Friday, November 28, 2008

I Was a Teenage Ramone: A True-ish Story

Part Three '"I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Base"

"'Gabba Gabba Hey' is from the 1930s horror film, Freaks. There's a party going on in the film and one of the midgets has married this pretty woman - she's not a freak. During the celebration, they start chanting, 'Gooble gobble, we accept her, one of us!' So when we wrote the song 'Pinhead' we decided to use the chant, but we changed it to give it more power. We were trying to tell the audience that we're all one."
Tommy Ramone

So, after gathering guitars, a few leather jackets and a lone mike, D.K., Dano-O and I began our air-band practice in the sorta sound-proofed confines of my parent's basement.

We chucked the tatty black wigs and instead (this circa Too Tough To Die when Dee Dee had chopped off his puddin' bowl haircut) bought a jumbo bottle of Raven hair dye and went to work. By the time we'd finished the wall around the sink was spattered black and the air had that ammonia and peroxide stench. Even after the plastic wraps came off, our hair black and glistening, we didn't look much like the bruddhas. Though in Dan-O's case his mid-80's Bono-mullet did get rattier à la Marky's do.

Our single rehearsal consisted of cuing up my otherwise-blank cassette of "Pinhead" repeatedly while running through a hastily synchronized jump off the drum riser (with the hacked-up basement hideaway bed standing in) and then jumping up and down like PCP-fueled madmen for the entire middle section. For the Big Finish we needed a sign. The "Gabba Gabba Hey" sign was not only a crucial thematic piece of the Ramones iconography but also wielding it made the awkwardly geeky Joey look cool on the LP jacket. So we grabbed a black sharpie,a clean sheet of cardboard, a piece of lath and a staple gun. Presto - by 2:14 a.m. we had everything we needed plus a blister pack of caffeine pills.

We slept in. I awoke when my mother shrieked like a stuck banshee upon seeing this strange black mop in her blond-haired son's bed.

We headed for school full-speed. Once there, we tore down Echo Hall, our cheap canvas runners flapping and our leather zips jangling like windchimes in a hurricane. We arrived late for Math class (a no-no) carrying all our real air-gear.

After Math, we booted it to the gym and set up in a flash. We followed almost a dozen acts - think of a pantomime 80's- OMD, ZZ Top, the Go-Go's plus some oldies by Bob Marley, The Monks etc.

We hit the stage and I went epileptic. I mimed the song in a sprint, not a marathon . The only things I remember, other than the mike in front of my face, was Tharp in her cracked aviator shades air-drumming with all the fire of a sleep-walking Charlie Watts and her. She stood by stage left wearing a new black and white Ramones T-shirt and whistle-cheering us.

It ended with me jabbing toward the heavens with that "Gabba Gabba Hey" sign as Joey incanted the slogan a dozen-odd times. Even though, with a certain light-fingered deftness, I'd paused the cassette recording before the recorded cheering, the real crowd whooped, hollered n' bellowed as loud as the punters in the Rainbow Theater had years earlier. For five seconds I absorbed this novel reaction. Then, soaked and parched, I ducked backstage.

It ended up a drubbing. "Nice cho-re-ograhy" the classic rock D.J. M.C.'ing the affair sneered at us not long before pronouncing the Bob Marley act the winner. It was winner take all - no second place.

In the end, she left with one of the air-guitarist in my own "band" while snacking on his borrowed guitar strap.

Before leaving she pulled me aside and said only, "That rocked, Jeffy Ramone."

So, I tried to be Joey Ramone and came in a distant second - there's only so much shame in that.

What with the end of Ramones Appreciation Month It's time to hear some final tribute songs

For the brilliant "Bowery Electric" Jed Davis of New York's Collider is backed by CJ Ramone, Marky Ramone, Tommy Ramone and Daniel Rey. This song is a fitting tribute and if you like the song the Bowery Electric Crew E.P. is still available here.

