I’m gonna start this by stating right here right now that the Ramones released seventeen official albums they had three drummers, two bass players just the one guitarist and one frontman. Of the seventeen they had three live albums, a few compilations with the best being ‘Ramones Mania’ vol One and two. The classic ‘It’s Alive’ absolutely peerless as a double album never bettered by anyone anywhere in any genre. The other two were alright, ‘Loco Live’ which was alright and the last hurrah! of ‘We’re Outta Here!’ for the purposes of this article I’m excluding these three because it would seem unfair somewhat as ‘Its Alive’ might well finish top of the pops on the sheer quality of the tracklist and the quality of the performances. Sure I love ‘Get Your Ya Ya’s Out’ and I love ‘All Those Wasted Years’ and to be fair ‘No Sleep Til Hammersmith’ is a bit of a banger and whilst I’m here ‘Live Bootleg’ is pretty good as well and maybe ‘Iggy Live At The channel’ is also faultless but to be fair we’re here to chew the fat over a Ramones top ten maybe live albums, in general, is for another day so… without further ado here’s my Top Ten Ramones Studio Albums…1-2-3-4 Hey Ho Lets Go!
Number Ten – ‘Acid Eaters’ The last spot goes to the band’s covers album. I don’t remember many or any other bands making a record of covers they loved and making them their own. I’m amazed how they even reached a consensus as to what went on the record never mind Brexit Imagine the debate in camp Ramones as to what went on this album. I guess there might be question marks about who plays what on it and even if they had the appetite to compile the record but as a finished body of work I remember being quite excited at hearing The Ramones and how they’d tackle some of these great tunes would they pull it off? Would they have people laughing openly at their attempts at real grown-up cover songs? Well, all that went out the window when the band rattled through the intro of ‘Journey To The Centre Of The Mind’.
Some of the covers were predictable to be fair but the delivery was pretty decent as well. ‘Substitute’ is stright forward and ‘Out Of Time’ is hammed up whilst The CJ sung take of Slades ‘The Shape Of Things To Come’ is a real curveball. No surprise to see the band playing a Jefferson Airplane and Animals songs respectively again fairly standard takes to be fair.
Now ‘7 And 7 Is’ was far livelier and a great version. Joey gives it some in his performance and a really good cover. the Ramones doing Bob Dylan wasn’t something anyone ever envisaged I’d wager but CJ does a good job on bashing this one out. The version of the Seeds ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ was one I always liked but to compare it to Johnny Thunders is like night and day. Thunders wins by a TKO. Is there an American band who hasn’t covered a song by John Fogerty? A fact for you pop pickers this track has been covered or recorded by 401 bands/artists. A good song done fairly well but lacks imagination. The Troggs ‘Can’t Control Myself’ is one of the best songs on the album and there had to be a surf song on the album they’d already owned the best surf song recorded but this sappy take is a bit of a wheeze. But all in all the potential car crash album didn’t materialize and The Ramones came out on top. It just squeaks into the top ten because of its kitsch appeal and they certainly recorded worse records than this no question about it. Favourite track – ‘Out Of Time’.
Number Nine – ‘Mondo Bizarro‘ There are a few reasons ‘Mondo’ gets in so I’ll outline my case in the defense of this fine record. Point one, Its still the Ramones, point two CJ makes his debut, It had several of the bands best post Dee Dee songs on it. The Ramones were still fun live and they were still better than a lot of bands in the early ’90s. ‘Censorshit’ was one in the eye for the PMRC and whilst a bit behind the curve of tipper bashing and a song that no doubt got under Johnny’s skin but it was a blast across the bow that the Ramones weren’t dead yet.
Dee Dee was still writing songs for the band even though he was long gone and there is no denying that ‘Poison Heart’ is right up there with the best the band has ever had their name credited on and not far behind it is CJ’s ‘Strength To Endure’. Whilst it might get a little stretched in the middle it does come back around and ending with ‘Touring’ is a right toe-tapper and if you’re any sort of fan you’ve sung your socks off to this one. I remember reading a review at the time before I’d heard the record and it claimed the Ramones were finished and it was a lazy record that had no merit but I don’t find it lazy or lacking merit having three excellent songs is enough for that not to be the case and I like ‘I Won’t Let It Happen’. ‘Cabbies On Crack’ is a nice riff and Joeys voice is at its elastic best as he manages to get the lyrics out without taking a breath. I will concede I can do without ‘Heidi Is A Headcase’ to be fair. Favourite track – ‘Poison Heart’
Number Eight- ‘Brain Drain’ I always loved the cover art and I even went to the cinema to see the movie pet cemetery to hear the Ramones play out at the end. I first had this on CD and even now I’m bugged how quiet the mastering is. Way quieter than any other CD in my collection bar none. As for the music the it was the first album recorded with Marky back on the drum stool after six years away. It was also the last album the band did on Sire Records and was maybe the last consistent record they did before the inevitable slide to the end. the constant friction was taking its toll but when ‘I Believe In Miracles’ chimes in it’s like they’ve wound the clock back more than a few years as its a return to the policy of front-loading their record with the best tune.
