Ramones is the debut studio album by American punk rock band the Ramones, released on April 23, 1976 by Sire Records. After Hit Parader editor Lisa Robinson saw the band at a gig in New York City, she wrote about them in an article and contacted Danny Fields, insisting that he be their manager. Fields agreed and convinced Craig Leon to produce Ramones, and the band recorded a demo for prospective record labels. Leon persuaded Sire president Seymour Stein to listen to the band perform, and he later offered the band a recording contract. The Ramones began recording in January 1976, needing only seven days and $6,400 to record the album. They used similar sound-output techniques to those of the Beatles and used advanced production methods by Leon.
The album cover, photographed by Punk magazine's Roberta Bayley, features the four members leaning against a brick wall in New York City. The record company paid only $125 for the front photo, which has since become one of the most imitated album covers of all time. The back cover depicts an eagle belt buckle along with the album's liner notes. After its release, Ramones was promoted with two singles which failed to chart. The Ramones also began touring to help sell records; these tour dates were mostly based in the United States, though two were booked in Britain.
Violence, drug use, relationship issues, humor, and Nazism were prominent in the album's lyrics. The album opens with "Blitzkrieg Bop", which is among the band's most recognized songs. Most of the album's tracks are uptempo, with many songs measuring at well over 160 beats per minute. The songs are also rather short; at two-and-a-half minutes, "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" is the album's longest track. Ramones contains a cover of the Chris Montez song "Let's Dance".
Ramones peaked at No. 111 on the US Billboard 200 and was unsuccessful commercially; it received glowing reviews from the reputed critics who wrote about it. Many later deemed it a highly influential record, and it has since received many accolades, such as the top spot on Spin magazine's list of the "50 Most Essential Punk Records". Ramones went on to inspire many bands like the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks, and the Clash, among others. Aside from sparking the punk-rock scene in both the US and the UK, it has had a significant impact on other genres of rock music, such as grunge and heavy metal. The album was ranked at number 33 in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" in 2012 and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2014.
The Ramones began playing gigs in mid-1974, with their first show at Performance Studios in New York City. The band, performing in a style similar to the one used on their debut album, typically performed at clubs in downtown Manhattan, specifically CBGB and Max's Kansas City. In early 1975, Lisa Robinson, an editor of Hit Parader and Rock Scene, saw the fledgling Ramones performing at CBGB and subsequently wrote about the band in several magazine issues. The group's vocalist Joey Ramone related that "Lisa came down to see us, she was blown away by us. She said that we changed her life, She started writing about us in Rock Scene, and then Lenny Kaye would write about us and we started getting more press like The Village Voice. Word was getting out, and people starting coming down." Convinced that the band needed a recording contract, Robinson contacted Danny Fields, former manager of the Stooges, and argued that he needed to manage the band. Fields agreed because the band "had everything [he] ever liked," and became the manager in November 1975.
On September 19, 1975, the Ramones recorded a demo at 914 Sound Studios, which was produced by Marty Thau. Featuring the songs "Judy Is a Punk" and "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend", the band used the demo to showcase their style to prospective labels. Producer Craig Leon, who had seen the Ramones perform in the summer of 1975, brought the demo to the attention of Sire Records' president Seymour Stein. After being persuaded by Craig Leon and his ex-wife Linda Stein, the Ramones auditioned at Sire and were offered a contract, although the label had previously signed only European progressive rock bands. Drummer Tommy Ramone recalled: "Craig Leon is the one who got us signed, single handed. He brought down the vice president and all these people—he's the only hip one in the company. He risked his career to get us on the label." The label offered to release "You're Gonna Kill That Girl" as a single, but the band declined, insisting on recording an entire album. Sire accepted their request and agreed to release a studio album instead.
Recording and productionEdit
In January 1976 the band took a break from their live performances to prepare for recording at Plaza Sound studio. Sessions began in early February 1976 and were completed within a week for $6,400; the instruments took three days and the vocal parts were recorded in four days. In 2004, Leon admitted that they recorded Ramones quickly due to budget restrictions, but also that it was all the time they needed.
