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Smithereens meet the Beatles

February 15, 2007|Kevin Bronson

For a certain generation, 1964 was the year that turned the United States on its ear. "It was the year that changed everything," says Smithereens singer Pat DiNizio, ticking off events in the cultural upheaval that began with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963. "And for anybody who was musically inclined, nothing was more important than 'Meet the Beatles!' It's arguably the most important rock 'n' roll record of all time."

That slab of vinyl left its mark on millions, including DiNizio's scruffy New Jersey pop band, which went on to make seven albums in a 26-year career. Now, 43 years later, the Smithereens have left their imprint on the Beatles, in January releasing "Meet the Smithereens!" -- a song-by-song re-creation of the original. Though the Smithereens largely use the original arrangements, the album doesn't simply ape the Fab Four. The New York Times likened it to a classical performance, saying "it balances fidelity to the original with a projection of the interpreter's style."

Certainly, though, there is nothing new about covering the Beatles. The Smithereens don't approach the album note for note, but they are faithful. DiNizio's dusky voice shades the songs darker, while never giving the listener the impression the collection is anything but a tribute.

"The Beatlemania bands, their stock in trade is to impersonate the voices. That was the furthest thing from my mind," says DiNizio, who will sprinkle in some covers with his band's material at the Key Club and the Coach House this weekend. "It was the most difficult assignment I've had, singing those songs."

-- Kevin Bronson

The Smithereens, the Key Club, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. 7 tonight. $20. (310) 274-5800; www.keyclub.com. Also 6 p.m. Friday at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. (949) 496-8930; www.thecoachhouse.com.

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