Friday, June 30, 2023

CHEWIN' OUT A RHYTHM ON MY BUBBLEGUM: My 25 Favorite Ramones Tracks


Years ago, my daughter was surprised to learn that I consider the Beatles to be my all-time favorite group. She knew I liked the Beatles, of course, but she mostly heard me talking about the Ramones, and therefore came to the logical conclusion that our glue-sniffin' Brudders in Arms had to be my # 1 rockin' pop combo.

And, in a way, they are. While nothing can quite challenge the sheer impact of Liverpool's Fab Four, I always say I have three  favorite bands: the Beatles, the Ramones, and the Flashcubes. Hell, throw in the Monkees as razor-close runners-up, and round out my Top 5 with the Kinks, because they're the Kinks. 

But the Beatles certainly never needed me to proselytize on their behalf; the Flashcubes did, and I felt that the Ramones did, too. I took up those causes. I've never stopped.

That led to the recent publication of my book Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones. The book collects my 1994 interviews with Joey, Johnny, Marky, and C.J., and it's a culmination of my decades as a Ramones fan and cheerleader.

I'm a Ramones fan. I've already posted articles about my top 25 favorite Beatles tracks and my top 25 Monkees tracks, and even one for my top 25 non-Beatles Paul McCartney numbers. It's time to give the Ramones their due in this forum.

The tracks are listed alphabetically by title, with no individual ranking intended or implied. I will admit that my top four, in order, are "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," "I Don't Want To Grow Up," and "Carbona Not Glue." 

Now. Let's see all 25. Take it, Dee Dee!


The 1-2-3-4! rules of our ABC format dictate that a list of my favorite Ramones tracks starts with its quirkiest selection. "All's Quiet On The Eastern Front" appeared on the Ramones' 1981 LP Pleasant Dreams, an album that doesn't sound like any other Ramones album. Pleasant Dreams was produced by Graham Gouldman, who achieved great success in the '60s as a songwriter for the Yardbirds, the Hollies, and Herman's Hermits, and subsequently as a performer with 10cc. And, as Johnny Ramone said in our interview, "The guy from 10cc producing the Ramones? 10cc sucks, and it's not right for the Ramones."

On Pleasant Dreams, Gouldman's production made the Ramones sound...I dunno, smoother than expected? Phil Spector had done something similar with 1980's End Of The Century, another album that doesn't sound like any other Ramones album. In Spector's hands, the bubblepunk purity of the Ramones got lost in his Wall of Sound; Gouldman turned the Ramones into a new wave pop band. Neither End Of The Century nor Pleasant Dreams is at the same transcendent level as the classic fist four Ramones albums that preceded them.

Ignoring the anomaly of this album's place in the larger Carbona-huffin' picture, though, I need to risk contradicting myself: Pleasant Dreams is a fantastic record. Fantastic. I know Marky liked it, and we've established that Johnny hated it, but the fact that it was't Rocket To Russia doesn't prevent it from being compelling in its own right.

Pleasant Dreams is loaded with great Ramones songs, from "We Want The Airwaves" to "It's Not My Place (In The 9 To 5 World)" to "She's A Sensation" to the superb album closer "Sitting In My Room." "The KKK Took My Baby Away" is the best-known of the bunch. Would the tracks sound better if Ed Stasium or Tommy Ramone had produced them? Possibly. They sound pretty good as-is.

"All's Quiet On The Eastern Front" was my immediate pick when I bought the album in '81, and it has remained so. It's the sprightliest song ever done about a serial killer, stalking the street 'til the break of day, a track delivered with decidedly un-Ramoneslike percussion, and with backing vocals from Dee Dee Ramone asking that musical question, Can't you think my movements talk? Hey, you unsuspecting soon-to-be victims: Pleasant dreams!


"Babysitter" was the B-side of the Ramones' 1978 single "Do You Wanna Dance?" Previously, it had been included on later UK pressings of the 1977 Leave Home album (replacing "Carbona Not Glue"), but the song was non-LP in America. When I bought the 45 in the spring of '78, hearing "Babysitter" for the first time prompted me to say, "My GAWD, the Searchers live on!" I for damned sure meant that as a compliment.

I wrote about "Babysitter" in my B-side appreciation blog series The Other Side Of The Hit! Some parts of that post bear repeat play here:

"It may be a tiny bit disingenuous to refer to a B-side by the Ramones as being 'the other side of the hit.' The Ramones were a pop band, but they were a pop band without any hit records. They never broke into the Top 40, nor did they receive much airplay to speak of. The Ramones somehow pummeled their way into the lower half of Billboard's Hot 100 chart with three consecutive singles in 1977 and '78. 'Sheena Is A Punk Rocker' made it to # 81. 'Rockaway Beach' was the relative breakout, peaking at # 66. 'Do You Wanna Dance?' was the Ramones' third and final shot at the top of the pops, and its shot stalled at # 86. The Ramones would never again darken the singles chart with their uncouth presence. Somewhere, Casey Kasem breathed a sigh of relief. And up one from last week, swapping spots with Swedish supergroup ABBA, we have those Forest Hills punk rockers The Ramones with 'Teenage Lobotomy.'