‘Don’t Bust My Chops’ and the Dee Dee sang ‘Punishment Fit The Crime’ is a great tune and this being three of the opening four songs why wouldn’t you think the boys were back in the saddle? and ‘Palisades Park’ is a banger and could have sat nicely on almost every Ramones album ever. ‘Pet Cemetery’ is a great song and ‘Learn To Listen’ is New York hardcore and Joey growls like a bear and the riff on ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ is quality. I’ll always defend ‘Brain Drain’ there are more than a couple of decent songs on it and Joey was right on form. To close the album that came out in the May of ’89 the Ramones sling ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)’ inspired move and a song that should be on every Now That’s What I Call Christmas’ album but strangely it’s never included, oh well, their loss. Favourite Track – ‘I Beleive In Miracles’
Number Seven- ‘Pleasant Dreams’ The band seemed obsessed about their pursuit to be loved and to have big hit singles and to be part of the mainstream. Forget songs like ‘Outsider’ they always craved to be insiders and part of the establishment and get the kudos other bands were having but always seemed to allude the Ramones. Album number six was time for another stab at the mainstream success they went for 10CC’s Graham Gouldman to bring that pop sheen they felt might propel them up the charts and into peoples hearts.
It’s evident from the opening track ‘We Want The Airwaves’ that the sound was less in your face and with the addition of keyboards it was certainly more polished. Regardless of that the opener is a good tune even if I’m not sure how much of a part Johnny plays on this one. Even the songs that were “Ramones Like” they were certainly toned down and softer like ‘Alls Quiet On The Eastern Front’. It does, however, house the classic ‘KKK Took My Baby Away’. I always loved the Ramones power-pop leanings and even with the outsider’s influence on the sound and (possibly) the songwriting songs like ‘Don’t Go’ might not have been up there as memorable Ramones classics but they were trying to evolve and the harmonies were different yet still it was The Ramones.
Songs like ‘You Sound Like Your Sick’ are just the powers that be letting the kids run feral out the back to keep them on track but alas the straying from what the band did best ultimately flopped and they didn’t have hit after hit after hit but ‘Pleasant Dreams’ did signal a shift in the band as they were trying different things how could you not like ‘Its Not My Place’ and ‘7-11’ they were no brainers for Joey who was always susceptible to leaning towards the 50s style on the melodies. ‘Come On Now’ could easily have been a Blondie song from the keyboard sound to the melody. ‘This Business Is Killing Me’ must have been more closer to home than any of us cared for but the band had a real beef as to why they didn’t have mass acceptance. To end with a slice of great power pop ‘Sitting In My Room’ this experiment ultimately failed and the world didn’t catch up. Favourite Track – ‘KKK Took My Baby Away’.
Number Six- ‘Animal Boy’. Kicking off album number nine with a song written by the drummer might seem brave but on listening to ‘Somebody Put Something In My Drink’ it’s a no brainer as Ritchie showed he could pen a decent tune no doubt about that. It common knowledge that around this time Joey and Johnny weren’t getting on and Dee Dee sided with Joey and Johnny went on record to suggest Joey should go do his solo album and he wouldn’t tour the UK and maybe that tension was reflected in the album but to be fair to Dee Dee he pulled a cat out of the bag on ‘Animal Boy’ as it contained some really strong songs and also featured the six-string work of Walter Lure of the Heartbreakers. The title track is a heads-down Ramones banger. You also have the Dee Dee vocals on the great ‘Love Kills’ his song about Sid & Nancy. I always thought it was one of the bands toughest sounding records with uncompromising tunes like ‘Apeman Hop’ but they did then show their softer side and a cheesy stab at chart success with ‘She Belongs To Me’. There are a few cringy moments that hold the record back like ‘Crummy Stuff’ which might be my least favourite Ramones song ever but let’s not detract from what else is on ‘Animal Boy’.
‘Bonzo goes To Bitburg’ was a minor hit and a real highlight but it was the fact joey only wrote three songs the same as producer Jean Beauvoir. The album was dominated by Dee Dee who closed the record off with the chiming ‘Something To Believe In’. Favourite track – ‘Bonzo Goes To Bitburg’ closely followed by ‘Love Kills’.
