|Studio album by Ramones|
|Released||April 23, 1976|
|Recorded||February, 1976 at Plaza Sound, Radio City Music Hall in New York City|
|Label||Sire (US & UK), Philips (Europe)|
|Singles from Ramones|
Ramones is the eponymously titled debut studio album by the American punk rock band the Ramones. It was released on April 23, 1976 through Sire Records. Prior to the band signing to Sire, they were seen by Lisa Robinson, an editor of Hit Parader, during an early 1975 performance. Robinson began popularizing the band by writing about them in the magazines she edited. Robinson contacted Danny Fields and asked him to manage the band, which he agreed to in November 1975. A Marty Thau-produced demo album was recorded at 914 Sound Studios and included "Judy Is a Punk" and "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend". Soon after the demos were presented to Sire A&R co-ordinator Craig Leon the band was signed to Sire Records.
The band started recording the album in February 1976 and spent an estimated US $6,400. Many recording techniques used for the album were similar to techniques used by The Beatles and orchestral recordings. The album was produced by Craig Leon. The front cover depicts the band members standing in a line leaning against a brick wall. The photograph was taken by Roberta Bayley. The cover art was ranked number 58 on Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Album Covers.
The album features a number of themes including Nazism, violence, male prostitution and drug use, as well as lighter fare such as horror movies and teenage romance. There is a version of the Chris Montez song "Let's Dance". A number of the tracks have backing vocals which were sung by Mickey Leigh (Joey Ramone's younger brother), Tommy Ramone, and engineer Rob Freeman. The album received high praise from critics. Writing at the time, Robert Christgau of The Village Voice gave the album an A grade, stating that "For me, it blows everything else off the radio." Several decades later AllMusic rewarded it with a maximum rating of five out of five stars.
Despite that the album reached number 111 in the United States on the Billboard 200 chart, in 2012 it was both ranked number 33 on Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. Ramones was said by Nicholas Rombes, author of the 33⅓ book Ramones, and the Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine to be the first album labeled as punk rock. When the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one of the website's writers wrote a summary of the band's biography, specifically paying attention to its influence on punk rock. The album started the Ramones' career and would eventually go on to influence artists in the hardcore punk, post-punk, heavy metal, thrash metal, alternative, and grunge genres.
In early 1975 Lisa Robinson, an editor of Hit Parader and Rock Scene, saw the Ramones performing at the New York-based club CBGB. Robinson wrote about the band in several issues of the magazines she edited. Joey Ramone related: "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." Robinson contacted Danny Fields, former manager of The Stooges, and convinced him to consider managing the Ramones as well. In November 1975 Fields decided to manage the band, remarking that the band "had everything [he] ever liked."
On September 19, 1975, the band recorded a demo album at 914 Sound Studios, produced by Marty Thau. It included "Judy Is a Punk" and "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and was used to promote the band to prospective labels. Producer Craig Leon, who had seen them perform in the summer of 1975, brought the demo album to the attention of Seymour Stein, president of Sire Records. Tommy Ramone recalled: "Craig Leon is the one who got us signed. Singlehanded. 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." Linda Stein, ex-wife of Seymour Stein, also brought attention to the group, particularly praising the song "53rd & 3rd". After much persuasion from Linda Stein and Craig Leon the Ramones auditioned for Stein, Craig Leon, and other employees at Sire Records in an attempt to get signed.
At the time Sire Records was a small record label based in New York City and led by Seymour Stein and Richard Gottehrer. The label was originally strictly for "progressive" force bands from Europe under contract. The band was offered a contract to publish a single with their piece "You're Gonna Kill That Girl". The group and Fields rejected the offer because they wanted to record an album, but Sire adapted to their request and said that they would produce an album instead. Unsatisfied with the small sized deal that Sire offered them the band auditioned for other record companies, like Blue Sky and Arista Records, in order to get a record deal. They would eventually sign to Sire Records after the other record companies denied them a recording deal. After signing they organized several local shows.
