Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks #6: Ramones- Leave Home

Posted: April 29, 2014 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

So we need to go a little further back this time, the furthest I’ve gone back in this column. 1977, the year that punk became huge and the cool thing for every suburban kid in the western hemisphere was to have a Mohawk and a safety pin through your cheeks. And I’m of course talking about the band that started the whole thing, the band that if it wasn’t for their existence I wouldn’t be writing this column and most of my record collection would be non-existent. I’m talking about the Ramones of course. Their first self-titled album was released in 1976. I bought it when I was 15 or 16 in Sweden and it’s to me what marked the start of Punk rock and a year later the sound would be brought to the rest of the world with British bands like The Clash and the Sex pistols. 1977 would also be the year of the most wonderful pop punk albums ever, the Ramones released both Rocket to Russia and Leave home. I bought the latter in a record store with the view of Leith in Edinburgh (along with The Record’s “Teen-a-rama”, which has the creepiest cover I can think of and the Proclaimers’ Sunshine on Leith and got the same view as the dudes in the duo on the cover when I left the store, which was worth walking 500 miles for, but that’s another story) The first album was a good debut album, but these two albums took them to other heights. And later we would get their best produced album Road to ruin and the Phil Spector produced End of the century and maybe the most underrated (yet having the most overplayed song) Pleasant dreams. I did however have to go with one of the classics from 1977; it’s called classic pop punk picks for fuck’s sake. So leave home it is.

Leave home was released on January 10 1977 on Sire records. The album cover is like all the four first albums with the band posing in their leather jacket and t-shirts. However, this feels a bit different than the others, maybe it’s their postures. The three first albums also have Tommy Ramone on the drums, which had his unique drum sound. He also uses the tambourine a lot, and sometimes the drum sounds more like just a tambourine than drums. I recently bought a tambourine and I’ve realized lately that the tambourine is one of my favorite instruments and all my favorite records have lots of tambourine on them. It’s just a little detail that makes the entire unity so much better. The Vindictives also did a great job covering this album!

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1. “Glad to see you go”: The album starts off quick. The song is apparently about Dee Dee’s ex-girlfriend and the song is quite harsh, which might be understandable due to the violent things she is known to have done to her lovers. The song seems to be about the break up, but also includes a metaphor that alludes to murder, with references to Charles Manson and bullets. The song also reflects on the attention and fame a murderer gets. “I’m gonna smile, I’m gonna laugh/they’re gonna want my autograph”

2. “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment”: One of the first of the Ramones’ long series of songs about mental illness and this time about the treatment electro shock therapy. The song is the story of a person that claims he is going insane and hears about shock treatment from his friend and decided to try it out and now he’s “happy happy happy all the time”.

3. “I Remember You”: A way slower song that its two predecessors and seems more like a sixties pop ballad with its nice harmonies and this is also a song where the lovely tambourine comes into full play. The song shows something the Ramones perfected, minimalism and melody, it’s an almost perfect pop song, but it has almost the same lyrics over and over and the title is repeated many times which gives a great effect and the way Joey sings it is great. And the song also mirrors a feeling of sitting in your room being love sick and heartbroken over love that doesn’t last.

4. “Oh oh I love her so”: To me this might be the song that defines pop punk. The song has very Beach Boys –esque sound and the vocal harmonies in the beginning are maybe the best piece of music I can think of. The tambourine is even more present in this song than the others and the bridge is just wonderful: “hanging out on a night like this, I’m gonna give her a great big kiss” the song is a cute little love song about falling in love with someone at the soda machine at burger king and going to an amusement park and the naïve, lustful feeling that love will never end. This is a song that makes Burger king food sound way better than it actually is.

5. “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”: The fifth song on the album was originally “Carbona not glue”, but it was removed due to copyright violations. I used to think the reason it was removed was because the content was because the lyrics were too explicit. The song “Babysitter” replaced it on the UK version, and the reason that one didn’t make the American one might be that, but I don’t know, at least “Sheena is a punk rocker” is the fifth song on most of the releases. It was also released as a single and also appears on Rocket to Russia. The song is very inspired by the Beach boys and the Ramones described it as a “classic American rock n roll song”, but because it had “punk rocker” in it wasn’t a big hit as it should’ve been, in the UK it seemed to have the opposite effect, since punk rock had become big business over there, the song became a hit even if it was more of a pop song than their British colleges were making at the time. This song might have one of the catchiest choruses of all time.

6. “Suzie is a Headbanger”: A little tribute to the art of headbanging. The song is similar to Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon everybody” and it’s one of the Ramones songs that had the coolest drum parts. The drums in the chorus are pretty cool and the drums in the “headbanging” part are even better, along with the tambourine of course!

