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Interview:
Marshall Crenshaw helps the Smithereens keep rocking
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Marshall Crenshaw is happy to be one of the new frontmen for the Smithereens even though he wishes he didn't have to be.



The Berkley-raised rocker, a "Beatlemania" veteran who's released 10 studio albums since 1982, along with the Gin Blossoms' Robin Wilson is standing in for singer Pat DiNizio, who died in December 2017 at the age of 62 after a period of declining health. Crenshaw who's known the band since 1982 and played on a couple of its songs over the years took part in a memorial tribute show the following year in Red Bank, N.J. His segment went so well that the Smithereens reached out to Crenshaw, 65, when they decided to continue.



"We've been friends for a long time," Smithereens guitarist Jim Babjak says. "His singing and our camaraderie captures the essence of the band. We don't want someone to imitate or sound like Pat. That's not the way we rock 'n' roll."



Crenshaw who recorded on the Smithereens' "White Castle Blues" under the pseudonym Jerome Jerome because he was contracted to another record company considers the Smithereens gig "a nice little side trip thing" as well as "a step outside the box for me" into heavier music than he usually makes on his own. "What I love is they're a great rock 'n' roll band," Crenshaw explains. "They're great players, a lot of commitment and energy. They have a cool sound that they created, probably with Pat's leadership."



Formed during 1980, the Smithereens released 11 studio albums between 1986 and 2011, including a set of Beatles covers and its own recording of the Who's rock opera "Tommy." The quartet had a number of radio hits as well, including "Only a Memory," "A Girl Like You," "Blood and Roses" and "Behind a Wall of Sleep." "They had a great concept for their sound when they started out," Crenshaw says. "They decided they were going to be really, really loud ... and they tuned their instruments down a half step to give it a little more darkness. It's really cool and fun to do."



Crenshaw says that diving into the Smithereens repertoire has put "a bit of another spin on them now that Pat is gone. ... I didn't think about it as much before, but the songs are really dark. Now that he's gone that really jumps out at me more, the dark kind of thing they have."







Crenshaw and the Smithereens are playing only the band's material and a few covers now. But he says there are discussions about writing and recording some new material possibly involving Wilson, too in the future.



"So far that's all it's been is talk," says Crenshaw, who's working on a film documentary about producer Tom Wilson and will re-release albums he put out with the Razor & Tie label from 1992-2003, with a new single included in each package. "I think it would be legitimate. They have a sound and it's an identifiable sound, and at least two of the guys are good songwriters unto themselves.



"I told them if they were going to spearhead it I would help which is sort of like what we're doing now, really. I think it would be cool if we'd get to the point where we were really taking action rather than talking."



The Smithereens featuring Marshall Crenshaw performs Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave, Ferndale. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 at 248-544-1991 or themagicbag.com.

Web Site: www.themagicbag.com

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