The band applied microphone placement techniques similar to those which many orchestras used. The recording process was a deliberate exaggeration of the techniques used by the Beatles in the early 1960s, with a four-track representation of the devices. The guitars can be heard separately on the stereo channels—electric bass on the left channel, rhythm guitar on the right—drums and vocals are mixed in the middle of the stereo mix. The mixing of the production also used more modern techniques such as overdubbing, a technique used by studios to add a supplementary recorded sound to the material. The band also used a technique known as doubling, where the vocal line used is sung twice.
Recording for the album was expanded by Mickey Leigh (Joey's brother) and Leon with percussion effects, which went unmentioned in the liner notes to the album's release. Author Nicholas Rombes said that the production's quality sounded like "the ultimate do-it-yourself, amateur, reckless ethic that is associated with punk," but concluded that they approached the recording process with a "high degree of preparedness and professionalism."
Artwork and packagingEdit
Initially, the Ramones wanted an album cover similar to Meet the Beatles! (1964) and subsequently had pictures taken in that style by Danny Fields but Sire was dissatisfied with the results. The art direction was by Toni Wadler and, according to cartoonist John Holmstrom, the "Meet The Beatles" cover idea came out "horribly". Wadler later chose a photo by Roberta Bayley, a photographer for Punk magazine for the cover. The black and white photograph on the front of the album was originally in an issue of Punk.
The cover photo features (from left to right) Johnny, Tommy, Joey and Dee Dee Ramone, staring at the camera with blank faces. They are all wearing ripped/faded blue jeans and leather jackets, standing upright against the brick wall of a private community garden called Albert's Garden, located in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City between Bowery Street and Second Street. The stance of the group members in the photograph would influence their future cover designs as well, with the majority of their succeeding albums using a picture of the band on the front cover. Music historian Legs McNeil states that "Tommy [is] standing on his tip-toes and Joey [is] hunched over a bit." The back cover art, which depicts a belt buckle with a bald eagle and the band's logo, was designed by Arturo Vega. Liner notes on the back cover fail to acknowledge backing vocalists and additional instrument players. Leigh, who performed backing vocals on several tracks, asked guitarist Johnny why he was not mentioned on the record's credits. Johnny replied: "We didn't want people to get confused with who's in the band or who's not. It's our first album, you know, and we didn't want people to get confused."
The artwork became one of the most imitated album covers in music. The image of a band in front of a brick wall dressed in ripped jeans and leather jackets was copied by Alvin and the Chipmunks in Chipmunk Punk. Ramones 's artwork was ranked number 58 on Rolling Stone 's 1991 list of 100 Greatest Album Covers.
There were two singles released from the album: "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend". The first was released in February 1976, originally as a 7" split single with "Havana Affair" as its B-side. The release, along with the Ramones 2001 Expanded Edition, featured "Blitzkrieg Bop" remixed as a single version, although it maintains a time of two minutes and twelve seconds. On January 6, 2004, Rhino Entertainment re-released "Blitzkrieg Bop" as a CD single, using "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" as its B-side. "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" was released in February 1976 as a 7" single. It included "California Sun" and "I Don't Wanna Walk Around with You" as B-sides. "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" was also released in the UK, giving the band a presence in the European marketplace. Even though the song saw some success in the UK and Europe, it failed to chart in the top 50.
In 1974 the band played 30 performances, nearly all at the New York-based club CBGB. All but one of the band's 1975 gigs were booked for New York City, with Waterbury, Connecticut as the exception. After the album's recording, the Ramones headlined for very few shows, usually opening for an identified cover band which played Aerosmith and Boston. When they opened at Brockton, Massachusetts, the audience appeared extremely uninterested in the Ramones so Johnny swore off playing as an introduction for other bands. Following this, Fields booked several headlining shows around the Tri-state area, and they began playing frequently at gigs like CBGB and Max's Kansas City. After performing with Blondie in New Jersey, they continued their tour to Boston, Massachusetts for three shows. Leigh later said of the tour:
At the time, Leigh was road manager, stage manager, chauffeur, and head of security. Vega, who contributed to the album's packaging, helped out with the road crew as much as possible. Tommy's friend Monte Melnick occasionally helped with the audio output, but this was typically done by Leigh.
