The Ramones: the joint between bubblegum and sniffin´glue
Courtesy of Carsten Petersen – A messed up prog fan with a bubble gum delirium
-Have the Rolling Stones killed!
-Do as I say!!!
Sorry, couldn’t resist…
It´s time to write some lines on the Ramones´ first three albums, so the let´s talk first about what the people already know:
1. They found out that anything they listened on the radio was just puffed up bullshit that they could not relate to anymore. If Led Zeppelin was the quintessential rock band of the time and progressive rock was the indigestible side, it meant, that the basic primitive rock ‘n’ roll did not exist anymore.
2. They wanted to change that and revive the good old rock ‘n’ roll and everything that made it great.
3. They started a band. They went back to the banging, 3 chord and no more with a simple talking about daily topics. And they did it fast! Real fast I mean! Almost none of their songs on the first three albums went over the 2 minute mark, and the guys just bash out one riff after another, never stopping, never taking a ‘break’ in the truest sense of the word. Never changing. The Ramones were a high speed car going full 200 km per hour on the alley. Just straight action, no other bullshit; just pure fun, entertainment and danger. And it is all fuckin´LOUD.
To understand the Ramones and their background, it is important to look at the music style with which they are very often associated. Bubblegum Punk/Pop? Now, that really surprised me…Bubblegum, that sweet stuff, was the last thing I would ever think of when listening to the Ramones. But this pop style goes back to girl groups like the Ronettes with their 60s´ Phil Spector sound. It simply meant, that the fast n´ furious rock ´n´ roll would be infected with a pop sensibility in the way of delivery and singing. The poppy singing as as well as some of the lyrics focusing on sweet girls were Joey Ramone´s job. Now, I am not a looker myself, but this guy was UGLY. Dead ugly I mean. As far from being a ladies killer as I could possibly imagine…But as a group leader, this guy was awesome. He had a strange voice that totally fitted the Ramones´sound. That kind of ‘I don’t care how the fuck I sound’ feel in his voice, making the ‘We don’t care how the fuck we sound’ feel in the music. At the same time, he could develop a sorta sweet tone in his voice in songs like “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” It is with moments like this, that you understand the term of bubblegum punk.
The guys had a crashing start with their self titled (or “eponymous” for all the smart-asses out there) first album from 1976 (or “debut”, for the same group of people). It was all in place. The spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, lightning fast guitar riffs, sloppy singing, lyrics about girls, sex, glue sniffing, beating brats with a baseball bat – oh yeah, oh yeah, oohhh ohhhh. Listen to songs like “Blitzkrieg Bop” and imagine how different this experience was in comparison to a song like “Kashmir”, coming from the, as said above, the quintessential rock band, Led Zeppelin. They took, in my opinion, a lot of great stuff away from music, but also a lot of pumped up bullshit, and well, despite not liking lots of good things in music, they still created truly great pieces of their own. I love the Ramones. Other punk bands tried to revolutionize the world, to kill the Queen, get rid of Pink Floyd, etc. etc. All pumped up bullshit in itself. The Ramones were just plain fun. Pure fun. They wrote songs. Riffs. And did it again. And again. And again.
They used the same style on their next two albums, Leave Home and Rocket to Russia from 1977. The second LP is a pretty deceiving title cause the Ramones never left where they actually started. Bubblegum obsessions, Californian stories, horror movie topics like in “You Should Have Never Opened That Door” and even a sequel to “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” from the debut album, now called “Carbona Not Glue”. The enemies of conservatism were pretty conservative. No matter though, cause the fun was still the very same, just as fast, just as funny, just as loud, just as sloppy in singing as ever before. “California Sun” in particular is particularly important, cause it really shows to what kind of music the Ramones have originally attached their little hearts and what does the music should really sound and be like.
Rocket to Russia then once again did the well known trick that the Ramones were already known for. Did that stop the public from loving the album? Well, maybe, it did not sell very well – like their previous ones – but they managed to gain a huge cult after their big time. The interchanging of love and weird stories also made up this album. Sick family stories in “We’re a Happy Family” or tales of the perverse youth in “Teenage Lobotomy”. More fast riffs, more fun, more rock ‘n’ roll. Looked like the party was never gonna end. But changes have to come. Yes even with the Ramones! Along come first changes in music, along comes Phil Spector and him almost gunning down Dee Dee Ramone, along come the new crappy albums in the 80s, along come the unfortunate deaths of the first members. Along come the Simpsons. Along comes Mr. Burns. Along comes this review. Along comes the end of this review.
You see, as fan of progressive and 90s music, it is not normal to love the Ramones. I love the “bullshit” in music, the puffed up parts, the weird stuff. So if a band comes along with the slogan “No Bullshit” and still manages to come out as a winner, for me, it equals the impossible. I do not like the Pistols, I do not like Bad Religion and I do not like any other poser punk band from the 90s. The Ramones were more. Because they were much less. They are awesome.
Have a good time in hell, you old bastards.