25 years ago this week, The Smithereens, a rock band proud to be from Jersey, claimed their first spot on the Billboard Maintstream Rock Chart at number 14 with “Blood and Roses,” off their first full length album, Especially For You. This is an important album for Jersey music and pop culture because it’s regarded by critics as one of The Smithereen’s best efforts and also cited by Kurt Cobain to be one of his favorite albums according to his journal. In addition to its video getting MTV airplay, the track “Blood and Roses” appeared in the films Dangerously Close, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (I better watch it, that’s 2 Romy and Michele references on this site in one week), and TV’s Miami Vice.
Rarely do I have a hard time finding the right words, but this is one of those occasions. I was alive and kicking in 1994 when Timecop was released in theaters, but for reasons which escape me, “Time Won’t Let Me” remember this video. I also don’t remember much about the Timecop sequel, TV show, or video game spawned from it either. If I wasn’t searching for The Smithereens on YouTube, I wouldn’t have came across this lost treasure of cheesiness.
Was it the giant sign protruding out of the parking lot that says Cheese Fries emblazoned in yellow and black that made it so special? Perhaps it was the fact that sitting inside made you feel like you were back in another era? Even though it was known as Burger Express, one of the most famous items on the menu was their Chicken Sandwich with Cheese Fries. Of course, when you’re drunk at 2 am, any type of food ain’t too shabby. You’re 17 years old and the only place you can really drive to with your friends when everything else is closed is a 24 hour burger joint. For 30 years, Burger Express was just that for many of us. B.E. in Carteret, NJ has been a fast food staple, and a local legend of sorts for the entire local area. Recently we got wind that B.E was being forced to close it’s doors. (Something about the NJ Turnpike authority making Exit 12 bigger.) Last weekend we had our last taste of B.E., at least for a while. The lines were literally out the door. It’s said that the classic Cheese Fries sign will rise up from the ground like that missile in Wyatt’s house and once again rule the fast food cravings of many.
In a similar sense, Sciortino’s Pizzeria (the greatest pizza in history) in Perth Amboy, N.J showed the state that they couldn’t keep a good restaurant down. They were forced to close their doors by the city, they re-opened in South Amboy, and now they’re doing better than ever. I think it has something to do with the obligatory newspaper article hanging on the wall commending the unique cuisine and vintage atmosphere. If an eatery has one of those hanging it might give them the extra fortitude to survive amongst all of the chain restaurants that pop up all over the place which no one bothers to actually ever write about. It’s probably cause they’ve got no personality.