Following their debut album's release, the band performed at over 60 concerts for its promotion. While most of the gigs were booked in North America, two dates—July 4 and 5—were in London's Roundhouse venue and Dingwalls, respectively. Linda Stein pushed to make these events happen, setting up the band performances in the UK during the United States Bicentennial. Fields relates: "On the two-hundredth anniversary of our freedom, we were bringing Great Britain a gift that was forever going to disrupt their sensibilities." The band sold out for their first London performance, with an audience of roughly 3,000. Leigh described the Dingwalls gig as very similar to performances at CBGB. Likewise, these venues would go on to be headlined by other punk bands like the Clash and Sex Pistols. The band performed over 100 concerts the following year.
Lyrics and compositionEdit
The songs on Ramones addressed several lyrical themes including violence, male prostitution, drug use, and Nazism. While the moods displayed in the album were often dark, Johnny said that when writing the lyrics they were not "trying to be offensive." Many songs from the album have backing vocals from different guests. Leigh sang backing vocals on "Judy Is a Punk", "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend", and in the bridge of "Blitzkrieg Bop". Tommy sang backing vocals on "I Don't Wanna Walk Around with You", "Judy Is a Punk", and during the bridge of "Chainsaw". The album's engineer, Rob Freeman, sang backing vocals for the final refrain of "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend". The album's length is 29 minutes and four seconds and it contains 14 tracks.
"Blitzkrieg Bop", the album's opening track, was written by Tommy, and originally named "Animal Hop". Once Dee Dee reviewed the lyrics, the band changed the wording, the name, and partially the theme. According to Tommy, the song's original concept was about "kids going to a show and having a good time", but the theme became more Nazi-related after its revise. The piece begins with an instrumental interval which lasts about 20 seconds. At the 20th second, the guitar and bass cease, marking Joey's first line, "Hey ho, let's go!" The bass and guitar gradually rebuild and become "full–force" once all the instruments play together in ensemble. The piece resolves by repeating what is played from 0:22–0:33. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic described "Blitzkrieg Bop" as a "three-chord assault."
"Beat on the Brat" was said by Joey to have origins relating to the upper class of New York City. Dee Dee, however, explained that the song was about how Joey saw a mother "going after a kid with a bat in his [apartment building's] lobby and wrote a song about it." "Judy Is a Punk"—written around the same time as "Beat on the Brat"—was written by Joey after he walked by Thorny Croft, an apartment building "where all the kids in the neighborhood hung out on the rooftop and drank." The song's lyrics are fictional and refer to two juvenile offenders in Berlin and San Francisco and their possible deaths at the conclusion of the song. "Judy Is a Punk" is the original album's shortest track at 1:39.
"I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend", the slowest song on the album, was solely written by Tommy and pays homage to love songs by pop music acts of the 1960s. The song used a 12-string guitar, glockenspiel, and tubular bells in its composition, and was said by author Scott Schinder to be an "unexpected romantic streak". The next song, "Chain Saw", opens with the sound of a running circular saw and was influenced by the 1974 horror film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. At nearly 180 beats per minute, "Chain Saw" had the fastest tempo among the album's songs, and according to Rombes, is the most "home-made" sounding.
"Now I Want to Sniff Some Glue" contains four lines of minimalist lyrics which depict youthful boredom and inhaling solvent vapors found in glue. On the question of the authenticity of the text, Dee Dee said in an interview: "I hope no one thinks we really sniff glue. I stopped when I was eight [years old]." Dee Dee also explained that its concept came from adolescent trauma. After several songs by the Ramones whose titles began with "I Don't Want to ... ", Tommy said that "Now I Want to Sniff Some Glue" is the first positive piece on the album. The song served as an inspiration for one of the first punk fanzines, Mark Perry's Sniffin' Glue. "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" is also a minimalist piece, and was inspired by horror movies. The entire text is composed of three lines, and the composition was based on three major chords. With a playing time of 2:35, it is the longest piece on the album.