Number five- ‘Too Tough to Die’ Marky was gone and Ritchie was now on the drum stool for the first time and what an album to make your debut. Back to writing songs that were harder and dare I say it tougher, certainly less pop smart with the band admitting as much with Joey quoted as saying “We were focused in the same direction, and it made a difference. We knew we needed to get back to the kind of harder material we’d become known for. The pop stuff hadn’t really worked, and we knew we were much better off doing what we did best”. It was now the mid-eighties and the band had almost been at it fo ra decade they were already on the third drummer they failed to make too big a dent in the pop charts so now it was time to knuckle down and write an album for themselves and for the people who just got it and loved them unequivocally.
The title track was the template along with the opener ‘Mama’s Boy’ the band were making an ugly record of tough songs and by the time the wonderful ‘Durango 95’ had finished (I always loved the intro but always wondered why it was in the middle of a record and not at the start) it did however preface the wonderful ‘Wart Hog’ an utter Dee Dee classic the sound of a rabid dog straining at the leash I always loved ‘Wart Hog’ still do. ‘Howling At The Moon’ being the stick out like a sore thumb track in the middle of the record with the keyboards and synth pumping out the rhythm. ‘Human Kind’ and ‘No Go’ were always the dark horses on this record and song I always loved ‘No Go’. It was the Ramones not compromising and doing what they wanted and the big question did Johnny play that solo? Maybe Maybe not its a great record regardless of the constant squabbling within the camp, at last, they seemed to have all been on the same page even if it’s hard to believe that Joey never wanted to include ‘Wart Hog’. Also, anyone who’s ever been to New York and gone to central park must have had a photo taken in the tunnel haven’t they? Or is it just me? Favourite Track – ‘Wart Hog’.
Number Four– The Sophmore album ‘Leave Home‘. More than the debut even now ‘Leve Home’ sounds like a band who found their feet and weren’t mucking about its a bit more business-like and not the sound of four guys chancing it and not sure if they have a bunch of songs that might be decent on ‘Leave Home’ they are a step up in professionalism (cough cough) and whilst they might have felt hell were still getting away with this but we might actually be good at it.
Again the opening salvo of the first four songs on side one are incredible and to us brits it was exotic. what the fuck was burger King? Carbona, not Glue? From ‘Glad To See You Go’ to ‘Oh Oh I Love Her So’ it’s faultless and they’ve even expanded the sound with ‘I Remember You’ and throwing it in so early is brave. Also worth mentioning the band never wrote a song over three minutes until their fourth album -no prog on the Ramones, no sir. Its also the first album that had a song I wasn’t sold on and to be honest playing it back now I’m still not fussed on ‘Suzy Is A Headbanger’. Maybe its the fact its sandwiched between two outstanding songs in ‘Carbona Not Glue’ and the unbelievable ‘Pinhead’.
the thing with @Leave Home’ is that a lot of the songs always sounded so much better live when the tempo was faster. ‘Swallow My Pride’, ‘California Sun’ and ‘Commando’. My favourite songs on the album are ‘Pinhead’ and ‘You’re Gonna Kill That Girl’ and one of their best ever ‘Glad To See You Go’.
Number Three – ‘Rocket To Russia‘. three albums in under eighteen months is an incredible feat and same old same old with the power of hindsight an incredible album with some of the bands most iconic tunes. Its no secret that there are plenty of bands who frontload an album with the strongest songs and this isn’t by chance its something bands (sometimes) take forever and a day deciding on the track running order and quite often it’s important but The Ramones man I’d like to think spent about two minutes deciding or someone did it for them because quite frankly it doesn;t matter because who can possibly decide if an album like ‘Rocket’ should open with the unbelievable ‘Rockaway Beach’ or ‘Sheena Is a Punk Rocker’ or what they settled on the full force wall of sound ‘Cretin Hop’. Again no song over three minutes and before you could even get comfortable ‘Rockaway Beach’ has already been and gone. How the fuck did these kids from Queens write and play a song as good as that? forget the tempo, forget the chorus, forget the drum beat forget those time changes just home in on the melody and the deliveryon the harmonies its one of the best songs ever no doubt about it. Then to come down theres the morning-after hangover of ‘Here Today, Gone tomorrow’. the Stooges could have written ‘I Don’t Care’ (probably did but Dee Dee nicked it) the audacity of a bunch of scruffy herberts just out of high school writing a song of the caliber of ‘Sheena’ should be upsetting but its upsetting that this wasn’t number one for months across the globe. Its a near-perfect slab of rock and Roll with the melody of The Beach Boys mixed with the musicianship of some delinquents is something that needs to be explained. Maybe people have always had cloth ears when it came to what sold and what didn’t.
