song. It was more the type of song that had a lot of energy live and it always went over great, and we thought we'd give it a shot in the studio, and it wound up on the album. [Back]

  5. What is "William Wilson" about?

    This song, from Smithereens 11, is explained thus (again from the Second Joe Clark Tapes):

    Joe: "William Wilson," the same story: Would you please explain?

    Pat: "William Wilson" started out as "Brian Wilson." It was lyrically meant to be about a self-destructive person, and then I saw something on television, a news story, about a son and a father who were reunited after not having seen each other for 20 or 30 years, and then there was an Edgar Allan Poe story called "William Wilson" which, ironically, was also about someone who was self-destructive. So we combined all that lyrically. Then I found out that the guy who founded A.A. was named William Wilson.

    Dennis: Oh, yeah? [Snort]

    Pat: You never knew that?

    Dennis: I never knew that.

    Joe: Synchronicity. [Back]

  6. What is the influence of Yukio Mishima?

    Here is the bio entry from The Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, version 6.0.2:

    The novelist and playwright Mishima Yukio, b. Hiraoka Kimitake, Jan. 14, 1925, d. Nov. 25, 1970, was the best-known Japanese writer to Western readers. A flamboyant figure in life, he has become a legend after his suicide following an unsuccessful attempt to foment rebellion among the ranks of his country's Self Defense Force. Eroticism, particularly homosexual eroticism, martyrdom, and conservative politics pervade even his first novel, Confessions of a Mask (1949; Eng. trans., 1958); but in his later works such concerns pale before his burning obsession: when and how to die. Many of his heroes act out his own formulas for death: ritual disembowelment at the prime of life.

    An extremely precocious but sickly youth, Mishima was drafted into the army in 1945 but failed to pass the physical examination. His relief at the war's end turned into guilt at having survived. In novels such as The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1956; Eng. trans., 1959) and in essays such as "Sun and Steel" (1968; Eng. trans., 1970) he widened his fascination with death to include nihilism, narcissism, and aestheticism. Several of these themes are treated in Acts of Worship, a collection of seven short stories, previously untranslated into English, published in 1990.

    Detesting the sedentary life of most writers, Mishima tried to hide his own intellectualism in a physical fitness program and a desperate pursuit of action. He nevertheless wrote again and again about the ultimate meaninglessness of action.

    -- Edward B. Fowler

    Bibliography: Nathan, John, Mishima: A Biography (1974; repr. 1985); Scott-Stokes, Henry, The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima (1974; repr. 1985); Wolfe, Peter, Yukio Mishima (1989); Yourcenar, Marguerite, Mishima: A Vision of the Void (1986).

    Mishima's life is explored in Paul Schrader's film Mishima (1986). Some of his works available in English translation include:

    Here's what Pat DiNizio says about Mishima's influence on him (from-- of course!-- the Second Joe Clark Tapes):

    Pat: And Mishima had a lot of macabre, dark imagery in his work. And it's also why I like the British writer Ian McEwen a lot. It's the same thing the dark side always appealed to me. I think I admire Mishima more as a man, as a very colourful character who his goal was to make a poem out of his life, you know? He created Mishima and, I mean, he died in a ritual-suicide beheading trying to take over his government, you know! This guy was amazing.

    Joe: You saw the film, I'm sure.

    Pat: Yeah, but I've read all the biographies. I have a vast Mishima bookshelf. And I think that the man himself was far more interesting than anything he ever wrote, you know. So he inspires me as someone who really pushed his life so totally to the edge that there was no turning back in terms of that. I've used a lot of titles of his short stories for song titles: "Evening Dress" was a Mishima short story, "Cigarette," "Blood and Roses," there's quite a few of them that I've borrowed from him, and most of them are untranslated. I haven't read them, but the titles themselves lent enough imagery for me to come up with a lyric. And that's why I find Mishima inspirational. And I was always fascinated with Japanese culture. [Back]

  7. What is "Afternoon Tea" about?

    From the horses' mouths:

    Pat: "Afternoon Tea." I was in Japan on my honeymoon, and walking around Kyoto, my wife Mary and I, and came across a shop that sold British flatware and cups and things like that, and it was called Afternoon Tea. And I said, "This is a song title staring me in the face." I didn't know that the Kinks and probably a lot of other people had songs called "Afternoon Tea."

