Pulled out the Walkman and some cassettes last weekend. I let the Smithereens’ “Green Thoughts” repeat a few times, an album I miss because for some reason I don’t own a digital copy. Suddenly, I became spellbound by only a memory, a deep black trip through some houses I used to live in and a world I once knew.
— This cassette was given to me by a man in a giant cat costume, a mascot for the radio station KATT handing out swag at a Mexican restaurant. Some musical relationships just start like that. — Before listening to it, all I knew of the Smithereens was “Cigarette,” a song all disaffected suburban teens were then required to learn after initiating their nicotine addiction.
— Months later, I attended a Smithereens concert in a gymnasium at Memphis State University — which resulted in the authoring of my first-ever concert review (p.6).
— The Smithereens would prove to be important pop-cultural mortar for some friendly bonding with my best friend’s brother over beers in college, as well as important common musical ground with my partner of now 20 years. (Seeing “11” in his collection was surprising and encouraging.)
— Pat DiNizio comes through Chicago a lot, so the band does, too. The Sun-Times wrote about them often.
— We now own a car again for the first time in six-plus years. My favorite car was my little Honda CRX (1999-2005). I loved it so much I made mixtapes for it — a series of great driving songs called “CRX City.” Our new Subaru strives to be as spiffy, and I rebuilt “CRX City” as a lengthy iPod playlist. The first track: “124 mph” from Di Nizio’s underrated solo debut.
I’m-a flip “Green Thoughts” and play it one more time.
I'm THOMAS CONNER, communication researcher and culture journalist.