The RAMONES – ” Ramones ” Debut Released 23rd April 1976

Posted: May 6, 2016 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , ,

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If punk can be likened to a religion, the Ramones’ debut album Ramones would be the bible. While acts like The Stooges, New York Dolls, The Velvet Underground, T. Rex, and MC5 may have laid punk’s foundation, it was the Ramones’ 1976 debut that started the revolution. With a combination of speed, hooks and stylistic stupidity, the Ramones served as the template for the first generation of punk bands. Their satirical take on pop culture and banal urban existence has resounded ever since. First released on April 23rd 1976, it’s been 40 years since the first needles dropped on the band’s self-titled debut. To celebrate the album that was, we look back at the top tracks.

All you need to do is hear the first twenty seconds of the Ramones self-titled debut album and you can’t help singing the words “Hey, ho, let’s go” four times. You are then left with no other choice but to start singing along to “Blitzkrieg Bop” one of the best opening tracks on any album.

Who knew that three chords could pack such a wallop? If I were to time travel back to 1976 and tell the Ramones that “Blitzkrieg Bop” would be played by high school bands and at many sporting events for the next 45 years, they wouldn’t believe me. I can barely believe that those four guys from Forest Hills, Queens would record one of the most influential punk records on both sides of the Atlantic.

The band, which formed in 1974, consisted of lead singer Joey Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone, bassist Dee Dee Ramone, and drummer Tommy Ramone. Each member took on the surname Ramone and the inspiration for the name was an alias Paul McCartney (Paul Ramon) would use when checking into hotels.

By mid-1974, the Ramones were playing gigs at various clubs throughout New York City with CBGB and Max’s Kansas City being the most prominent venues. They constantly played gigs throughout 1975 and later that year, former Stooges manager Danny Fields took on the same role with the group. His first order of business was to shop around their demo, featuring “Judy Is a Punk” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” to different labels. Producer Craig Leon took up the cause and brought the demo to Sire Records president Seymour Stein, who eventually signed them to the label.

In February 1976, the Ramones began recording their debut album in Plaza Sound Studios where the Rockettes rehearsed, located right above Radio City Music Hall. With a budget of $6,400 and very little time in the studio, they had to get very creative.

Over the years, there was always this prevailing thought that the Ramones’ punk masterpiece was just haphazardly slapped together, but nothing could be further from the truth. The organized chaos was meticulously mapped out. They used overdubs to give a slight echo effect on Joey’s vocals, tape delay, and creative microphone placement to produce different sound effects like a bomb going off, which was used on “Havana Affair.” They also recorded guitar and bass on separate tracks to create a similar effect you would hear on early Beatles records. You can hear it on the Beatles’ “No Reply” and the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” which features Joey channelling the cadence of Ronnie Spector. I can almost hear her singing the lyrics, “Hey, little girl / I want to be your boyfriend / Sweet little girl / I want to be your boyfriend.” Of course, the times being what they were, Phil Spector would have reversed the genders.

Ramones ran opposite of everything played on the radio in that era. There were no guitar solos, overblown six-minute songs from hell, or causes to sing about. It was part Beatles, part Brill Building, mixed with ‘60s garage music played at 180 MPH. While it was not commercially successful, the Ramones debut LP received much deserved critical acclaim. Robert Christgau of the Village Voice wrote, “For me, it blows everything else off the radio: it’s clean the way the Dolls never were, sprightly the way the Velvets never were, and just plain listenable the way Black Sabbath never was. And I hear it cost $6,400 to put on plastic.”

‘Beat on The Brat’

Penned by Joey Ramone, the track takes musical cues from 60s bubble-gum rocker ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy.’ It’s exemplary of The Ramones’ philosophy of shorter, faster and louder. Minimalistic rhythms, bouncy hooks and an infectiously maniacal glee pervade the track. Despite the violence, it’s really a track about stifling futility. Casting himself as the track’s malicious protagonist, Joey details a deep-seated desire of imposing control over the impetuous youths of his relatively well-to -do neighbourhood. The candid expression of violent suburban fantasy meets three chord sonic assault showcases the dysfunctional Queens natives at their best.

‘Judy Is A Punk’

One of the Ramones earliest tracks, rapid firer ‘Judy Is A Punk’ helped break the group as a live act. Recounting the doomed narrative of two girls joining an extremist social movement, the track’s blistering guitar licks and doo-woop vocals have been reimagined by countless bands. Coursing with primitive and untamed energy, it’s Ramones to the very core.

‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’

Sixth track ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’ draws the listener into the darker underside of 1970s New York. It’s a world of drug dependency, boredom, entrapment and rebellious thrill seeking. The track strikes a vein that would define a generation of youth. All but the most brazen drug anthems of the early 70s remained coded, yet the Ramones belted out “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” unrepentantly. Garage-tinted riffs deliver some of the album’s most incisive fretwork. “We couldn’t write about love or cars, so we sang about this stuff, like glue sniffing. We thought it was funny. We thought we could get away with anything,” Johnny Ramone later reflected.

‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’

While the Ramones revelled in the bleak and morbidly banal, ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ is the first example of the group’s softer side. Contrasting with ‘Loudmouth’s’ threats of domestic violence and the nihilistic aggression of ‘53rd and 3rd’, this track comes off sugary sweet. Despite its pure pop leanings, there’s a sense of naïve sincerity here that never truly resurfaced on any of the group’s later cuts. Replete with an uncharacteristically jangly refrain, the track stands out as one of the group’s all-time best.

‘Blitzkrieg Bop’

The opener of the album is seminal punk. Likening preparing a gig to mounting a military campaign, it’s a universal call to action. Written as a tribute to Ramones fans, there’s something below the fascist imagery that begs the listener to throw on a leather jacket and hit the streets. Power chords shred with impunity while an adrenaline inducing drum pattern clocks in at 172 beats per minute. It’s an instantaneous musical barrage. In an era of egotistical virtuosity and blandness, The Ramones managed to strip rock music to back to its primitive core. Not only does ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ embody the idea behind the Ramones’ signature sound, it’s caustic, blistering and upbeat without compare.

Media of The Ramones' Ramones

“The nifty 33 1/3 book series publishes cool little books that dive deep into individual canonical rock ‘n’ roll albums. Ramones/Ramones is undoubtedly a worthy addition to their catalog. … Rombes does a concise job of laying out a solid thesis (complete with a chart), detailing the various early waves of punk (or new wave, as the terms are proved interchangeable) and approaching these topics in a thoughtful but fun way. … This book got me thinking about this culture in ways I never had before.

As it usually goes in the music business, those at the forefront of a movement get tons of praise, but never really benefit commercially. Tommy was the only living member of the original line-up when the album was certified gold on April 14th, 2014. Sadly, he passed away three months later.

If you were to lay out a timeline of rock & roll, then Ramones would be written in bold letters as signalling the beginning of a new era in music. This album is twenty-nine of the most important and influential minutes in rock history because it defined almost everything before as “the past.”

Happy 45th Anniversary to the Ramones’ eponymous debut album “Ramones”, originally released April 23, 1976.

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