    Dennis: 'sokay.

    Pat: Thank you. After we finished recording it, Mike [Mesaros] came up to me and said, "You know, the Kinks have a song called `Afternoon Tea.'" I said, "Well, thanks, Mike." "Afternoon Tea" is written for our friend George who was our booking agent at Premiere who died of AIDS. And I saw his disintegration, and him very much losing his mind and losing not the will to live, but he was

    Dennis: Just losing his life.

    Pat: He was losing his life, and he was disassociating himself from everybody around him. He was distancing himself because it was easier, and the disease was taking its toll in a very rapid period of time. And so "Afternoon Tea" is about someone it doesn't necessarily have to be AIDS, but that's what it's about specifically someone who is feeling a sense of isolation, you know, someone who's suffering and feeling misunderstood. I mean, it's like, "What have I done to deserve such disgrace?" is the way some people look at it, in a way that they shouldn't. That's what that song is about.

    Joe: So that would explain why there's that most hackneyed of symbols, a red ribbon, in the booklet.

    Pat: Well, I didn't want that was done intentionally. I don't know if it was the right thing to do, but it was done to let people know that the song was not about what they might think it's about. They would just think it's just another Smithereens love song or a lost love, and it's not about that. So that was done specifically in that case. And also to make people think a little. [Back]

  8. What is "House We Used to Live In" about?

    In (guess where?) the Second Joe Clark Tapes, Pat explained that "House We Used to Live In" is based on the experience of his own father, who lost the family house for failing to pay back taxes. [Back]

  9. Who are the female back-up singers in "Blue Period" and "A Girl Like You"?

    On "Blue Period," from Smithereens 11, the female backing voice belongs to Belinda Carlisle. On "A Girl Like You" (same album), it's Maria Vidal, not Belinda Carlisle as some of us once thought. [Back]

  10. What is the Smithereens' role in the development of closed-captioned music videos?

    Though captioning had been around for about eight years on North American TV, by 1989 only about two music videos had been captioned, and those captions never made it to viewer's homes over U.S. MTV for technical reasons. The floodgates opened for captioned videos back in '89, when the hard-of-hearing daughter of record producer Ed Stasium complained that she was being shut out of her daddy's work. A few phone calls later, Stasium, then working on Living Colour's Vivid, had convinced Columbia to send the video "Cult of Personality" to the New York office of the Caption Center, an arm of Boston PBS Überstation WGBH that's known for its well-executed captions.

    It took some sweet-talking for MTV, BET, and other broadcasters to remove technical roadblocks that interfered with broadcasting the caption codes (they're transmitted on a line of the TV picture just above the visible area, and you need a decoder to turn them into onscreen words), but those problems have been ironed out and captioned videos are par for the course these days.

    And those Smithereens lads? Well, their video "A Girl Like You" was one of the first dozen or so videos captioned (by the Caption Center) and actually aired with the Caption Center's well-designed generic CC symbol on the master tape. Every Smithereens video since then has been captioned. You need either a set-top decoder or a TV set with a built-in decoder (as of July 1993, all TVs 13" or larger in size are required to carry caption-decoding chips as standard equipment; most Canadian sets also carry them) to see the captions, and the program you're watching has to be captioned, and there need to be no technical obstacles blocking the caption transmission (rare, but it does happen). (Smithereens listowner Joe Clark wrote several articles about captioned videos including an early editorial in Billboard and has been watching captioned TV for 18 years. E-mail him for more information, and visit his homepage.) [Back]

  11. Are any of the Smithereens married? fathers?

    All are married or equivalent to married (Mike Mesaros hasn't legally tied any kind of knot). Pat DiNizio and his wife Mary (surname, anyone?) have a baby daughter, Liza. Dennis Diken married a fan. Details about Mike Mesaros are sketchy, as befits the most mysterious character in the band.

