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 They are still active (though Mesaros has been replaced by Severo Jornacion), and will perform at a benefit concert at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair on Nov. 30.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.
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.
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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