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 23 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.
5. ‘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.
4. ‘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.
3. ‘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.
2. ‘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.
1. ‘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.
Riley Fitzgerald is a Brisbane-based writer and wine drinker generally found shuffling around DIY gigs or music festivals. He collects synths and music books. Favourite labels include Ghostly Int., Warp, Flying Nun, 4AD, Future Classic, & Bedrooms Suck. Follow him on Twitter @RileynfView all posts by Riley Fitzgerald