7. “Pinhead”: A song that basically just have three lines. My least favorite song on this album along with “Commando” and is more reminiscent of their first album than the other songs on this album. This tune is a song that many people relate the “Ramones sound “ to and lots of copycats go for copying the style of this song, which usually ends up in some crappy fucking bands. Still, this is one of the most important Ramones songs. It has many catchphrases like “gabba gabba, we accept you”, “gabba gabba hey” and “D-U-M-B: Everyone’s accusing me!” which are catchphrases many associate the band with. “gabba gabba, we accept you” is a reference to the 1932 movie “Freaks”, which is described as a horror movie, but I always saw it more as a romantic drama with sideshow performers, I always thought it was a sweet little film, at shows Joey’s brother Mick would come out on stage dressed as one of the “pinheads” from “freaks” and the film and this song has inspired a lot of the famous Ramones imagery.

8. “Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy”: Another great track. The protagonist wants to be a good boy, but he also wants to leave home, which is appropriate! He also says he wants to be sad and alone. The drum beat in the middle sounds like a continuation of “Pinhead” and I often think he’s gonna burst into “D-U-M-B”, but he doesn’t.

10. “Swallow My Pride”: The second biggest hit on the album(charted #36 in the UK), the biggest was “Sheena is a Punk rocker”(which charted #22) and their third biggest hit in the UK all in all (their cover of “Baby, I love you” was their biggest at #8), being a pretty big hit and all it’s not a very recognized song and I think it’s one of the best and most underrated Ramones songs. I like the positive vibe it gives you and the feeling that “things were looking grim, but it’s looking good again”

11. “What’s Your Game”: The Slowest and prettiest song on the album, there’s of course a tambourine in here too! Another outstanding example of the band’s perfect minimalism. Joey says more in this song in five lines than other bands say in 5 verses. Joey wrote the song about a girl named Mary Jane who suffered from mental illness and how it stopped her from being like all the other girls and to live the life she wanted. The vocal harmonies in the second verse where there’s no lead vocal is one of the most beautiful parts in a song I can think of. Almost every time I hear this song I can feel a tiny little teardrop running from my eye and it’s probably the song that’s made me cry the most times.

12. “California Sun”: The version of the album I got sounded very lo-fi and was probably released in the early days of cds (I think it was a Australian issue), a few days ago I got to hear the re-mastered one, and it sounded way clearer and I heard lots of things I had never heard before. “California Sun” is a cover of the Rivieras’ 1964 hit. Which takes us back to sunny California rock n roll? It’s also one of the few early Ramones songs which Johnny plays a solo on, even though on the re-mastered version it sounds kind of muffled.

13. “Commando”: Maybe the most political sounding song on the album. Mentioning anything from communism, war, Nazi Germany and Kosher salami and for some reason there’s kind of contradictory link between these. I think Johnny Ramone once called it a pro-war song, which doesn’t really make much sense, but it’s a song that can be interpreted many ways. I guess it’s also the most punk song on the album.

14. “You’re Gonna Kill That Girl”: This title sounds like a terrible advice to give someone. The music is very poppy and also takes us back to fifties and sixties music. The lyric is about someone who sees a girl being murdered. “When I saw her walking down the street/ my heart stood still and skipped A beat/ then he knocked her on the floor/ but he wanted just a little bit more” The Queers do a great cover of it on their “Live in East Hollywood” album.

15. “You should never have opened that door”: Maybe the most grotesque song on the album, which showed the Ramones love for dark humor and slasher movies. “You don’t know what I can do with this axe/I’ll chop off your head so you better relax”. This was demoed for the first album, I actually think the demo is better, which is usually not the case with the Ramones (except with “I wanna be your boyfriend” which the demo is so beyond the studio version, it’s scary).

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I’m also gonna write some about the two songs that were not on the album.

“Carbona not glue”: As I mentioned earlier this song was put off the album because Carbona is a trademark and didn’t allow them to use it on the album. I also think it was supposed to be a single and it was inspired by the Beatles and the Rolling stones. I think both “Sheena is a punk rocker” and “Babysitter” are better song, but the way “Carbona not glue” is pretty nice.

“Babysitter”: This song sounds more like the Beatles than “Carbona not glue” and is one of their most melodic songs and probably has their best bridge, I definitely think the album would be even better if this song was on it. The song is about a girl who is babysitting and invites a boy over to make out with her, but they can’t because one of them might tell the parents. This is kind of similar to the even creepier song “Little children” by Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas!

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I have a home exam this semester where I’m supposed to write a text and analyze it afterwards and they said I could do a music review, so I decided to use one of the articles in this column and I’m thinking of going with this one. I’ll have to translate it into Norwegian and change the format and the context so that it fits in a newspaper! It could be interesting and I feel like this album really deserves to be in the newspaper! I really wouldn’t be writing this column if it wasn’t for this album. The next album will be Zatopeks’ “Ain’t nobody left but us.

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