Tuesday, April 16, 2013

105 Rocket to Russia. Possibly Punk

Album: Rocket to Russia
Artist: The Ramones
Year: 1977
Genre: Punk


1. Cretin Hop
2. Rockaway Beach
3. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
4. Locket Love
5. I Don't Care
6. Sheena Is a Punk Rocker
7. We're a Happy Family
8. Teenage Lobotomy
9. Do You Wanna Dance?
10. I Wanna Be Well
11. I Can't Give You Anything
12. Ramona
13. Surfin' Bird
14. Why Is It Always This Way?

Rocket to Russia is the first Ramones album I've ever heard all the way through. While listening I wracked my brains and tried to find an example of a Ramones song that I'd actually knew. Surprisingly I realised I had a good impression of how the Ramones sounded and what their music was like but couldn't actually sing a song. Odd.

Having heard an actual album all the way through I've concluded Joey and the other Ramones are more varied than I'd given them credit for. I assumed all their songs were a basic two minute sonic assault in which they shouted a bit about things and then stopped for a few seconds before doing it all again. I always saw them as a bridging point between rock and punk but it turns out they're quite a bit more.

For a start I never realised they were heavily influenced by surf music. The long hair, glasses and thin jeans don't look very surfey so to find them covering Surfin Bird and a Beach Boys influenced track Rockaway Beach forced me to reassess what I thought of them. Surfin Bird is a terrible song no matter who does it (that "Bird, Bird Bird is the Word" refrain is insanely annoying) but Rockaway Beach is great. It's surf music with a punk mentality and it really works. Less successful are the attempts at slower ballad type songs. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow is pretty bad and Ramona is worse. Do You Wanna Dance is a much more successful cover than Surfin Bird and while it's very different (and twice as fast) as the Mama's and The Papas version it's still recognizably a great song. The best tunes work at any tempo.

But the highlight of Rocket to Russia are the songs that sound like they could only be done by the Ramones. Sheena is a Punk Rocker is loud and punky but catchy at the same time. It's a simple song done simply with some basic chords and vocals that anyone could do but it not only works you could imagine it working if Mama Cass and friends did a slowed down version. At almost three minutes it's practically an epic by Ramones standards but it never wears out its welcome. The Ramones were never worried about solos embellishments or adornments, they sang a catchy tune and then buggered off before things got too repetitive. Teenage Lobotomy isn't quite as successful musically but it's lyrics were easier for teenagers to connect with and has a chorus of "Lo-Bot-o-mi" to shout along with along with the line "Now I guess I'll have to tell 'em, That I got no cerebellum" which you have to admit is fantastic.

There are some bands I've listened to on this countdown that have made me realise I have large gaps in my musical education. The Ramones are one of a handful of artists that have made me want more. After hearing Rocket to Russia a few times I decided to go and hunt out further Ramones albums to enjoy. I hope some of you have a similar experience.

Influenced by: The Rolling Stones
Influenced: Punk

Highlight: Sheena is a punk rocker
Lowlight: Surfin Bird

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "You could put this record on at a FUNERAL and people would start bopping their heads, and maybe even dance. "

-That might be a bit extreme.

So would you catch this rocket to Russia or stay at home? Let me know below.

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