And storied scuzz-rocker Jeff Dahl (former Angry Samoan amongst many other things) lets rip with his "All My Favorite Ramones Are Dead".

Do not miss the deeply-reverential band the Christian Ramones - "Gabba Gabba Pray!"

To get all of the Boris Sprinkler Kill the Ramones 7" (B-side - "Kill the Sex Pistols") go here.

Following the Life's A Gas tribute to Joey here is Main Man: a Tribute to Dee Dee also on the dormant Amp Records. Lotsa Ramones-styled goodness here, including a number of songs pruned from MRML's Ramonesongs comp to avoid duplication. For a sample check out the infernally catchy "Johnny and Dee Dee" by the Transistors.
This CD originally came with a book titled Rock in Peace Joey and Johnny Ramone and while the CD is out-of-print the book itself is still available here.

Download Main Man

And we end near where we began with the second volume of Ramones Unreleased Tracks.

Download More Unreleased Tracks

Next: Nothing About the Ramones

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I Was a Teenage Ramone: A True-ish Story

Part Two: "Pinheads"

"Punk rock love is riding on her motorcycle early in the cold morning and you're holding on tight and steam is rising off of the river and you're thinking how she is maybe even better than the Ramones."

Aaron Cometbus

I sat close to her on the bleachers, half-watching a dress rehearsal of Grease.
"Does this play have any plot at all?" she whispered.
"We need a Ramones musical, y'know like Rock n' Roll High School but with big dance numbers."
She squeezed my arm with cool, slender fingers, "Let's call it, Glue!"
From somewhere, I heard a director shout "No! No! No!"
I feigned interest in watching as the actor playing Kenickie leaned in for his dressing-down. "We're doing "Pinhead" for the air-band - the fast version from It's Alive."
"Who's this we?" she slackened her grip.
"Um, D.K. and - uh-"
"D.K.'s gonna take off his shirt n' slacks and wear leather?"
"Whatever, he and Dan-O will do the guitar stuff but I'm Joey."
"You know Tharp would be a perfect drummer - she looks the part."
Tharp, though not unattractive, did bear passing resemblance to Tommy Ramone. "I can't say that. What if I told you that you looked like a Ramone?"
"Do you think that?"
"Huzebewah?" I stumbled.
She hopped down on to the gym floor with a smack. "Ask her, not me."

I did. She agreed. In fact they all signed on, until a few days before the Big Show when creative differences kicked in.

I was sitting with D.K., dressed in his usual finery, eating these grease-soaked cookies that the cafeteria specialized in when he said."I just don't feel like doing it, that's all." But wiping up crumbs into his hand, he looked away from me, which I took as a sign of irresolution. I waged a spirited, overly wordy defence and gradually the weight of my foolhardiness wore him down ever-so-slightly. Then my rival, the moussed-up Burger Palace Boy, preened on by, his head held up high and stuck up his ass simultaneously.
D.K. sneered, "I mean unless that poodle-boy's doing a Ramones song..."
I spoke almost truthfully, "Yeah! I hear they're gonna air-band, "I Wanna Be Sedated."
"I'm in - but you have to get me a cool guitar."

In the art room, while having her outline traced on a huge length of white paper, Tharp looked up at me and said, "I wanna be Joey."
I hadn't come this far to be stationed at the back, where she'd never even spot me, "I set it all up plus I've already got the jacket."
"Well, I don't even have the shades like that drummer dude wears."
"I'll get you a pair."
As the guy tracing her outline, came to to a finish at the tip of her head, she sighed, "Yeah, I'll probably do it then."

Dan-O never actually tried to weasel out but it did take me four days to make him stop giggling nervously at everything and actually ask his older brother to lend us his real band's drum kit and guitars (including, a slick red and black Ibanez Roadstar). In haste, I rounded up my frontline (minus my aviator shades-less drummer) for our sole practice for the Big Show - now only twenty-three hours away.

