Quicklet on The Best Ramones Songs: Lyrics and Analysis
What's in the book?
Quicklets: Your reading sidekick!
- “Hey, Ho, Let's Go”: Introducing the Ramones
- “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” — from The Ramones (1976)
- “Blitzkrieg Bop” — The Ramones (1976)
- “Pinhead” from Leave Home (1977)
- “Swallow My Pride” from Leave Home (1977)
- “Rockaway Beach” from Rocket to Russia (1977)
- “I Wanna Be Sedated” from Road to Ruin (1978)
- “Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll” from End of the Century (1980)
- “Chinese Rock” from End of the Century (1980)
- “My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)” — from Animal Boy (1986)
- “Pet Sematary” from Brain Drain (1989)
- Too Tough to Die — Conclusion
ABOUT THE BOOK
It's like the world is still quivering from that night they took the stage in New York City — counting out just a little too fast, “1, 2, 3, 4...” When the four Ramones first played “Blitzkrieg Bop” in 1974, they were raw, ragged, and revolutionary. They played a new kind of rock that was more intense —darker, faster, funnier, and more free. It was Dee Dee, Tommy, Johnny, and Joey Ramone who were the first to imagine a world where the music sounded so different.
Over the years we realized their band was resurrecting those taboo rock joys they'd first experienced as young teenagers, when radio rock was a freak-welcoming place, and everyone could share a wild abandonment together. In trying to reclaim that power — the dark magic they remembered — the Ramones spewed out their own pumped-up mystery, distilled from comic-book horrors, the evils both in the world around us and from their own lives, and, most of all, that powerful early fascination with what rock had meant to them and their refusal to forget what rock could mean...
I actually met the Ramones just a few years after they launched, at one of their personal appearances in California. They’d already burned through two drummers, and the four tough-looking musicians were all lined up behind a table at a record store, staring back dangerously. Awed by their reputation, all I could think to ask was, “What's it like being a Ramone?” “It's very rewarding,” replied their new drummer Richie, adding “I recommend it” — a semi-sarcastic answer that was part put-on, part mystique. It was just like the way every musician who played in the band took the last name “Ramone,” even though none of them were in any way related. Though they cultivated this mock mysteriousness, the best thing about the Ramones was ultimately their kids-from-the-neighborhood attitude, their daring to believe in the idea that you could be famous without changing.
In so doing, they changed the relationship between performers and audiences forever, smashing their guitars against that big wall between the media and the rest of us. Their songs catch the tension between pop music and raw reality, that love-hate dance between fame and grit, or the stage and the street, with one very radical idea: that real was enough. One of the surprises of their career is that they lived many of the cartoon horrors they described, that their life was as startling as their music. Their songs actually capture pieces of their life — that's part of what makes the songs feel so real — and they left them behind as part of a legend which can still haunt the musicians of today.
In the end, it was almost as though a cruel universe felt it had to hunt down the Ramones and kill them. The voice behind the Ramones was their lovably ordinary vocalist Joey Ramone, who died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 49. And just thirteen months later, the man who’d laid down the relentless bass lines on their first albums, Dee Dee Ramone, died of a heroin overdose at the age of 50. By 2004, cancer had also claimed their fierce guitarist Johnny Ramone at the age of 55. The only original band member to even reach the age of 60 was drummer Tommy, who also co-produced their first albums (and continues producing music to this day).
Though the line-up of the band sometimes changed, the Ramones' sound was always a reaction to the decline of rock in the 1970s...and an attempt to shove it in a new direction. But there was also always a tension between darkness and light — a mad hope that these wild real-life stories could somehow ascend into pop music heaven. It was a 20-year war that created love, death, and heroes, while slowly attracting believers and eventually a movement. Years later, Rolling Stone would remember that the Ramones set out to become famous, but accomplished something else instead.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
It all began with the words “Hey ho, let's go,” which according to Joey was “the battle cry that sounded the revolution, a call to arms for punks to do their own thing.” The first song on their first album hit the world like a chainsaw, with the fuzz of Johnny’s electric guitar cut by Dee Dee’s fierce bass, offering a new sound and style which were destined to change everything.
They're forming in a straight line
They're going through a tight wind
The kids are losing their minds
The Blitzkrieg Bop
They're piling in the back seat
They're generating steam heat
Pulsating to the back beat
The Blitzkrieg Bop...
There's a built-in irony which fascinated music writer Lain Ellis, who explains the song in his book Rebels With Attitude: Subversive Rock Humorists. As the very first track on their very first album, “‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ both introduced the Ramones' sound and announced their intentions. Its title wryly alludes to the novelty dance crazes of mid-1950s rock & roll, but any nostalgia or innocent charm is subverted by the accompanying references to Nazi Germany's 'blitzkrieg' battle advances. Together, the words in the title serve as the perfect 'mixed' metaphor for the band's style: fast, uncompromising, dangerous, and aggressive.”
Dee Dee Ramone, the song's co-author, always liked to provoke his friends, According to his wife's biography, he later once grew a Hitler moustache, died his hair black, and started wearing a swastika. “[H]e purposefully adopted the whole look and enjoyed the expressions of the shocked people he came in contact with,” Vera Ramone King remembers. But the Ramones weren't blind to the horrors of fascist Germany. Joey Ramone (who sang the vocals) was Jewish, and Dee Dee had an even more personal connection, according to his biography Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones.
“My mother met my father after World War II in Berlin, where he was stationed with the U.S. army,” he writes. His mother was eight years old when the war started, and Dee Dee writes that she remembered the screams of Krystallnacht, as well as the Allied bombing raids that ended the war. “The river was full of dead bodies. My mother helped to bury them,” he recalls. Dee Dee's father had fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and after his parents’ marriage, Dee Dee was first raised in Germany, while his father — a master sergeant — moved from one town to the next.
In the 1950s the family moved back to America — but Dee Dee retained memories of the real-life horrors of wartime. When it was time to shock their first audiences, Dee Dee knew where to start. But in March of 2012, just to make sure there was no ambiguity, drummer Marky Ramone — one of the last surviving Ramones musicians — told an interviewer “we hated Nazis...We just wanted to have people have fun.”
Buy the book to continue reading!
Follow @hyperink on Twitter!
Visit us at www.facebook.com/hyperink!
Go to www.hyperink.com to join our newsletter and get awesome freebies!
- Lifetime guarantee
- 100% refund
- Free updates