Recording and production
In January 1976 the band took a temporary break from their performances to prepare for recording at Plaza Sound studio. They began recording in early February 1976. The album took $6,400 and seven days to record, the instruments taking three days and vocals taking four days. Joey related: "Some albums were costing a half-million dollars to make and taking two or three years to record." The band recorded using the same microphone placement techniques as many orchestras used to record pieces. In 2004 Craig Leon admitted that they recorded the album quickly due to budget restrictions, but later said that it was all the time they needed.
The recording process was a deliberate exaggeration of the techniques used on the recording sessions of The Beatles from the early 1960s, with a four-track recording representation of the devices. The guitars can be heard separately on the stereo channels — electric bass on the left, rhythm guitar on the right channel — drums and vocals are mixed in the middle of the stereo mix. The mixing of the recordings also used more modern techniques: overdubbing, a technique used by recording studios to add a supplementary recorded sound to previously recorded material; and doubling, where the vocal line used is sung twice.
The album was produced by Craig Leon, drummer Tommy Ramone being credited as "Associate Producer". The studio recording for the album was expanded by Mickey Leigh and Craig Leon with percussion effects, which went unmentioned in the liner notes to the album's release. 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."
Photography and cover art
The Ramones originally wanted an album cover similar to the 1964 album by The Beatles, Meet The Beatles!. They subsequently took pictures for $2,000 but Sire was dissatisfied with the results. The art direction was by Toni Scott. According to John Holmstrom the original idea "came out horribly". The band later met up with Roberta Bayley, at the time a photographer for Punk magazine. Holmstrom noted that "getting the Ramones to pose was like pulling teeth", and also said it turned out to be "the classic Ramones album cover". The black and white photograph on the front of the album cover was originally featured in an issue of Punk. Sire offered to buy the rights to any of the pictures for the album cover.
The cover photo features (from left to right) Johnny, Tommy, Joey and Dee Dee Ramone, standing upright against the brick wall of a private community garden called Albert's Garden on the north side of Second Street between Bowery Street and Second Street in New York City staring at the camera with blank faces. The stance of the Ramones on the front cover would influence the design of several of their album covers, as well as many other photos of the band. 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 an American Eagle and the band's logo, was designed by artist Arturo Vega and both pictures were made in a passport photo machine. The Ramones cover was ranked number fifty-eight on Rolling Stone's 1991 list of 100 Greatest Album Covers.
There were two singles released from Ramones: "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend". "Blitzkrieg Bop" was released in July 1976, originally as a seven inch split single with "Havana Affair" as its B-side. On January 6, 2004, Rhino Entertainment released "Blitzkrieg Bop" with "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker". "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" was released in October 1976 as a seven inch single. The single included "California Sun" and "I Don't Wanna Walk Around with You" as b-sides.
In 1974 the band played thirty performances, nearly all at the New York-based club CBGB. All but one of the band's performances in 1975 were booked for New York City, with Waterbury, Connecticut being the only concert outside of New York. In 1976 over seventy concerts were performed, each to support the release of Ramones. There were over a hundred concerts performed in 1977 by the band.
Ramones features several themes including Nazism, violence, male prostitution and drug use. Johnny said that when writing the lyrics they weren't "trying to be offensive." "Blitzkrieg Bop", the album's opening track, was written by Tommy Ramone. Tommy originally named the track "Animal Hop" but, after Dee Dee reviewed the lyrics, they changed the lyrics as well as the name. As put by Tommy the song's original concept was "about kids going to a show and having a good time". The piece begins with an instrumental which lasts about twenty seconds. At the twentieth second the guitar and bass stop, marking Joey's first line: "Hey Ho, Let's Go!". The bass and guitar gradually rebuilds and according to Nicholas Rombes it is "in full–force again." The piece resolves by replaying what is played at seconds twenty-two to thirty–three. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic described it 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.
When I lived in Birchwood Towers in Forest Hills with my mom and brother. It was a middle-class neighborhood, with a lot of rich, snotty women who had horrible spoiled brat kids. There was a playground with women sitting around and a kid screaming, a spoiled, horrible kid just running around rampant with no discipline whatsoever. The kind of kid you just want to kill. You know, 'beat on the brat with a baseball bat' just came out. I just wanted to kill him.
