This post was originally part of an email conversation. Read here for more details.
by Jonathan Odom
From: Jonathan Odom
Sent: 21 July 2008 10:56
To: Ben Smith
Cc: Chris Stoneman; John Klein; Bradbeer, Alexander; Nick Maple
Subject: RE: Musical Journey : The Ramones
The Ramones are the first punk band, period. They were emulated by the Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, The Clash, and pretty much every other band in the genre up until it split with Blondie and the Talking Heads branches. The bandSuicide (a little known NYC Ramones contemporary act, who hopefully will come up later, my second favorite punk band) were the first ones to call their music “punk music” on a flier for a show in 1972, but the ramones are widely accepted by the greats as the founders of the genre- the first band to play the signature 3 or 4 chord riff with simple drum beats and raw, angry vocals.
They are comprised of 4 poor, decidedly ugly guys from a shitty neighborhood in Queens with musical technique on par with any 6th grader’s first month of guitar lessons. Dee Dee can’t sing and play bass at the same time, so Joey becomes the singer. Their instruments are shit but it really doesn’t matter because they can barely play them anyway. They sing about Dee Dee unsuccessfully trying to turn tricks in the song “53rd and 3rd”, about the little bastard rich kids that Joey has to deal with at his doorman job in “Beat on the Brat”, about the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, about the Nazis bombing the hell out of europe in “Blitzkrieg Bop”, and so on. 4 guys with shitty lives in one of the worst places in american history (new york in the 70′s) singing about what they know with nothing but their love of music and frustration to float on. Genius.
They grew up listening to pop music on the radio, Beach Boys, Beatles, Motown, etc; and didn’t realize until they were approached by him that Phil Spector had produced the bulk of their favorite music. He then produced End of the Century for them. During the recording session he physically abuses the engineer, curses and insults the band every day, and pulls a gun on Dee Dee and demands he play a riff over and over (thanks wikipedia). The album is probably their worst because spector polishes it so much. The whole point of this band is that they might as well be doing it in an abandoned warehouse in the east village with 1 microphone and a tape player, because there’s not much sonically going on.
They write solid pop music (as seems to be a recurring theme in everything so far) by all accounts. It’s raw, energetic lower class angst and real, unmitigated life experiences set to simple 4-chord riffs. They paved the way for the previously mentioned greats, particularly The Clash who in my opinion surpassed them in many ways, and of course Joy Division – England’s greatest gift to the world. Bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been quoted as saying “… when you heard The Ramones, you thought ‘hey, i could do that…’” The Ramones loosed the fetters created by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Queen, and countless other arena rock bands comprised of oxford educated musical geniuses. The Ramones are the musical equivalent of Marcel Duchamp and his urinal “sculpture”, art can now be anything- now let the rest of the world sort it out.
Like most of the bands on the list so far, you’ll know a lot of the songs when you hear them, you just never knew it was The Ramones. There are a ton of greatest hits records, those are usually the ones to go for since the record as a whole doesn’t really make a difference with these guys. Some favorite tracks:
Beat on the Brat
Judy is a Punk
53rd and 3rd
I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue