Smithereens 11: Guitarist Jim Babjak Breaks Down 11 Essential Smithereens Tracks
Smithereens lead guitarist Jim Babjak breaks down 11 essential Smithereens tracks.
From The Smithereens Play Tommy (2009, eOne Entertainment)
[Drummer] Dennis [Diken] and I used to play songs from The Who's Tommy and Live at Leeds during the 1973-'75 period, when we would practice in my parents' garage in Carteret, New Jersey. Songs by The Who were always fun to play, and I even started doing those Pete Townshend windmills. I used to proudly show everyone the blood stains on the ceiling!
What I learned from Pete is how to play guitar in an aggressive style and also in a gentle manor. Passion is something that comes from within you, but I think that after you play Who songs on the guitar, it has to have passion to work. It's as if you're channeling Pete's passion naturally because of the way the songs are structured.
I think it is impossible to play the strumming on "Pinball Wizard" without playing full out because it's so fast and it's on an acoustic guitar, so you can't fake it! Try playing along with the album and you'll see. When I was a 14-year-old kid, I forced myself to keep up, and it made me a better rhythm player. "Amazing Journey"/"Sparks" is a perfect example of this soft/loud playing.
For this recording, I start out playing the song just using my fingers while in the middle pickup position and then I switch to treble and use a pick throughout the rest of the song. It's pretty much one guitar throughout the track except when I added the backward stuff and some strengthening parts during the "Sparks" section. I decided to cop the Live at Leeds version of "Sparks" rather then the Tommy studio version only because I find it more fun to play. It's a dynamic song and one of my favorites.
I borrowed a 1970s Goldtop Les Paul with P90 pickups from Kristin Pinell of The Gripweeds for 90 percent of the album, using a 100-watt Marshall 800. It is used exclusively on this track.
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