Dee Dee, however, explained that the song was about how "Joey saw some mother going after a kid with a bat in his lobby and wrote a song about it."
"Judy Is a Punk" was written around the same time as "Beat on the Brat". Joey had explained that the first line came about after he walked by Thorny Croft, an apartment building that Joey said was "where all the kids in the neighborhood hung out on the rooftop and drank." The second line came about after walking down a different street. The lyrics refer to two juvenile offenders in Berlin and San Francisco and their possible deaths at the conclusion of the song. The song is fictional, as announced Nicholas Rombes who describes this meta-perspective in his analysis of the album as "both line in a song and song line across a line in a song." "Judy Is a Punk" is the original album's shortest song, being one minute and 32 seconds.
"Blitzkrieg Bop" was written by Tommy, and later reviewed by Dee Dee. The song's original concept was about people going to a concert, but after Dee Dee reviewed the lyrics, he added a Nazi-related theme. Joey said that the song "was sort of a call to arms... for everyone to start their own bands."
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"I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend", the slowest and the only romantically colored piece on the album, was solely written by Tommy. The piece pays homage to love songs in pop music acts of the 1960s. Guitarist Johnny Ramone used a Fender Stratocaster instead of his usual guitar, the electric Mosrite Ventures II. "Chain Saw" opens with the sound of a running circular saw and was influenced by the 1974 horror film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre directed by Tobe Hooper. At nearly 180 beats per minute "Chain Saw" has the fastest tempo among the album's songs and, according to Nicholas Rombes, is the most "home-made" sounding.
"Now I Want to Sniff Some Glue" consists of four lines of minimalist lyrics which are about youthful boredom and inhaling the solvent vapors contained 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 comes from adolescent trauma. After several pieces by the Ramones, whose song's titles begin with "I Don't Want to ...", Tommy said that "Now I Want to Sniff Some Glue" is known as the first positive song from the album. The song was the inspiration for the name of one of the first, and most famous, punk fanzines Mark Perry's Sniffin' Glue first published in 1976.
"I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" was inspired by horror movies. It is a minimalist piece, the entire text containing only three lines, and is based on only three major chords. With a playing time of two minutes and 35 seconds it is the longest piece on the album. "Loudmouth" has six major chords and is a harmonically complex piece. The song's text is — depending on the reading and punctuation — just a single row or four very brief lines. "Havana Affair"'s concept deals with the comic strip Spy vs. Spy of the Cuban-born illustrator Antonio Prohias. At about 170 beats per minute "Loudmouth" and "Havana Affair" proceed at nearly the same tempo.
"Listen to My Heart" is the first of many songs in the repertoire of the Ramones voicing an ironic and pessimistic perspective with a failing or already failed relationship. The song "53rd and 3rd" is about "Dee Dee turning tricks" said Johnny. The song's text was written solely by Dee Dee and is about a male prostitute ("rent boy") who is vainly waiting on the street in Midtown Manhattan, at the corner of Fifty-third Street (53rd Street) and Third Avenue. When the prostitute gets a customer he kills him with a razor to prove he is not a homosexual. The authenticity and autobiographical coloring of lyrics exist contradictory statements by both the author and by his contemporaries. In some interviews with Dee Dee the piece is described 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."
"Let's Dance" is a cover version of the Chris Montez composition. "I Don't Want to Walk Around With You" consists of only two lines of text and three major chords. It is one of the earliest common compositions of the Ramones, and, according to Johnny Ramone, the song was originally entitled "I Do not Want to Get Involved With You", and is the very first sample of their first tape written at the beginning of 1974.
The album's final track, "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World", refers to a Hitler Youth member. Seymour Stein complained about the song and insisted that the track was offensive, contending that the lyrics "I'm a Nazi baby, I'm a Nazi yes I am," could not be published on a record. Before they released the album they came up with alternate lyrics for the line that read "I'm a shock trooper in a stupor, yes I am." They went with the alternate lyrics and released the album, and the song was often the group's closer at live shows.
