Desert Island Singles: “Blue Period” by The Smithereens (1989)

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I had been thinking about the song “Blue Period,” a gorgeous and heartbreaking duet by lead Smithereen Pat DiNizio and Go-Go Belinda Carlisle, featured on this record. Back in 1989 when the MTV crowd was playing air guitar to the opening bombast of the hit single, “A Girl Like You,” I was savoring the beautiful string arrangement, the very Left Banke-sounding harpsichord, and the sweet harmonies of DiNizio and Carlisle that made “Blue Period” a stand-out tune on “11.” Plus, there is a key moment in the last verse when the duo sings, “I think of you, much more than I’d ever be willing to say,” where it seems like both singers are fighting back the tears as they harmonize. It’s a little masterpiece of emotion that, like most of this record, was overshadowed by the big chords and video of the hit single. – Sal Nunziato

The Smithereens released their third LP, “11,” in 1989 after two commercially successful and critically acclaimed releases, “Especially For You” and “Green Thoughts.” The comparisons flew with comments about how the band had sold out, softened their sound. I think that’s nonsense; “11” is every bit as good an album as the previous two.

The standout single, which was only released as such in Europe, was “Blue Period,” a duet between DiNizio and Belinda Carlisle. It’s classic baroque-era, “Rubber Soul”-era power pop. In fact it’s the sort of dour brooding ballad that every power pop album released in the mid-60s had at least one of. (Think of “As Tears Go By” by the Stones.) The harpsichord riff in the middle eight is straight out of “Walk Away Renee” and “In My Life.” The cello is straight out of “Yesterday.” It’s pre-aged. It’s very close to a perfect pop single, and a great example of how The Smithereens were under-recognized as pop masters.

Blue period, black comedy
Such a joke I’ve played on me
I let you go
And now I know a world of uncertainty

Now I think about the days
When I let you down in so many ways
That’s the time I want to cry
And the time I wonder why and pray

My apathy is tragedy
I’m content to stay inside
This emptiness is killing me
I can run but I can’t hide

And you loved me all along
When I always did you wrong
That’s the time I can’t forget
And it fills me with regret always

When you think that you have won
Then your heartache’s just begun

Blue period, black comedy
Love’s a clown, now laugh my way
I think of you
Much more than I’d ever be willing to say

Now I don’t want to pretend
I was glad to see us ending this way
That’s the time I want to cry
And the time I wonder why and pray

Blue period, I’m looking for someone who
Is just like you, to help end this blue period

2 Comments on “Desert Island Singles: “Blue Period” by The Smithereens (1989)”

  1. […] “Blue Period” by The Smithereens (1989) 1/17/14: “There She Goes” by The La’s (1990) 12/16/13: “Let Nothing Come […]

  2. I just listened to this song compulsively several times in a row, as I do every few months, and thought this time I’d check to see if anyone loves it as much as I do. Thank you.

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