‘Behind the Wall of Sleep,’ The Smithereens with Graham Parker


Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens, left, with Graham Parker, on “MTV Unplugged,” in 1990.

There are, probably, some trivia fanatics out there who can tell you that MTV’s “Unplugged” series — you know, the one that has made it necessary for virtually all arena rock tours to this day to have an unplugged segment — debuted in November 1989, with an episode featuring Squeeze, Syd Straw and Elliot Easton of The Cars.

But you’d have to be the type of trivia nut who only comes along once in a lifetime to tell you who performed on the second episode, in January 1990.

It was New Jersey’s own Smithereens, double billed with Graham Parker.

The Smithereens, who hailed from Scotch Plains (frontman Pat DiNizio) and Carteret (guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken) had formed a decade earlier and, by 1990, were virtually rock veterans, with three well-regarded albums behind them. They are still active (though Mesaros has been replaced by Severo Jornacion), and will perform at a benefit concert at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair on Nov. 30. DiNizio is also doing a series of weekly Thursday night shows at the Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park, and Diken is spending some time on the road this fall backing Dave Davies of The Kinks.

Starting at the 3:40 mark of the video below is The Smithereens’ “Unplugged” version of “Behind the Wall of Sleep” — one of their signature tunes, from their 1986 debut album, Especially for You — with Parker handling lead vocals, and Diken on percussion instead of his usual drum kit.

“Graham, you’re sure you know this song?” DiNizio asks, before they begin.

The band released this version of the song as part of their “Yesterday Girl” cassette single in 1990, and also included it on their 1995 compilation Attack of the Smithereens.

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.


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Rick October 30, 2014 - 10:20 pm

When you write “Below is The Smithereens’ “Unplugged” version of “Behind the Wall of Sleep” — one of their signature tunes, from their 1986 debut album, “Especially for You” — with Parker handling lead vocals.” do you mean under my monitor? Because there sure isn’t any video on this page anywhere.

njartsdaily@gmail.com October 30, 2014 - 10:32 pm

Sorry, I’m not sure what happened, but it is there now. Thanks for letting me know.


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