Several songs from the album feature backing vocals from several different guests. Mickey Leigh, Joey Ramone's brother, sang backing vocals on "Judy Is a Punk", "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend", and in the bridge of "Blitzkrieg Bop". Drummer Tommy Ramone 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 lead vocals for the final refrain of "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend". The album's length is twenty-nine minutes and four seconds and features fourteen tracks.
|AllMusic (on 2001 Expanded Edition CD)|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Ramones was released on April 23, 1976 through Sire Records. The album was well received by critics. Reviewing for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine awarded the album five out of five stars saying the album "begins at a blinding speed and never once over the course of its 14 songs does it let up." Erlewine also noted that the album "is all about speed, hooks, stupidity, and simplicity." Paul Nelson of Rolling Stone noted that the album "is constructed almost entirely of rhythm tracks of an exhilarating intensity rock & roll has not experienced since its earliest days." Robert Christgau rated the album an A and continued with a positive review, specifically writing about the album's themes and quality.
Charles M. Young, an employee for the Rolling Stone, praised the album saying that the album is "one of the funniest rock records ever made and, if punk continues to gain momentum, a historic turning point." Jeff Tamarkin of Allmusic said that the album began the punk rock era and also proclaimed "rock's mainstream didn't know what hit it." In 1999, Collins Gem Classic Albums wrote that "They stared from the cover of this magnificent debut album with dumb defiance written all over them. 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. There just couldn't be anything faster or harder than this. The Ramones was the starting gun for English punk." Joe S. Harrington declared that the album "split the history of rock 'n' roll in half". Theunis Bates, a music writer for Time magazine and an editor at worldpop.com, composed that "Ramones stripped rock back to its basic elements," and noted that its "lyrics are very simple, boiled-down declarations of teen lust and need." Bates later went on to say that it "is the ultimate punk statement".
Ramones reached number 111 on the Billboard 200. The album was included in Spin's List of Top Ten College Cult Classics, noting that "everything good that's happened to music in the last fourteen years can be directly traced to the Ramones." The band's debut album was ranked 33 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2003 Ramones was considered by Spin magazine'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, bless their pointy little heads," and also said that their songs had "one lightning-bolt riff." In Spin's 1995 Alternative Record Guide the album is listed in the top spot of their Top 100 Alternative Albums.
Ramones is considered to have established the musical genre punk rock, as well as popularizing it years afterward. Nicholas Rombes, author of the 33⅓ book Ramones wrote that it offered "alienated future rock," and that it "disconnected from tradition." Since it is their debut album it began the Ramones' influence on popular music, with examples being genres such as heavy metal, thrash metal, indie pop, grunge, and post-punk.
The album received little commercial success, only peaking at number 111 on the Billboard album chart. Neither of the album's singles, "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend", charted. Despite the lack of popularity in its era, some 25 years after its release the importance of the album for the development of punk rock music was recognized by the music press and music industry. Since then Ramones has won several awards. In 2001 Spin included it in its special issue 25 Years of Punk with a list of The 50 Most Essential Punk Records, where it was number 1 in the list. Tony James said 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." The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the 2002 Induction Ceremony. The web-site said that "When the [Ramones] hit the street in 1976 with their self-titled first album, the rock scene in general had become somewhat bloated and narcissistic. The Ramones got back to basics: simple, speedy, stripped-down rock and roll songs. Voice, guitar, bass, drums. No makeup, no egos, no light shows, no nonsense. And though the subject matter was sometimes dark, emanating from a sullen adolescent basement of the mind, the group also brought cartoonish fun and high-energy excitement back to rock and roll."
|2001 Expanded Edition CD|
|Joey Ramone – lead vocals||Craig Leon – producer||Greg Calbi – mastering|||
|Johnny Ramone – lead guitar||Roberta Bayley – photography, cover photo||Don Hunerberg – assistant engineer|
|Dee Dee Ramone – bass guitar, backing vocals||Rob Freeman – engineer||Arturo Vega – photography, back cover|
|Tommy Ramone – drums, associate producer|
|Worldwide release||1976||Sire Records||Vinyl||SR-6020|||
|1999||WEA||Compact Disc||RR 1805|
|US release||2008||Wrong Records||RR-9274-21|
|Swedish Music Charts||48|
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