"We view it as arguably and historically the most important rock 'n' roll album ever released," says Smithereens frontman Pat DiNizio . "It" in this case refers to "Meet he Beatles!," the album that introduced the Beatles to the American public in the early days of 1964. Fueled in part by the Beatles-only set they played at 2005's Abbey Road on the River convention, the veteran guitar-pop band has made "Meet the Smithereens!" (Koch), a track-by-track cover of the album DiNizio calls "the holy grail of all Beatles records." It arrives in stores today.
Q This is your first album since "God Save the Smithereens" in 1999 . Why did you pick a project like this to end that hiatus?
A The response to the show was tremendously gratifying, and in fact the audience was calling out for Smithereens songs during the course of the set. So we realized that there was perhaps a crossover element there between die hard Beatles fans and Smithereens fans, although we always sort of knew that. In any event, in the wake of that successful show, I began to receive a lot of e-mails from some nice folks who had attended the concert suggesting to us that perhaps we should consider the idea of doing a Smithereens Beatles tribute album.
Q Did you have to learn any of the songs on the record from scratch?
A Well, yes, pretty much, but the songs were in fact a part of the collective DNA of the band. Obviously we had been enamored of that record our entire lives, pre-Smithereens and post-Smithereens. I knew the vocal lines backward and forward , but it was my most difficult vocal assignment of my career, in that I had to be faithful to the original performance yet make it my own. And I think I was able to do that. I don't know how, but I was very careful about how I approached it. The Beatles tribute bands, I think their stock in trade is to try to impersonate the voices of Lennon and McCartney and Ringo and George, and we weren't interested in doing that at all. We were interested in making a Smithereens album.
Q In a way, you halfway did approach it that way. You've got [guitarist] Jim [Babjak] singing George Harrison's song, and you've got [drummer] Dennis [Diken] singing Ringo's song.
A Yeah, but that's the fun of it. There was no other way to really do it. If you were to do it, you would've done the same thing. Had there been another lead vocalist in the band, we might have split the duties between John's vocals and Paul's, but I wound up doing both, obviously. It's meant in a certain spirit. It's not irreverent, there's a fun spirit to the record.
Q You can almost listen to the entire album as a commentary on the continued importance of the album in the post-iTunes era.
A I love the fact that it's almost like the Phil Spector era again, where you had "Be My Baby " by the Ronettes, then you had "Baby I Love You" -- you had a bunch of things released as singles and then they came out as an album. But yes, it is a very definite commentary, in the form of a brand new CD, of the importance of albums and the whole album-listening experience, of listening to a collection of songs from one artist and that album seeming to have a life of its own. So yes . . . it may have been in the back of our minds without realizing it. But it wasn't intentional. But if you have ears to hear, you'll get it, because it's important that those songs exist together.
FROM WIRE REPORTS