Smithereens 11: Guitarist Jim Babjak Breaks Down 11 Essential Smithereens Tracks
Smithereens lead guitarist Jim Babjak breaks down 11 essential Smithereens tracks.
"A Girl Like You"
From Smithereens 11 (1989, Capitol Records)
Our lead singer/songwriter, Pat DiNizio, originally wrote the song for Cameron Crowe's film Say Anything. Madonna was going to sing the harmony vocals, but she backed out of it on the day of tracking. But these are all stories for another day. In the end, it didn't matter.
Our first two albums were more successful than I'd ever imagined, and the band's playing was really tight from being on the road for the better part of three years. Confidence was high. We all had a hopeful feeling that this was going to be a hit song.
Our live sound got heavier and louder by 1989, and we wanted to capture that vibe on our next LP, Smithereens 11. The title of the album was inspired by the Rat Pack film Ocean's 11, with a little push from Spinal Tap's famous line, "This one goes to 11," which was a tour bus favorite.
We hired Ed Stasium to produce the album, partly because he engineered the early Ramones albums and it didn't hurt that he was from New Jersey, like us. We used Rumbo Recorders in San Fernando Valley, California, for the overdubs. Guns N' Roses were originally booked to record in the studio but decided to postpone their session, so we jumped right into the open time slot.
I didn't own many guitars and I knew I needed a Gibson for this track. Luckily, there was a music shop near the studio where I picked up a used 1973 Les Paul with DiMarzio pickups. It had a thick and heavy sound, exactly what I needed.
Ed had me play the rhythm part exactly the same way on four separate tracks to get that sound. I'm pretty sure I used a 100-watt 800 series Marshall, which is my standard go-to amp. Pat played the harmony guitar along with me on the last part of the solo, probably using his Fender Stratocaster.
For the 11 tour and the TV performances on Saturday Night Live and the The Arsenio Hall Show featuring "A Girl Like You," I decided to use my 1987 Gibson SG out of convenience. I didn't want to bring the Les Paul on the road.
To confuse people even more, I used a 1988 Tuxedo Rickenbacker for the MTV-aired video of the song! People used to ask me, "How did you get that sound out of a Rickenbacker?" I would just say, "Plug it into a Marshall and turn it up to 11!" Now you know the truth: It was a Les Paul through a Marshall 800 with the master volume on 3 and the Pre-Amp on 8, quadruple tracked.
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