    The following comes from

    All of this info comes from various conversations I have had with the fellas

    during the 6 years that I have known them

    • Dennis' wife Donna manages and books the Bottom Line club in NYC
    • Jim Babjak married his high-school sweetheart Betty and they are the parents of two little boys (ages 5 and 3, their names escape me)
    • Mike Mesaros and his girlfriend Cindy live in Chicago. Cindy used to work for the Oakland A's and that's how they met.

    (Oddly, Pat maintained in the Second Joe Clark Tapes that Mike lives in "the Bay Area.") [Back]

  12. What is the complete Smithereens discography?

    Here's a start:

    1982: Girls About Town EP

    1983: Beauty and Sadness EP

    1986: Especially for You LP

    1987: Live EP

    1988: Green Thoughts LP, Enigma/Capitol

    1989: 11 LP, Enigma/Capitol

    1991: Blow Up LP, Capitol

    1994: A Date with the Smithereens LP, RCA/BMG [Back]

  13. How has Pat's hairline changed over the years? How has his taste in baldness-concealing headgear evolved?

    Pat has only ever lost hair in the time he's been an international rock megastar. In early videos "Blood and Roses," "In a Lonely Place" he can actually be seen without any kind of headgear, but as the years wore on and his pillowcases became ever more strewn with stray hairs, Pat has decided to duck and cover. Some items he's used to conceal his hereditarily-predisposed male-pattern baldness include a baseball cap, a bandana, a baseball cap and a bandana, and a fedora (Cf. "House We Used to Live In" video). [Back]

  14. How is Dennis Diken's surname pronounced?

    Rhymes with "liken" and not with "chicken." [Back]

  15. Do the Smithereens have an official fan club?



    P.O. Box 14257

    Chicago, IL 60614


  16. How do I subscribe to the Smithereens Internet mailing list?

    Send the words subscribe Smithereens in the body of a message to You'll be added automatically. To unsubscribe, send the words unsubscribe Smithereens to the same address. For more information, go here. [Back]

  17. What other online resources on the Smithereens exist?

    The following is from

    There is a small library of Smithereens-related files on CompuServe in the Music Vendor library. Several .WAV files (imagine being able to open Windows to the strains of "Miles from Nowhere"!), GIFs and text files (the online chat transcript, a bio) are available. Most of the same files are also available in GEnie's Music RT library. A search of Delphi turned up nothing more than a couple of old album reviews.

  18. Which Smithereens albums are available on vinyl?

    Green Thoughts, Especially for You, Beauty and Sadness, and 11. Blow Up appears to be unavailable on vinyl, and A Date with the Smithereens seems not to have been manufactured in vinyl anywhere except for a special box set of 7" singles comprising the entire album. Especially for You can also be found in a superfabulous picture disc, including a double-gatefold poster and the original album art pressed into the disc. [Back]

  19. Are their music videos compiled somewhere?

    Yes, on the videotape/videodisc 10 (Capitol/EMI, 1992). [Back]

  20. Who designed the cover artwork for Blow Up? How did it come about?

    Blow Up's cover was designed by Saul Bass, a dean of American graphic design whose other notable achievements include the opening credits of Psycho and IBM's horizontal-striped logo. Bass agreed to work with the band a first for him, and definitely a step down in station after hearing their previous albums and, presumably, after being lobbied by his kids, who were Smithereens fans. You can learn more about Saul Bass in Philip Meggs' A History of Graphic Design (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992), or in The Masters Series: Saul Bass (Visual Arts Museum of the School of Visual Arts, New York).

    Saul Bass died in 1996. [Back]

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