You Say It's Your Birthday: The Smithereens' Dennis Diken

John Doe, once of X, celebrates his birthday today.

Today is the birthday of Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken,

who was born in 1957 in Belleville, New Jersey. The Smithereens' hard-edged pop

appeared amid the late-'80s scene -- just as arty, guitar-based rockers like

R.E.M. and Dinosaur, Jr. were finding homes in America's record collections --

predating grunge with its guitar-heavy sound. Although the group has never

broken through in a big way, at least two of their songs--"Blood & Roses" and

"Behind the Wall of Sleep"--are classics.

Diken, along with high school

buddies Jim Babjak and Mike Mesaros (a guitarist and bassist, respectively),

placed an ad in a music paper that led them to vocalist Pat DiNizio. They

released an EP in 1980 called Girls About Town, which contained three

originals and a cover of the Beach Boys' "Girl Don't Tell Me." That EP and

their follow-up earned almost no attention, and the band had to support

themselves by playing covers and backing old fogies like Otis Blackwell and

Beau Brummels.

Their fates turned when DiNizio sent a demo to Enigma

Records; they were signed in 1987 and released Especially For You, with

guest appearances by Marshall Crenshaw and Suzanne Vega. Their follow-up,

1989's 11, scored a hit with "A Girl Like You" and went to #41 on the

album charts.

They have released three low-scoring albums since, including

1994's A Date With the Smithereens (featuring Lou Reed) and a live

record. Aside from his work with the band, Diken wrote the liner notes for a

compilation record, It's Hard To Believe It: The Amazing World Of Joe


Other birthdays: George Harrison, Stuart "Woody" Wood (Bay City

Rollers), Jim "Daryl" Gilmour (Saga), Mike Peters (Alarm), Foster Sylvers

(Sylvers) and John Doe (X). -- Beth Winegarner

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