Day 7 of the #mayvinylchallenge asks about an album with a cool story or “a-ha!” moment. The story isn’t cool, but I did have an “a-ha!” moment when after playing my copy of the debut album from the Ramones I realized that Side B was actually a re-press of Side A, meaning I only got one half the album. When the album is as perfect a rock and roll statement as Ramones is it would be nice to have the entire thing. That was quickly rectified with a great Portuguese pressing, but still…the “a-ha!” was I got shafted. Anyway, no matter: let’s briefly gush about the perfection of this album, shall we?
When I was a freshman in college it was 1991, and it looked like everyone was learning guitar. And if they were’t in the uptown campus strumming acoustics trying to get laid, they were downtown where I was living, bashing out the A/D/E power chord call to the Forest Hills Quartet that quite literally started a million bands. “Blitzkrieg Bop” reverberated throughout the halls of every dorm on the campus. Four strings, six strings…2 strings: it didn’t matter. That attack paved the way of so many kids to get into music. Listening back to it now there’s still a thrill that makes me want to grab my guitar and play along.
It’s that infectiousness that makes Ramones so essential. The best songs, whether they’re the more straight ahead rockers like “Beat on the Brat” or “Judy is a Punk” or the sweeter, nostalgic ring of “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” all capture the love affair with hooks and melody present at the birth of rock and roll in the 50s and the pop flavor of the 60s. Some of that comes from the way Joey doubles his lead vocals, and how when needed Tommy and Dee Dee could harmonize on backgrounds, but part of it just comes from having absorbed so much of the music from the past 20 years and having that be a natural extension of their songwriting. The first time I heard “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and “53rd and 3rd” I assumed they were covers. The act the band could summon that spirit so perfectly, and how despite being able to identify a Ramones song within seconds of it coming on, their ability to work within that range is pretty broad. Just within the first album you can hear the cracks in the past with “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” and how they send up doo-wop (in a way that simultaneously shows their respect for it) on “Chain Saw”. I’ll forever think of the way Joey pronounces the word as “Massa-cree” whenever I watch the film.
Later albums have plenty of hits, but nothing for me with the streamlined perfection the 29 minutes of Ramones does.
What’s the point of saying more?
Hey, Ho…let’s go.