Next: "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement"

Since we're talkin' live Ramones and pinheads, here's March of the Pinheads, a viciously good show from 1979. It's two years after It's Alive and so we get more rocked-up takes on songs from Road to Ruin and even End of the Century. Also, the sound quality is decent, once cranked up really high.

Download March of the Pinheads

Nathan from Nothin' Sez Somethin' added these songs to our Ramones Appreciate Month

De Heideroosjes - Ode to the Ramones
Grover Kent - Running Out of Ramones
The Bittersweets - I'm Gonna Miss the Ramones
Body Jar - The Song Ramones the Same

and just be a great man he added this album:

Rockabilly Tribute to The Ramones

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Was a Teenage Ramone: A True-ish Story

Part One: "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"
"If we weren't Ramones
we wouldn't have girlfriends."
Joey Ramone

I'm not Joey Ramone but I've tried.

You see, back in mid-80's, in the middle of nowhere, I suffered from that teenage affliction, attention deficit disorder: a deficit of her attention which left me, well, disordered.

I can't give too much of her identity away but let us pause to gaze upon her, filling up that black Ramones t-shirt, her hair, spiky and unyielding and her green-eyed gaze fixed on the next victim of her teeth. (She had a biting thing but not in an Anne-Rice-Vampire-Porn kinda way just in the manner that young creatures will cut their teeth on anything left vulnerable).

The lucky victim (a rival who played bass-synth and had a whole lotta hair gel goin' on), had his foppish leather gloves gnawed to shreds.

Watching this strange game, musical schemes of my own danced in my head. However, my vocal failings were soon laid bare in my audition for the school play, Grease. "It's a Bob Dylan kinda voice", said the casting director, "Next!". My rival got to be a Burger Palace Boy.

No matter what faux-teen narrators may claim, attention-grabbing spectacles aren't so much planned, as stumbled upon in the midst of the pursuit to embody and yet surpass what passes for normal in any given milieu.

Such was the case when that smudgy photocopy appeared on the school's main bulletin board, "Air Band Contest - apply now!".

Now, perhaps all that lip-syncing to "It's Alive" in front of my long-suffering mirror might pay off.

Ramones-dom was within my callow grasp. All I needed was to find three brothers.

Next: Gathering of the Pinheads

Speaking of aping the Ramones, check out Amp Records' Life's s a Gas: A Tribute to Joey Ramone (2001) On this comp Joey brings out the pop in thirty-one reasonably obscure pop-punk bands from around the world who play catchy originals in tribute to da tallest bruddha.

As a sample, here's Kelly and the Manges' "Joey's Song"

P.S. Amp Records' web site is gone and their MySpace (from which music cannot be ordered) has not been updated in over two years. As usual, if anyone knows if this CD is still available leave a comment and it will be deleted immediately.


Thursday, November 6, 2008


"Who's your favourite Ramone?"

It's Joey. However, it's not unquestioning as with, say the Clash (Strummer wins), or a Rorschach test like the Beatles used to be (nowadays it's all John). The Ramones gang-mentality made them slightly harder to distinguish. Johnny was the punk rock anchor, Dee Dee the key song-writer and Joey brought the pop. Tommy, Richie and Marky's importance can't be discounted, though perhaps C.J.'s can.

So while Joe Strummer inspired dozens of songs about him, to the exclusion of his Clash-mates, Ramones tribute songs (as opposed to covers) are legion and less exclusive in their devotion. In these twenty-six Ramonesongs, Joey takes the lion's share but Dee Dee gets enough, while Johnny and Marky also get namechecked. The remainder are bands who just let their tattered Ramones flags fly.

1. Motorhead - R.A.M.O.N.E.S.
Motorhead make most other bands sound like sissies.

2. Eastern Dark -Johnny and Dee Dee
Handclaps, harmonies and hammering guitars - hey ho let's go.

3. Sloppy Seconds - You Can't Kill Joey Ramone
A junk-rock prayer for the dead.

4. Queers - Goodbye California
Joe King embodies the Johnny/Joey - rock/pop dichotomy in one surly man's body and hence all of his songs are Ramones tributes even when they only mention the band in passing.

