Wednesday, April 22, 2020

R.A.M.O.N.E.S.

I remember reading somewhere that The Beatles are still the most covered band of all time, which is a bit of a depressing thought if it's true. If we're talking songs about bands, though, my bet is The Ramones would win by a New York mile.

If you don't believe me, try this playlist. One hundred and ninety-four songs that mention The Ramones. Allegedly. I haven't checked every one. I'll take it on trust.

I also haven't just ripped off that research for this post. No, honestly, I haven't. Not much, anyway. I already knew all of the songs I'm linking here before I even looked at that list. Well, most of them. The good ones.

It is a fine list, though, isn't it? I mean, don't you want to hear Have You Seen Dee Dee Ramone? by Jesus H Presley? No? How about Homenaje a los Ramones by Los Petersellers? Or When The Flintstones (Met The Ramones) by The Magic Sponge?

Then there's Johnny Ramone by Like Some Cat From Japan. Sounds a bit like The Flying Lizards. It's pretty good, although it's at least twice as long as it ought to be. Yes, you met Johnny in 1994. We get it, already.


A surprising number of songs about The Ramones sound nothing like The Ramones. I say "surprising" because, of course, there are also a shedload of covers of Ramones songs and 95% of them sound exactly like The Ramones. Or, at least, the bands playing them obviously think they do.

Seriously, what is it that makes everyone think they can nail that trademark Ramones sound? I mean, if it was that easy everyone would be doing it. Oh, wait...

There are a few bands who can do it. Some of them, arguably, even better than The Ramones. I can think of one or two I'd love to share but I'll save them for another time. Today we're having songs about the boys, not by them.

Oh, sod it. Let's have a couple anyway. We don't need an excuse to hear The Spazzys doing Paco Doesn't Love Me or The Pantones, covering the same song in Spanish. Impossible though it seems, The Pantones do it even better.



Getting back to the main theme, The Spazzys' also have a song about a Ramone. It's an unusual choice: Marky. They wanna cut their hair like him. Well, I guess you wouldn't want to cut it like Joey. Or Dee Dee. Or, god forbid, Johnny.

There seem to be more songs about Joey than any of the other Ramones. I could fill this post entirely with songs about Joey. Hell, even U2 have one. It's called The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) and no, I am not going to link to it. Go find it yourself, if you really feel you must.

Sleater-Kinney don't want Joey's hair, they want to be him. For you. Yes, you. Here they are at CBGBs back in '97, telling you so. They still feel the same today and so does Gerard Way. He's from My Chemical Romance. They were A Threat to Our Nation's Youth once. Rememember that? No, didn't think so.

I'm guessing any similarity to Iggy's I Wanna Be Your Dog is no co-incidence.


Andy Shernoff, who I'm also guessing is the same person as Adny Shernoff of The Dictators, not least because his heartfelt tribute, Sweet Joey, sounds almost exactly like The Dictators, is perhaps unique among the acts here in that he actually knew Joey Ramone. And performed with him.

Most of the songs about Joey revolve around meeting Joey, dancing with Joey, being like Joey or even becoming Joey. Or just being glad Joey existed and sorry he doesn't any more. Sloppy Seconds claim You Can't Kill Joey Ramone but no-one did. He just got ill and died.


Sloppy Seconds are a very smart bunch of punks with a flair for titles to match The Ramones' and the lyrical chops to back it up. You pretty much have to if you're going to stand on stage proclaiming "I Don't Wanna Be A Homosexual" and not have people take you at face value.

It was a problem The Ramones faced from the outset. Are these guys for real? Are they really that dumb? Are they genuine nazis? Yes, no, no. Well, in Joey's case at least. He was what passed for a liberal intellectual in the band. No wonder everyone loved him.

The Ramones sound revolves around Johnny's chainsaw guitar but there was always a little doo wop going on somewhere. The seventies were a hotbed of fifties revivalism and in a strange way The Ramones were part of that. Simon Love, in his tribute, Joey Ramone, (original title, Simon!) sounds a little more sixties than fifties but Joey often channeled the girl groups too, so it works.


Mason Zgoda reaches back further still. There's some forties torch song in her Joey Ramone (What, again?). She's not even really singing about Joey, just drawing on his mystique for metaphor. "I'll be your Joni Mitchell/Be my Joey Ramone". Imagine how their children would have looked. Not to mention sounded...

Takes a while to start, this one. Stay with it. It's worth it.


Some wag in the YouTube comments on the next one says "Somehow I can't imagine there ever being a song called Dancing With Wreckless Eric". Well, I can. Maybe I'll write one. Wreckless is recovering from Covid19 as I type this so, god willing, he won't get to pass on his wife Amy's best wishes to Joey in rock'n'roll heaven any time soon. (Rock'n'roll heaven? Geez. I missed my calling as a late night D.J. that's for sure).


