1976. AM radio was pumping out a steady stream of sanitized chart-topping feel-goods depicting funky waterfowl, amorous rodents and midday romantic rendezvous, while FM airwaves transmitted the latest and greatest dream-weaving anthems from an emerging menagerie of golden gods and bohemian messiahs. And there was lots (and lots) of cowbell. For many, the global music scene had long become stale, bloated and pretentious, and a rock revolution was in order.
The underground NYC music game already had been changing — the New York Dolls and the Dictators both had punted powerful protopunk album debuts in 1973 and 1975 respectively. During that time, four delinquents from Queens, New York loitered onto the field, picked up the ball and sprinted for the end zone. Hey ho! Let’s go! In the process, the Ramones threatened to turn the corporate music biz applecart upside down (and heist its hubcaps) when their raucous self-titled debut LP hit stores worldwide via Sire Records 45 years ago this month (April 1976).
Totally raw, the painfully lo-fi set barely was a blip on the mainstream American radar at the time of its release — peaking at #111 on the Billboard album chart. However, the striking black and white cover image of the band’s four hoodlum members sporting ripped jeans and leather jackets, combined with sparse two-minute breakneck tracks sent ripples immediately across the pond — igniting the British punk movement in short order.
Produced by Craig Leon (Talking Heads, Blondie) and the band’s meat-and-potatoes drummer, Tommy Ramone, on what sounded like a $37 studio budget, Ramones kicked into gear with the rib-cracking battle cry, “Blitzkrieg Bop,” followed in rapid-fire succession by the equally high-octane, “Beat on the Brat.” Simply put, neither were “silly love songs.”
At a time when the polished disco movement was revving on all cylinders, this brash 14-song assault was fearless — possessing the courage to shun production sheen. The buzz saw rhythms of guitarist Johnny Ramone pinned to the no-nonsense bass lines of Dee Dee Ramone was beautifully brave and brutal. The Everyman vocals of frontman Joey Ramone — honest and pure.
Musically, Ramones embraced primitive ’50s-era rock and roll (“Judy is a Punk,” “Let’s Dance”), married it to ’60s-inspired pop (“I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” “53rd & 3rd”) and ran it all through a high-speed garage sale blender. Lyrically, the comic strip-style songs spewed a healthy dose of dysfunctional irreverence (“Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement”).
As they say, “timeline is everything.” In 1976, Ramones was considered an abrasive, ground-breaking record. However, in today’s desensitized post-hardcore, corporate pop-punk world, the music of the Ramones now feels rather familiar and friendly. Despite their staunch initial anti-corporate stance, the 2002 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees have become an iconic brand. In fact, “Blitzkrieg Bop” alone has been used in TV commercials ad nauseam to hock everything from soft drinks to fast food to camera gear to exercise equipment.
In 2014, Ramones finally was awarded “gold” status officially by the RIAA — 38 years following its original release — the only studio Ramones title ever to achieve the distinction. Although the impressive 500,000-plus sales mark hardly measures up to Fleetwood-caliber stats, Ramones did launch a revolution and propelled the band through 13 subsequent studio records, years of acknowledged infighting and various lineup changes over the next two decades. It remains a bona fide rock classic.
Ramones Track Listing:
1. Blitzkrieg Bop (2:12)
2. Beat on the Brat (2:30)
3. Judy is a Punk (1:30)
4. I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (2:24)
5. Chain Saw (1:55)
6. Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue (1:34)
7. I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement (2:35)
1. Loudmouth (2:14)
2. Havana Affair (2:00)
3. Listen to My Heart (1:56)
4. 53rd & 3rd (2:19)
5. Let’s Dance (1:51)
6. I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You (1:43)
7. Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World (2:09)
Run Time: 29:04
Release Date: April 23, 1976
Record Label: Sire