5. Mr. T. Experience - End of the Ramones
When MTX was a two-song-writer organization, Jon Von's goofy garage-rock tunes always complimented Dr. Frank's more sarcastically cerebral pop-punk songs.

6. Marky Ramones and the Speed Kings - I've Got Dee Dee On My Mind
In the documentary End of the Century Marky says the Ramones greatness lied in their stamina and which Ramone has shown more stamina than Marky?

7. The Vacant Lot - Dee Dee said
May in fact be a love song for former Clinton Press Secretary Dee Dee Meyers.

8. Helen Love - Joey Ramoney
If Bridget Jones formed a twee-pop band who sang only about the Ramones this is what they would sound like.

9. Dr. Frank - I Wanna Ramone You
Solo song from the leader of MTX and it's from his self-penned soundtrack to his novel, King Dork.

10. Lenny & the Piss-Poor Boys - Beat on the Brat
This is CBGB's music; not drugged-up punk or straight-edge hardcore but country, blue grass and blues - Bowery style.

11. Amy Rigby - Dancing With Joey Ramone
Country-tinged power-pop with a sharp eye for detail.

12. Spazzys - I Wanna Cut My Hair Like Marky Ramone
Screeching Weasel surf with the Go-Go's in Australia.

13. Parasites - I Wanna Be Like Dee Dee Ramone
In 1:40 Dave Parasite does a more fitting tribute to tha brudders than his hour-long cover of "It's Alive".

14. Badtown Boys - Dee Dee Took the Subway
A zippy lament for Dee Dee's doomed solo career.

15. Hanson Brothers - Joey Had To Go
A salute to Joey by the NoMeansNo side - band who sound uncannily like NoMeansNo trying to sound vaguely like the Ramones.

16. Greenland Whalefishers - Ramones
The Pogues but Norwegian.

17. The Wildhearts - 29 X the Pain
Actually an advertisement for leader Ginger's very discriminating taste in rock n' roll (with the exception of Kiss who blow no matter what cockamamie theory anyone offers to the contrary).

18. Raging Slab - Dry Your Eyes (For Joey Ramone)
The Ramones inspired seventies-styled sludge-rock bands too.

19. We Vs Death and Tom Sweetlove - No Future (For Joey Ramone)
Some call it post-rock, I call it art for art's sake.

20. Sleater Kinney - I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
Their time as crit-darlings is long gone and this song represents the best of the noise-damaged art-punk they left behind.

21. Guitar Wolf - Kung Fu Ramone Culmination Tactic
Japanese feedback-mongers offer an instrumental tribute to the Ramones (at least I think that's what they're doing...)

22. Swoons - My Grandpa is Joey Ramone
A (possibly) Japanese band who'll make you miss Shoenen Knife (a.k.a the Osaka Ramones).

23. Boris the Sprinkler - Kill the Ramones
Rev. Norb spews out more of his Ramonesaphobia.

24. Huntingtons - What Would Joey Do?
The Huntingtons plied their Ramones-by-way-of Screeching-Weasel shtick for ten years and it never hurt anyone.

25.Acid Reflux - Do Your Parent Know You're a Ramone
A :37 second old-school hardcore smear.

26. Jello Biafra - Joey Ramone
They say generals are always fighting the last war and Jello Biafra is a punk rock general forever fighting against the mid-seventies.

Download Ramonesongs

P.S. With so many songs about the Ramones I elected to delete some songs before this turned into a friggin' box set. That being said, please feel free to comment on songs left off.

P.P.S. Still time to vote on the Last Great Ramones Album.

Next: I Was A Teenage Ramone

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The End of the Ramones Clones

What's your Ramones cut-off?