The lyrics of ‘We’re A Happy Family’ always intrigued me where did the inspiration come from? the album flip-flopped from the melodic bubblegum power pop the band did so well like ‘Ramona’ to the straight-ahead bish bash bosh of the opener. On another day this might be my favourite Ramones record it potentially is the most consistent but it wasn’t the first but on the other hand maybe because it wasn’t the first (or second) it’s remarkable but it has to sit somewhere and that somewhere is number three. Oh, and Tommy said goodbye after this album and took a backseat. Favourite track – ‘Rockaway Beach’
Number Two – Self Titled Debut. ‘The Ramones’ One another day this would be number one and I guess as far as debut albums go there have been plenty that was regarded as a bands best partly down to the fact they had years to write the songs then to follow it up a band generally has less time and so on. But listening back this is pretty faultless for any album the songs are just glorious. Take the handclaps on the Mono Version (audio nerd alert) it sounds like Tommy is there next to you it’s that good. What a powerful thing. The funny thing is listening back to give it a critical ear I find myself just smiling at the sheer quality of the songs and not just the big hitters like the opening three tracks which would go down as one of the strongest opening trio anywhere ever. ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, ‘Beat On The Brat’ and ‘Judy’ are amazing. Being of a certain age maybe I can’t appreciate what an impact this record would have had on a young man when hearing it first but I got into the Ramones on my number one and maybe thats been a big reason as to why thats the case and why I can’t separate that from being objective all these years later and the many thousands of plays these records have had over the years.
I can feel the danger of ’53rd & 3rd’ and what it must have felt like hearing ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’ sure there are no weak tracks on this record and maybe its the little things that stand out for me now like the gang vocals on ‘Chainsaw’ and hearing Johnny trying to be louder than Joey I’m sure he is, listen to it. Favourite track is probably ‘Judy Is A Punk’ Why? those handclaps and tambourine whilst the Bass and Guitars are raging like fuck it’s such a beautiful thing and probably could never ever be written today by anyone. Favourite Track – ‘Judy Is A Punk’
Number One – ‘End Of The Century’ Might not be everyone’s choice )I’m Aware of that) and one that has made people laugh but it was the album I came in on and therefore my exposure was the four geeks on the cover and I can still remember dropping the needle on dads Marantz turntable and playing it for what seemed like days on end preferring it to food and football and as soon as it finished I’d play it again until I’d fall asleep. No I didn’t really have a clue who Phil Spector was and it wasn’t until years later reading about the wall of sound and the firearms used to get the band to record parts of this amazing album.
‘Do You Remember Rock and Roll’ is my ringtone has been since I had a smartphone and even now I might not pick up because I have to hear a bit more of the song (sorry bout that if I haven’t picked up) then into the Bass drilling down before the acoustic guitar! WTF The Ramones and acoustic guitars? It might have been akin to Dylan ditching the acoustic and horrified fans ditching him when fans heard this but remember I hadn’t been there from the start. ‘Danny Says’ is soppy Joey at his best. They really pulled the band out of their comfort zone and I’ve got this far and not mentioned Johnny’s hair on the cover and their four for three on t-shirts in Walmart to bring then band into the 20th Century with such a bright bold cover. Again featuring the four musicians something I’m sure they insisted on. Its a maligned album with some claims its disjointed -piffle! ‘Chinese Rocks’ is a classic full stop, Don’t care that it’s about copping dope and I don’t care they borrowed Steve Jones tone for ‘The Return Of Jackie And Judy’ the roll on the floor tom is enough for me. Spector might well have been a few sandwiches short of a picnic and his experiment did yield the magnificent opening track and they’d not sounded so brutal as they did on ‘Lets Go’ so much for getting softer and they borrowed the Dead Boys drum roll on this one as well and the Dead Boys were/are awesome so that’s a tick in my book.
Christ, you could play ‘Baby I Love You’ to your girlfriend or your mother and still have street cred with your mates. Joey pulls a blinder on this one by singing from his cotton socks to the tip of his plentiful barnet one of his best vocal performances bar none. It might not have the best Ramones songs on it but as a complete piece of work, I fuckin’ love it! From the fuzzy radio tuning to the fade-out of ‘High-Risk Insurance’ it’s brilliant. It’s full of Ramones hallmarks and noticeable markers but they took a chance with Spector and in my eyes, it paid off. they could have rested on their considerable laurels by now and churned out another Ramones record but they didn’t they expanded the envelope and took a chance All hail my favourite Ramones record. ‘End Of The Fucking Century’ Ave it! Favourite song- ‘Do You Remember Rock And Roll’
So there you have it might not be a perfect summary and I doubt it’ll be your favourite Ten Ramones albums. Maybe if you ask me in a weeks time it might be different. Of the albums that didn’t make it into this particular list I can’t really think of one album that I don’t like. There are songs I’m not too fussed on but overall for a band who spanned many decades and changes in consumer buying habits as well as internal band changes and losing their main song writer survived and every time I had the pleasure of seeing them play they were on form. They looked like the coolest gang and championed being outsiders I loved The Ramones the first time I heard them and love them now. So go play your favourite Ramones song and spread the word – We accept you one of us!
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