Into the final nine of my Top 20 Albums section. In no particular order, this could be Number One. I’ll muse on that when i’ve finished and attempt to order them. That will be a toughie.
Often referred to as Ramones – Ramones, the album sleeve only denotes Ramones. On the spine it denotes Ramones too, not twice, but once, so let’s go with that.
The first Ramones album I heard was their 4th album Road To Ruin. It was good, very good. I would have been 15 at the time. As good as that album is it did not prepare me at all for the sheer joy that is their debut.
The Ramones cut loose from the pre-punk offerings from the States. They were just a different bag altogether to The Stooges, New York Dolls and The Tubes, etc. Those artists, to me, belonged in your parents record collection. They were good. But The Ramones were OURS. The generation divide defined – The Ramones to me are more important than The Beatles. Really. Easily.
Finally I got round to hearing the first Ramones album just before I was 16. It was an expensive release never to be found in a pocket-money friendly Nice Price section of any record store. It’s worth every penny.
The album cover is arguably the best sleeve of all-time. The band shot in black and white just standing in front of a partially graffitied wall. Somehow it just screams New York at you. The band all in an ultra-cool anti-uniform of jeans, t-shirt, leather jacket, trainers. It’s unwittingly a punk blueprint.
The album was recorded in a week. Flat. On it’s first listen, not only is it a near mind blowing experience but – more importantly – it will inspire practically anyone to pick up a guitar, bass, drumstick, whatever. Look what they made in a week. We can do that too? Well maybe not, but you get my point.
Blitzkrieg Bop (Tommy / Dee Dee) kicks off the album. It has a buzz. It sounds so simple, yet it’s perfect bubblegum rock. The instruments have equal level of sound. Nothing dominates. The production is basic yet supreme. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent as a kid switching the balance to reveal 2 instruments in one speaker and the bass and vocal in the other. A stroke of simple genius.
The song itself is catchy yet still edgy. It’s an instant anthem. The sound is as good as the sleeve. What’s next you ask yourself.
Beat On The Brat (Joey) is more restrained than the opener but still has that brilliant buzz. A tale about beating a spoilt kid with a baseball bat. Pink Floyd, this isn’t.
Judy Is A Punk (Joey) has more urgency. Straight away you can see the album is going to be full of stone cold classics and we’re only three tracks in. It screams out this is the hit single to the listener. The travesty being the Ramones did not actually shift that many records whilst they were active / alive. The vocal delivery is bouncy and the line “second verse, same as the first” just encapsulates punk in six words. Incredible.
I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (Tommy) see a major shift. It’s slow. A love song. Eh! Still it works in a charming way and fits the album oddly well.
Chainsaw (Joey) opens with a chainsaw sound that runs into the fastest we’ve heard them go as of yet. It’s as good as the three openers. Better even. One of my all-time favourite Ramones tracks Joeys vocal pulls the songs sonic attack back into pop territory. Beach Boys on speed anyone? Glorious.
Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue (no surprise Dee Dee wrote this) is THE track that made me need to be in a band. Totally inspirational. Listen to it and resist the urge to buy a guitar, etc – you can’t! If you’re not as old as me listen to it and try not to jump around your bedroom – you can’t. Listen to it without turning the volume dial up – you can’t.
Musically it is urgent yet somehow not at all full-on. The instruments have all been somewhat restrained throughout the album so far. No one hogs the limelight. This is a band as a very solid unit, you can’t split them. there has not been one drum roll, not one guitar solo. This ain’t Deep Purple.
For the first time the bass ambles off with a dynamic break / lead. This lead lasts about 15 seconds before it all comes back together. At one minute 38 seconds long it’s a total masterpiece.
By now, 6 tracks in you’ve got the vibe and feel of the album. You just want more please. The formula continues in equal measure on the 7th track I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement (Dee Dee, Johnny). The bass has a powerhook. Joeys vocal has just three lines – but that is all it needs. Three chords fix the lines – who needs more when it sounds this good?
Flip the vinyl over and onto Side 2 for Loudmouth (Dee Dee, Johnny). The vocal has a sneer but still that bubblegum feel. Never has someone proclaimed “I’m Gonna Beat You Up” yet still sounded affectionate. The melody crashes and rises at the end, it jabs away like it’s punching and smiling at you.
Havana Affair (Dee Dee, Johnny) is another under two minute epic. Dumb lyrics flow to form punk poetry. Minor guitar breaks chug and chomp at the track. The drum punctuates and kicks the track when it’s needed. It sounds better than i’m suggesting here.
Listen To My Heart (all of the band) is a near clap-along. A sad love song that does not feel sorry for itself. A triumphant sound of self worth, the Ramones dust themselves off and continue.
53rd & 3rd (Dee Dee) kicks off with a more menacing riff and tone than we’ve heard so far on the album. Joey sings, the imagery is almost bleak. Dee Dee sings too and without the pop delivery of Joey makes the track bleaker and sincere at the same time.
Let’s Dance (Lee, Montez) is the albums only cover version. Make no doubt that it’s given full Ramones treatment. It sounds like they’ve penned it themselves as they pull it off so well.
I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You (Dee Dee) has that crunching sound that somehow suggests the album is coming to a close soon. The opening of it is devastatingly powerful. Such a solid sound. It has that full-on sound that is only taken further on the killer album closer Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World (all the band). Germanic imagery is suggested vocally. You cannot tell if they are being serious or knowingly supremely dumb.
The track grinds at you but still manages to be the ultimate power-pop. It hums along and sounds brilliant. Crashing towards the end Dee Dee pulls it back for a final spurt with 1-2-3-4 chanted in German. What are they up to – who cares – it sounds ace.
Then it’s over. In less than the length of an episode of Eastenders the real blueprint for punk has been digested and your off on a trip to a musical instrument shop as soon as possible. Beg, steal, borrow, wash a car, mow a lawn, get in a band…
Am I going to state it’s the best album of all-time. Erm. Ye……….