Some say it's all been downhill since Rocket to Russia.

Many more would say Road to Ruin killed them.

A die-hard minority (including Rhino Records) would say that the Ramones stayed strong till Too Tough to Die.

Finally, there are those ever-diminishing pockets of resisters who hold onto one of the later albums as the final Ramones triumph.

Animal Boy (hence the 12" pictured above) is my cut-off and while proponents of Halfway to Sanity and Brain Drain might have a point, fans of Mondo-Acid-Amigos just have a tough slog.

The full-album tributes to the Ramones also peter out at Too Tough to Die, which has been done twice! Neither version adds up to much. The unfortunately-named Jon Cougar Concentration Camp (who came to Joe King's aid in keeping the Queers afloat) make the whole album sound like "Endless Vacation". Canada's mighty Mcrackins bring none of their pop-smarts to bear and instead make the whole album sound like "No Go". (For some thin but rollicking Mcrackin-ness go HERE for their"Mickey and Mallory" e.p.)

Download Mcrackins

Download Jon Cougar Concentration Camp

Oh yeah, and as far as postscripts go you can't forget this gnarly-sounding live bootleg of Ramones covers by Operation Ivy. Berkley, California's Op Ivy only produced a single, an album and a few scattered comp tracks in their life (it all fits on one CD) but what a legacy. Critically written-off but still an inspiration to a million kids with guitars - including a few great bands and, one must confess, a few thousand derivative ones. Album recently re-issued by Hellcat. For more info on lead singer Jesse Micheal's two excellent post Op Ivy bands Big Rig and Common Rider go HERE (and scroll down a wee bit)


Did I mention Sonic Youth earlier? Did I discuss their Ramones covers bootleg (that sneaks in "Nic Fit" for reasons unknown)? Well, If I neglected that document, let us rectify our mistake here and now. Here is New York's noisiest take on a bunch of early Ramones classics.


Please look up and to your right at the survey with
the tiny title font
("Last Great Ramones Album?")
and make your choice.

If you're an American, you'll already
be in a democratic mood and
the rest of us will be able to ease our
voter envy with the click of a mouse.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ramones Clones III

Despite my voracious mid-90's pop-punk diet, I never glommed onto Cleavland's Beatnik Termites (and I did sample their work). Did I miss something? Back in 1997 they attacked Pleasant Dreams as if it was an album of their best originals and came within spitting distances of cutting the Ramones on the album's most memorable song - "The KKK Took My Baby Away". Then, with "You Sound Like You're Sick", they did end up beating the Ramones of 1981 at their own game. It's no wonder it's the only of these cover albums to have been both praised by Marky Ramone ("It was real good") and name checked on the Rhino Ramones re-issues' liner notes. Even if you think that covering an entire album is lame- you owe this a listen.


P.S. For a European take on Subterranean Jungle visit the ever-awesome Ratboy 69 who posted an often-fun version by the Tip-Toppers. A quick listen suggested to these (Canadian) ears that only Americans can really pull off Ramones mimicry - though a Chixdiggit version of Animal Boy would be great (Sloppy Seconds being possibly even better).

P.P. S. In 1997 former New Jersey-ites the Parasites fit the double-album It's Alive onto a single LP by doing the Japanese single disc version. The exhaustive (in the fun sense of that word) Hangover Heart Attack has posted it here. However, this album doesn't tell you anything that you need to know about this otherwise excellent band.

Ramones Clones II

Rev. Norb unleashed one of his hyper-caffeinated rants to begin this 1998 cover of what he calls, "one of the worst Ramones albums known to man". He then goes on to claim that they asked for End of the Century because everyone knows it sucks and thus reducing the pressure on Green Bay’s Boris the son-of-a-bitchin’ Sprinkler. So while most songs, like “I’m Affected” and “This Ain’t Havana”, are done straight, Rev. Norb does get to do the wigged-out version of “Baby, I Love You” we all wished the Ramones had done.