I reached No. 350 in the 350 Jersey Songs series in September 2015, but occasionally add a new “bonus” pick. Here’s another one.
When I started going to concerts regularly in New Jersey, in the early ’80s, it was considered something of a badge of honor to stop at a White Castle fast food restaurant — at 2 a.m., or whatever — for a quick meal, after a show. As far as I know, it still is. Some people I knew were addicted to this ritual, though I confess, I only did it once or twice.
The Smithereens song “White Castle Blues” — written by the band’s guitarist, Jim Babjak, and a friend, Bob Banta, several years before The Smithereens even existed — is the only rock ‘n’ roll song I know that addresses this phenomenon:
Saturday night and it’s gettin’ late
I’m gettin’ hungry, I just can’t wait
Not just any kind of burger will do
I’m being hit by those
White Castle blues
In return for immortalizing those burgers, Babjak (who sings lead on the song) and Banta were inducted into the White Castle Hall of Fame — yes, there is one — in 2002.
“White Castle Blues” became a concert favorite for The Smithereens, often appearing as a rowdy encore. It appeared as a B-side on “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” the third single from the band’s 1986 debut album, Especially for You, and was included on the CD reissue of the album, as well as the 2004 Smithereens anthology, From Jersey It Came!
At the Jan. 13 tribute concert for the band’s late frontman Pat DiNizio, at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, surviving band members performed the song after hundreds of burgers, donated by White Castle, were distributed for free to audience members. White Castle also donated $10,000 to the Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarship fund.
Here is the Stone Pony version that was included on From Jersey It Came!