"Loudmouth" has six major chords and is a harmonically complex composition. The song's lyrics are—depending on the reading and punctuation—just a single row or four very brief lines. The next track, "Havana Affair", has a lyrical concept incorporating the comic strip Spy vs. Spy by the Cuban-born illustrator Antonio Prohias. At roughly 170 beats per minute, "Loudmouth" and "Havana Affair" proceed at about the same tempo. "Havana Affair" segues into "Listen to My Heart", which is the first of many songs in the Ramones repertoire that voice an ironic and pessimistic perspective on a failing or already failed relationship.
Written solely by Dee Dee, the lyrics of "53rd and 3rd" concern a male prostitute ("rent boy") who is waiting at the corner of 53rd Street and Third Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. When the prostitute gets a customer, he kills the customer with a razor to prove he is not a homosexual. In interviews, Dee Dee described the piece as autobiographical. "The song speaks for itself," Dee Dee commented in an interview. "Everything I write is autobiographical and written in a very real way, I can't even write." Johnny insisted that the song is about "Dee Dee turning tricks." The half-sung and half-shouted bridge in "53rd and 3rd" are performed by Dee Dee, whose voice is described by author Cyrus Patell as what "breaks the deliberate aural monotony of the song and emphasizes the violence of the lyric."
The album's next track is a version of the Chris Montez song "Let's Dance". The song features Leon playing Radio City's large Wurlitzer pipe organ. The 13th track on the record, "I Don't Want to Walk Around with You", consists of two lyric lines and three major chords. It is one of the group's earliest compositions. It is the first song on their first demo tape, written at the beginning of 1974. "I Don't Wanna Walk Around with You" fades into the album's final track, "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World", a song that refers to a Hitler Youth member. Seymour Stein complained about the song's original lyrics—"I'm a Nazi, baby, I'm a Nazi, yes I am. I'm a Nazi Schatze, y'know I fight for the Fatherland"—insisting that the track was offensive. When Stein threatened to completely remove the track from the album the band put together alternate lyrics: "I'm a shock trooper in a stupor, yes I am. I'm a Nazi Schatze, y'know I fight for the Fatherland." Stein accepted the revision and it was published in the album.
|The Austin Chronicle|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|Spin Alternative Record Guide||10/10|
|The Village Voice||A|
Ramones was released on April 23, 1976 by Sire Records and received glowing reviews. In May, John Rockwell of the New York Times published a rave review, saying: "What the Ramones do is deliver a nonstop set of short, brisk, monochromatically intense songs. [...] conventional considerations of pace and variety are thrown calculatedly to the winds. The ingredients are simplicity itself." Rockwell noted: "the effect in the end amounts to an abstraction of rock so pure that other associations get left behind." Nick Kent favourably commented in the NME: "This record poses a direct threat to any vaguely sensitive woofer and/or tweeter lodged in your hi-fi...". Critic Robert Christgau in The Village Voice gave the album a positive review, specifically writing about the album's themes and sound quality. In July, Paul Nelson of Rolling Stone wrote in 1976 that the album was similar to early rock and roll, and was constructed using rhythm tracks of great intensity. In August, Creem dubbed The Ramones as "The most radical album of the past six years", saying: "[it] is so strikingly different, so brazenly out of touch with prevailing modes as to constitute a bold swipe at the status quo." Reviewer Gene Sculatti saw it as "a rock 'n' roll reactionary's manifesto" [...] "a sharp wedge between the stale ends of a contemporary music scene bloated with graying superstars and overripe for takeover." Critic Joe S. Harrington declared that the album was a huge landmark for music history, proclaiming that "[it] split the history of rock 'n' roll in half." Theunis Bates, a writer for Time, summed the album up with: "Ramones stripped rock back to its basic elements ... lyrics are very simple, boiled-down declarations of teen lust and need." Bates also said that it "is the ultimate punk statement." Charles M. Young of Rolling Stone regarded Ramones as "one of the funniest rock records ever made and, if punk continues to gain momentum, a historic turning point."