Let's wrap up this meeting of the Joey Ramone Fan Club with something a little more Ramonesesque. The Psychords say they wanna live like Joey Ramone. Looks to me like they're half way there already.


Joey inspires quality. Dee Dee... well, Dee Dee inspired an entire album of tributes. I haven't attempted to listen to many of its thirty-one tracks but I do like I Love Her and She Loves The Ramones by The Havenots.

Songs about people's girlfriends liking or not liking The Ramones make up a sub-genre all their own. The Creeps' My Girlfriend Hates The Ramones is very fast and has great dynamics. The Huntingtons' Jeannie Hates The Ramones seems to be the same song, personalized. The Huntingtons are clearly going to have some issues with Jeannie. They make their intent clear in I Wanna Be A Ramone. I can see that putting a crimp in the relationship.

Capping them all is the extraordinarily impolite "She's Ugly But She Likes The Ramones" by The Come Ons. It's actually a lot better than I expected from that title and the knowledge that it comes from an EP called "Tougher Than Elton John" suggests a band with more than a passing familiarity with irony.


In a pathetically obvious attempt to redress the balance after that lapse of taste and judgment, here's Shonen Knife. Ramones Forever indeed.


I was wondering how to end this post and then I came across the perfect pair of pairings. Yes, I took them from the long list. The skill in research is getting someone else to do the tedious grunt work as any research assistant will tell you.

It's probably never occured to you that The Ramones would have any standing, let alone influence, with country music fans. It certainly never occured to me until I ran into Heidi Howe. Yeah, well, never underestimate the power of the three chord trick. It's a universal language.


"I first learned at seventeen
 The only faith that works for me
 The Ramones and George Jones
 Too tough to die and seventeen's turned thirty-four
 And George Jones don't make my country stations anymore
 Punk rock don't sound as sweet as it did before"

Ain't that the truth?

It might seem a narower leap than George Jones to The Ramones but back when I was a punk there was a big division between those who picked the Pistols and those who chose The Clash. I was very, very firmly in the Clash camp, a judgment I believe time has endorsed. Supposedly, both bands rated The Ramones but it sounds like things didn't work out so amicably for Gary Sunshine, who tells his own, personal tale of musical battle-lines drawn in The Sex Pistols & The Ramones (A Love Story).



That's probably enough Ramones for one day. Oh, wait, but before we go there's one more loose end to tie. Remember that title all the way up there at the top? It's a song and here it is.


Lemmy, doing R.A.M.O.N.E.S, with The Ramones.  Not going to get a better coda.

Now, I wonder who else has enough songs written about them to make a whole post? Gotta be a few...

5 comments:

  1. I saw The Ramones live back in 88 or 89. My girlfriend at the time got us tickets. The venue was an old warehouse that had been converted to do concerts over in Santa Clara on El Camino Real. "Warehouse" probably overstates the size. I think it started life as a drying shed for apricots, a one time staple of agriculture in the valley and then ended up being used as a warehouse for a while. It had been only marginally upgraded since then.

    We got there and the place was packed, naturally. It was August, so it was very hot out, and more so in the confined and un-airconditioned venue. And on stage The Ramonones had a stack of amps big enough to fill a major sports stadium with sound. When they began to play the music was so loud that I could not tell what they were playing at any given moment. It was an assault on the senses. My ears rang for at least a week afterwards and I am pretty sure that concert is the root of the tinnitus I still suffer from to this day. (My ears just started in with that sound as if to agree with me.)

    But I still just tell people that I saw The Ramones back in 89 or so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have mild tinnitus, hardly surprising given the number of gigs I went to over a quarter of a century or so, but I tend to balme it on the time I sat in the bass bin of the PA for a whole song while Satan's Rats, a not very good and long forgotten punk band, were playing. It was obvious to me after about ten seconds that it was an idiotic move but I was eighteen and it was more important to me to look like I didn't care than it was to worry about long-term hearing problems. I actually couldn't hear anything for three days after that.

      I saw The Ramones on their first headlining tour of the UK in 1977 (I think it must have been) and again a year or two later. There was a highly amusing moment during the first gig when the power to their amps failed mid-song and the four of them literally stood there, all but motionless, for a couple of minutes until it was fixed. It was as if they'd been switched off with the amps. I've seen it happen to several other acts and someone always tells a joke or chats to the audience or plays an acoustic number - The Ramones just stood there. It was very them, I thought.

      Delete
  2. That's so cool you dig that old song of mine! Jody Havenot

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's so cool you like my old song!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, thanks for dropping by! Your band is definitely one of the ones that *can* do the Ramones sound. Great tune.

      Delete

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide