On the way into work the other morning, I decided to give the sound system on the new car a try. It came with one of those adapters to plug-in an iPod or other such mp3 type device, but since I don’t have one of those, and to be honest, it would be like putting a wrist watch on a pig as the old saying goes, I dug through some CDs that were still piled up in the garage and picked out something to listen to on my drive in to work. And boy did I pick well. A two CD set that Maureen and I picked up on our trip to Ireland. Hey Ho, Let’s Go: The Anthology. The Ramones put out 14 studio albums over twenty years, and amassed a catalogue of over 170 songs. This collection reduces it by a third and comes up with 57 songs. I am going to try to reduce that number yet again.
My Top Ten Favorite Ramones Songs!
10. Baby, I Love You
Many would say that this song would epitomise all that was wrong with the Phil Spector era in Ramones history. To them I would say, screw it. I like the song. The customary Marky Ramone heavy drum beat combined with a string section on a cover version of the classic Rosette’s tune. Spector was brought on board to help make the band more commercially successful, and he did just that. Baby, I Love You was the band’s most successful single, reaching #8 on the UK charts, and End of the Century was the bands highest charting album in both the US and the UK.
9. Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?
Another Phil Spector inspired song that stretched the standard that was The Ramones, it was also off of the album End of the Century. The title of the album comes from the lyrics in this song. But I always had one little problem with the song. The addition of the synthesizer in the song seems to mimic almost exactly, at least to my untrained ear, the beginning of the song Radio, Radio by Elvis Costello. Although I could find no reference to the similarity anywhere on the internet. I suggest giving both a listen.
8. Pet Sematary
Written for the movie adaptation of the Stephen King novel, Pet Sematary , it was included on The Ramones 1989 release Brain Drain. Technically, it is the highest charting single for the band, reaching number 4 on the Modern Rock charts, now more commonly referred to as the Alternate Rock charts. But when you consider that this particular chart didn’t exist until 1988, it is hard to put into perspective just how popular the song was as compared to other Ramones songs. It did however make one great ending to the movie, and if the remake that has been floating around Hollywood for years ever does get made, they would do well to include this song again.
Inspired by the 1932 movie Freaks, this song coined one of The Ramones more famous chants. Gabba Gabba, Hey! From their second album, Leave Home, the song quickly became a concert favorite, with a dancing roadie in a Pinhead mask coming out on stage during the song. Or at least that is how I remember it way back in 1980 when my friend Jimmy and I saw The Ramones at the College of DuPage. I am also pretty sure that the song was the inspiration for the current kid’s show Yo Gabba Gabba, but I have no proof of that.
6. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School
Another movie theme song, but this time for the 1979 film which stared Vince Van Patten and Clint Howard. I have never seen the movie, and that is probably a good thing, although I would imagine curiosity would eventually get the better of me and I would have to dust off an old VHS machine and watch it. That is if a copy of the film still exists. The song was re-mixed and re-released on End of the Century, but the original from the movie soundtrack is considered by most the better rendition.
5. The KKK Took My Baby Away
From the 1981 album Pleasant Dreams, this song was rumored to be about Joey stealing Johnny’s girlfriend. The possible implications aside, it is just a classic piece of Ramones. Heavy drum beats and simple cords played at rocket speed and coming in at just over two and a half minutes.
4. Bonzo Goes to Bitburg
Originally released in 1985 as a single only in the United Kingdom, the song was later renamed My Brain is Hanging Upside Down and was released on the album Animal Boy. It was written as a protest to President Reagan’s visit to a military cemetery in Bitburg, West Germany, were 49 known Nazi SS members were buried. Joey Ramone, whose real name was Jeffry Ross Hyman and of Jewish decent, took offence to the visit as did many Jewish and Veterans groups. But the song also caused strife within the band, since Johnny was a supporter of Reagan and a far right conservative. He was also a collector of Nazi propaganda.
3. Sheena is a Punk Rocker
This is the song I cut my Ramones teeth on. From their third album, Rockets to Russia, it tells the story of a young girl who was tired of the disco and turned to Punk Rock. Nothing deep or meaningful, but full of energy and lots of fun. As with many of the better Ramones songs, the lyrics are minimized. What more do you need to know? “Sheena is a punk rocker now.”
2. I Wanna Be Sedated
Possibly one of the Ramones best known songs, it appeared on their 1978 release, Road to Ruin. It was written by Joey as a complaint about how boring life was while on the road touring. When Maureen and I visited the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago, in one room we watched a recorded interview with Joey shortly before his death from lymphoma. The interviewer asks him at one point why he always wrote such short songs, and in all seriousness he says he didn’t. They were actually long songs, but that they just played them really, really fast. I instantly thought of this song.
1. Blitzkrieg Bop
Vanessa Williams may have saved the best for last, but that just wasn’t going to fly with The Ramones. The very first song, on their very first album, it has been called by some, the two minutes that changed the face of music. The song launched The Ramones career, and set a standard for the band and all of music for the next twenty years. Blitzkrieg Bop will be found on almost any list of Top Rock songs of all time, and was the song played by Green Day at the 2002 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for The Ramones.
What else is there to say?
Hey Ho! Let’s Go!