by Shannon MacDonald / Creative Director of SSL

Our Culprit in the Hot Seat:  Jimmy Babjak, Guitarist of The Smithereens



I have known Smithereens guitarist, Jimmy Babjak and drummer, Dennis Diken for some time now. I have played on stage with Dennis, but never Jimmy… and that rather upsets me (Jimmy). A good trade-off was I was able to have a quick but serious chat with Jimmy. Besides the fact that he is “quite the talent” and an all-around “nice guy from Jersey”, I’m a big fan of his band, The Smithereens. Like The Beatles, to me, they go hand-in-hand with what I hear in their music…straight ahead Rock n’ Roll: big drums, big guitars, big hooks, thick vocals and harmony, and tunes that stay in your head long after the player has been shut off. I am happy to say Jimmy is the very first musician to take part in our “10 Questions” for the serious musician.

– Shannon MacDonald


1. Q: A lot has changed since the Smithereens came onto the scene with “Behind The Wall Of Sleep”, “Blood And Roses”, and “A Girl Like You”.  The formula to those songs is obviously solid and hit-worthy. When writing songs, did The Smithereens purposely try to stick to a certain formula?

   A: Not really a formula, just a classic songwriting structure. We grew up listening to the music of the ’50s and ’60s. It’s in our collective DNA. I like to think that the music we create is timeless.


2. Q: What was the influence to recreate The Beatles with “Meet The Smithereens”?

A: When we were introduced to The Beatles’ music as kids, it was the American releases we heard first. The song order is engrained in our heads. The sequencing from all those early Beatles albums up to “Revolver” was different than the British LPs. I didn’t find out about those till the early ’70s when import albums became available and then In the ’80s, Compact discs became the norm, and those American albums pretty much disappeared. “Meet The Beatles” has a very special place in our hearts. After that album was unleashed in the USA, our lives were changed forever.


3. Q: You have a specific sound when playing guitar. We always see the Rickenbacker or Telecaster. How much have The Beatles, The Who, and Paul Wheller influenced your sound?

    A: When I started playing guitar it was The Beatles and The Who that made me want to play in the first place. They introduced me to the sound and beauty of Rickenbacker guitars. By the late ’70s, it was bands like The Romantics and The Jam bringing fresh energy into music as an alternative to Disco that influenced me into thinking, “Yeah, I can do this!”


4. Q: How has the music business changed, for you, since The Smithereens signed their first record deal?

    A: There have been many changes. Too many to list. I certainly don’t miss having to spend $100,000 on a video that MTV had the power to play, or just dismiss. There goes all that money out the window. Poof! Just like Wile E Coyote falling off the cliff. There was a tremendous amount of waste back then. What hasn’t changed is that we still have the passion and the will to play and record new music on our own terms.


5. Q: What is the correlation between Yosemite Sam and the name The Smithereens?

    A: Our drummer, Dennis Diken, came up with the name from the famous Yosemite Sam phrase, “I’ll blow you varmints to smithereens!” It just sounded like it should be a name for a band.


6. Q: We hear The Smithereens may be back in our ears. “The Lost Album” is the rumor… Is this true and what can we expect?

    A: This is true. We were in-between labels in 1993 and decided to record an album on our own. We had enough songs for 2 albums and when we signed with RCA records in 1994, we re-recorded half the songs which became, “A Date With The Smithereens.” The other half remained in the vault till now. It’s fun for us to go back and hear these forgotten songs. I think our fans will like hearing these lost balls in the weeds. It didn’t make sense to record a double album back then.


7. Q: Your band, “The Bar”, has a new music project. Who is in the band?

    A: The band consists of Kurt Reil from a group called “The Gripweeds” and Danny Adlerman, who is a children’s book author and recording artist. Together with myself, we make up “The BAR”, which is the acronym for our last names: Babjak, Adlerman, Reil.  The common thread is that Danny wrote the lyrics to all the songs while Kurt and I wrote the music for them. We play all the instruments on the album.


8. Q: Where can we get music by “The Bar”?

    A: You can find it on officialsmithereens.com & also Dannyandkim.com


9. Q: There is no doubt about the hardships in the music business since “The Lockdown”. How has Jim Babjak kept busy?

A: I’ve been working on new songs with my bandmates Mike Mesaros, Dennis Diken, Robin Wilson, Marshall Crenshaw, and Susan Cowsill.


10. Q: Are there any tour dates on the horizon for “The Smithereens”?

      A: As soon as venues open up again and we all get vaccinated. We’ll be ready! Can’t wait!