Later reviews of Ramones tended to praise the album's influence on rock music. In 1995, Jeff Tamarkin of The AllMusic Guide to Rock said that the album ignited the punk rock era, writing: "rock's mainstream didn't know what hit it." In 2001, April Long of NME rewarded the album with a perfect score, remarking that the Ramones were "arguably the most influential band ever," despite their lack of mainstream acceptance. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic also deemed the album influential, saying "In comparison to some of the music the album inspired, The Ramones sounds a little tame—it's a little too clean, and compared to their insanely fast live albums, it even sounds a little slow." The album's sound was considered by Erlewine to be "all about speed, hooks, stupidity, and simplicity."
Regardless of this critical acclaim, Ramones was not successful commercially. It only reached No. 111 on the US Billboard 200, and sold 6,000 units in its first year. Outside the US, the album peaked at No. 48 on the Swedish Sverigetopplistan chart.
The album was included in Spin magazine's List of Top Ten College Cult Classics (1995), where it was noted that "everything good that's happened to music in the last fourteen years can be directly traced to the Ramones." Also in 1995, the Spin Alternative Record Guide named it the No. 1 alternative rock album. In 2001, the magazine also included the album in its special issue 25 Years of Punk with a list of The 50 Most Essential Punk Records, where it resided at the top spot. That same year, it was named the fourth best punk album by Mojo, who called it the "coolest, dumbest, simplest, greatest rock'n'roll record ever to be cut by four sweet, dysfunctional screw-ups."
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the 2002 induction ceremony, with the website stating that their first album changed the rock genre from "bloated and narcissistic", to "basic" rock and roll. In 2003, Ramones was considered by Spin 's Chuck Klosterman, Greg Milner, and Alex Pappademas to be the sixth most influential album of all time. They noted that the album "saved rock from itself and punk rock from art-gallery pretension." Q Magazine included the album in their "100 Greatest Albums Ever" (2003) list, where it was listed at No. 74. In 2006, it was chosen by Time as one of the 100 greatest albums ever. Ramones was included in Chris Smith's 2009 book 101 Albums that Changed Popular Music, who said the album "opened a whole new world of garage rock for those fed up with the excesses of existing rock gods." It was also included in the 2005 book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 2010, it was ranked as the greatest debut album of the year in 1976. The album went gold in the US just after its 38th anniversary, certified by the RIAA on April 30, 2014.
In 2016, Rhino Records announced the July 29 release of a 40th-anniversary deluxe edition comprising three CDs and one LP, including stereo and mono mixes of the original album; single mixes, outtakes and demos; and a live 1976 performance.
Legacy and influenceEdit
Ramones is considered to have established the musical genre of punk rock, as well as popularizing it years afterward. Rombes wrote that it offered "alienated future rock", and that it "disconnected from tradition." The album was the start of the Ramones' influence on popular music, with examples being genres such as heavy metal, thrash metal, indie pop, grunge, post-punk, and most notably, punk rock. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said of their influence on rock in general:
Despite the lack of popularity in its era, the importance of the album for the development of punk rock music was incredible, influencing many of the most well-known names in punk rock, including the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, the Clash, Black Flag, Misfits, and Green Day. Billie Joe Armstrong, singer for Green Day, explained his reasoning for listening to the band: "they had songs that just stuck in your head, just like a hammer they banged right into your brain." The album also had a great impact on the English punk scene as well, with the bassist for Generation X, Tony James, saying that the album caused English bands to change their style. "When their album came out," commented James, "all the English groups tripled speed overnight. Two-minute-long songs, very fast." In another interview, James stated that "Everybody went up three gears the day they got that first Ramones album. Punk rock—that rama-lama super fast stuff—is totally down to the Ramones. Bands were just playing in an MC5 groove until then." In 1999, Classic Albums by Collins GEM recognized Ramones as the start of English punk rock and called it the fastest and hardest music that could possibly be concocted, stating: "The songs within were a short, sharp exercise in vicious speed-thrash, driven by ferocious guitars and yet halting in an instant. It was the simple pop dream taken to its minimalist extreme." In 2012 the album was preserved by the National Recording Registry, deeming it "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant."
