Some random notes on the Ramones…
“They come from New York. New York has an energy. You feel it everywhere but it’s hard to define. Intense, frenetic. Caught in a constant frenzy and impossible to grab all at once. The fastest city on earth.”
“Bubble-gum/comic-strip/B-movie teenagers coming out of an age of pop art.”
“Shtick, kitsch. Authentic fakes. Rock I guess, but no solos.”
“Four very different people from Forest Hills High School, corner of 67th Av and 110th St, Queens. All bandmembers lived only a few blocks apart...”
“They were dysfunctional. They didn’t get along.”
“To us in Australia they’ve always been an extra step removed. These aren’t people you see on your street or even at concerts. Add another million miles if you’re regional and then these figures are an impossibility, gods.”
That’s exactly it. They never sold a lot of their records at time they released them, but even by their fourth album Road To Ruin arrived they were iconic.
Listening to ‘Bad Brains’ I think about what Henry Rollins told me when he was talking about when he first time he saw the band in action.
“Stood right up front. Got sweated on by Dee Dee. It was a revelation,” he shared. “They were so powerful. One song after another for like an hour. They killed you, you left like you’re… wounded! So powerful.”
‘Powerful’. Right on! Power, but with economy.
The record has less grit than their earlier ones. ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ all but polishes the Ramones template. They knock off another ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ with what seems like an effortless ease. But ‘Questioningly’ alongside ‘Needles and Pins’ challenge the idea that the band are restrained by their own formula.
Maybe that’s the hang of the whole thing. This record doesn’t say that the Ramones are punk’s archetype (though it’s a mantle they could easily have claimed by ’78). It simply says they’re the Ramones.
But what does that mean exactly? Well the band themselves often put it something like this. They wanted to be pop, to make music that was played on the radio but spoke to them. In the naivete to think that they could they were saying something honest. Even if that was just that they were bored or short on anything to say at all. In doing this they’ve always spoken to something bigger. Cartoon heroes forever plastered on suburban walls.
Words by Riley Fitzgerald