Graham Reid | | 4 min read
Like many of my generation, I can
remember exactly where I was when JFK, RFK and John Lennon were shot.
And when Kurt Cobain proved, contrary to what he sang, he did have a
But with as much clarity I can also
remember when I first heard the Ramones’ Sheena is a Punk Rocker.
It came on a tape from a friend in London and I was driving when this
blast of wonderful noise crashed out of my tiny car speakers.
In the Art Rock Wars of the mid-to-late
Seventies, Sheena was a memorable, refreshingly stupid take on Beach
Boys’ pop complete with handclaps and harmony vocals. Sheena had
obviously traded in the little deuce coupe for a Greyhound ticket to
NYC and got herself a whole new haircut. Doubtless she met Judy (as
in Judy is a Punk) at CBGBs and compared Doc Martens and fishnets,
but really still quite liked Dennis Wilson.
Like the Sex Pistols, what was most
appealing about the Ramones was they made pop music. Yes, it was
loud’n’fast and all those other cliches, but it was also
verse-chorus, verse-chorus of the old style. And all over in a few
minutes – about the same length as an Eddie Cochran or early
The Ramones and the Pistols were always
closer to the Monkees and Merseybeat pop than the trash of the
Stooges, so it was no surprise when the Pistols covered the Monkees’
I'm Not Your Stepping Stone and the Ramones waded into the Searchers’
Needles and Pins. (They later got the Searchers onto the Sire label.)
The Ramones’ image of punk
glue-sniffers had to do with their private lives and marketing,
because listening through the 58 tracks on the double disc Anthology
collection it barely seeped into the music beyond a few dumb-smart
lyrics. (“Hey little girl, I wanna be your boyfriend,” hardly
sounds like it would make the walls of the citadel fall.)
Despite its pop simplicity however,
Ramones’ music was always smarter than was credited at the time. It
was brilliantly reductive.
Johnny said he wanted to strip the
music of any vestiges of blues and just make pure, white rock’n’roll
– and that carried through into the image of identikit hair-styles,
band uniform (leather jackets, shades, torn jeans) and the common
surname (taken from Paul McCartney’s stage name in the Silver
Beatles c 1960, Paul Ramon).
They sounded great and looked perfect.
“Rock’n’roll -- half is the song. The other half is the image,” said Johnny, and that first album cover has become one of rock’s iconic art pieces.
It was little
surprise that on the sleeve of Road to Ruin they appeared in cartoon
Best of all, though, at a time when
everyone was so serious about punk and pins and anarchy, the Ramones
were very funny. Yep, all that sniffin’ glue, beat on the brat with
a baseball bat and teenage lobotomy stuff – how could you take
(Then again, a lot of people took
“guard save the kweeen, she ayno human bean,” straight-faced.)
This was just white boy pop delivered
at white noise intensity. And with great titles: Now I Wanna Sniff
Some Glue, I Wanna Be Sedated, The KKK Took My Baby Away, I Don’t
Wanna Grow Up . . .
In the liner notes to this exhaustive
collection (which, in typical Rhino style, comes with an extensive
and thorough booklet), Joey says: “I hate to blow the mystique but
we really liked bubblegum music, and we really liked the Bay City
Rollers. Their song Saturday Night had a great chant in it, so we
wanted a song with a chant in it: ‘Hey! Ho! Let’s go!’.
Blitzkrieg Bop was our Saturday Night.”
Oh well, another punk myth shot to
So when you slam on one or other of
these discs -- and the first is better than the second where they
started to try just a little too hard -- then be prepared, not for
NYC punk and attitude, but for short, sharp blasts of fast pop music.
Yes, it’s that simple.
Pop-rock with an ear so attuned to the
past there’s a swag of this it isn’t hard to imagine could have
appeared in the Fifties and would be included on Loud, Fast and Out
of Control box set. Not for nothing did they cover the Trashmen’s
Surfin' Bird. Or from the early Sixties and be considered alongside
Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Downliners Sect and the Pretty
Things. Or even the Archies.
I guess that’s what makes Ramones' music, umm, timeless?
These Essential Elsewhere pages deliberately point to albums which you might not have thought of, or have even heard . . .
But they might just open a door into a new kind of music, or an artist you didn't know of. Or someone you may have thought was just plain boring.
But here is the way into a new/interesting/different music . . .
The deep end won't be out of your depth . . .