Cover versions and tributesEdit
Each song on Ramones has been covered by various bands. Sonic Youth covered "Beat on the Brat" on their 1987 EP Master=Dik, and, in 1991, German punk band Die Toten Hosen played "Blitzkrieg Bop" on their cover album Learning English, Lesson One. A tribute album titled Gabba Gabba Hey: A Tribute to the Ramones was released on August 30, 1991. It contained the songs "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue", "53rd & 3rd", "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement", "Loudmouth", and "Beat on the Brat". Screeching Weasel released Ramones (1992), which consisted of the band performing the entire album track list. 1998's Blitzkrieg Over You!: A Tribute to the Ramones featured a cover "Judy Is a Punk" in German, and in 2000, both "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "Beat on the Brat" appeared on Dee Dee Ramone's solo release Greatest & Latest. The compilation album Ramones Maniacs included Youth Gone Mad's version of "Blitzkrieg Bop" (featuring a guest appearance by Dee Dee Ramone) and Yogurt's rendition of "Beat on the Brat". "Blitzkrieg Bop", "Havana Affair", "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend", and "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" were all covered on The Song Ramones the Same. We're a Happy Family: A Tribute to Ramones (2003) featured several of the album's songs covered by bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers ("Havana Affair"), Rob Zombie ("Blitzkrieg Bop"), Metallica ("53rd & 3rd"), U2 ("Beat on the Brat"), Pete Yorn ("I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"), and John Frusciante ("Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World"). In 2006, "Blitzkrieg Bop" was reworked into a children's song on the album Brats on the Beat: Ramones for Kids.
Credits adapted from AllMusic. Ramones
- Joey Ramone – lead vocals
- Johnny Ramone – lead guitar
- Dee Dee Ramone – bass guitar, backing vocals, co-lead vocals in "53rd & 3rd"
- Tommy Ramone – drums, backing vocals in "I Don't Wanna Walk Around with You" and "Chain Saw", associate producer
- Craig Leon – producer
- Greg Calbi – mastering
- Roberta Bayley – photography, cover photo
- Don Hunerberg – assistant engineer
- Rob Freeman – engineer
- Arturo Vega – photography, back cover
|Chart (1976 - 2011)|| Peak|
|Italian Albums Chart||67|
|Swedish Albums Chart||48|
|US Billboard 200||111|
|Worldwide release||1976||Sire Records||LP||SR-6020|||
|Worldwide release||1999||WEA||CD||WEA 1805|||
|Worldwide release||2001||Rhino||CS||RR 74306|||
|Worldwide release||2004||Phantom Import Distribution||CD||7599274212|||
|UK release||2006||Phantom Import Distribution||LP||EU9103253P|||
|US release||2008||Wrong Records||CD||RR-9274-21|||
|Worldwide release||2012||Hi Horse Records||LP||HH 75200|||
- ↑ „500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Ramones, 'Ramones'”. Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/500-greatest-albums-of-all-time-20120531/ramones-ramones-20120524. Accesat la 28 September 2016.
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- ↑ 16.0 16.1 Template:Cite AV media notes
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- ↑ Beets, Greg (2001-07-13). „Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket to Russia, Road to Ruin”. The Austin Chronicle. http://www.austinchronicle.com/music/2001-07-13/82342/. Accesat la 2016-09-06.
- ↑ Petridis, Alexis (2016-07-28). „Ramones 40th anniversary super-deluxe edition review – rock boiled down to its absolute essence”. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jul/28/ramones-40th-anniversary-super-deluxe-edition-review. Accesat la 2016-09-06.
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