"Nonetheless: They were all hits to me....

"...'Babysitter' certainly shares beaucoup DNA with [the Searchers'] 'Needles And Pins,' its folk-rock riff drawn from the same gene pool that gave us the Byrds and the Beau Brummels, albeit messier, grungier, more exuberant. The scowling countenances of Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy notwithstanding, 'Babysitter''s tale of late-night kissin' and canoodlin' with a babysittin' chickfriend is inherently more upbeat than the Searchers' lover's lament. It's a more leisurely-paced companion to the Ramones' earlier 'Oh Oh I Love Her So,' a joyous and straight-faced celebration of over-the-top, hormonal teen romance. It signifies the Ramones fully embracing a presumed identity as an unabashed, unashamed pop act, America's rockin' response to the Bay City Rollers.

"If ever a post-1960s record deserved to be a double A-side chart and radio smash, 'Do You Wanna Dance?'/'Babysitter' would qualify to join the hallowed ranks of 'I Get Around'/'Don't Worry Baby,' 'I'm A Believer'/'(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone,' and a short stack o' Beatles 45s. I could not believe it when that pop dream failed to materialize. Stupid real world.  

"Throughout the rest of the '70s and all through the '80s, I never gave up hope that the Ramones would break big, that they'd start selling records in the gaudily massive quantity I felt was their just due. It was important to me. I wanted the world at large to appreciate the Ramones like I appreciated the Ramones; I wanted them to appear on Solid Gold and Entertainment Tonight, to make a delightful blockbuster sequel to their sole film Rock 'n' Roll High School, to be household names, to be respected and idolized. I wanted to hear the Ramones on the goddamned radio. They had to die before that would happen. Stupid, stupid real world...."

"Babysitter" is absolutely one of my favorite Ramones tracks. Hell, it's easily one of my Top 10 Ramones tracks, maybe even Top 5. Shoulda been a hit.


"Beat On The Brat" holds a unique spot in the genesis of the fabulous coffeehouse pop group the Kennedys. In the late '70s, long, looooong before she met her future husband and partner Pete Kennedy, Maura Kennedy was still Maura Boudreau, a teenager living in Syracuse's northern suburbs. One day circa '78 or so, her older brother Joe was horseplaying with their younger siblings, chasing them around with a plastic replica of a Louisville Slugger while singing, Beat on the brat, beat on the brat, beat on the brat with a baseball bat, oh yeah!

I don't believe Maura had heard (nor heard of) the Ramones before this. Something about that moment connected with her, and she became a Ramones fan. Maura credits these events as specific inspiration for her becoming a pop music performer herself. In July of 1979, Maura didn't let her lack of legal age prevent her from sneaking in to see the Ramones play a unique club gig with the Flashcubes and the Central New York premiere of the Ramones' then-new movie Rock 'n' Roll High School. Within a year or two, Maura was playing bass with local punk group the Antics. If it seems incongruous to draw a line from hearing the Ramones second-hand to playing with Nanci Griffith, lemme remind you once again that it's ALL pop music. Maura Kennedy's path into pop music began with "Beat On The Brat.":

(And yes, of course I was the one who hooked my pal Joe Boudreau on the Ramones in '78. You're welcome, coffeehouse pop fans. All in a day's work. Can't beat that.)


If we had to pick just one track to represent the legacy of the Ramones, it would have to be "Blitzkrieg Bop." You can argue on behalf of "I Wanna Be Sedated," and "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" was the most important one for me, but really: "Blitzkrieg Bop." The song is ubiquitous, deservedly so, and hearing it always gives me a sense of fist-pumpin' euphoria. Always. Hey-ho, ya know? Here's what I wrote about the song elsewhere:


"The Ramones set out to be the American Beatles. They succeeded, as long as we don't factor in extraneous things like fame, popularity, record sales, and money. But impact? Immortality? The buzz of irresistible pop perfection? Yeah, yeah, yeah. They're forming in a straight line. 

"It started here, with a fab four of misfits from Queens aimin' for the toppermost of the poppermost, plausibility be damned. What, the Bay City Rollers were already trying to be the next Beatles? Fine. The Ramones would be a faster and louder version, innately more fascinating, emphatically more American. Imagining a chant like S! A! T-U-R! D-A-Y! NIGHT!! to be a prerequisite for radio success, the Ramones revamped the Rollers' approach into their own HEY-HO, LET'S GO!  Number one with a bullet? Not even close. Shoot 'em in the back now.


"Failing to ship and sell the massive volume of hit platters they envisioned, the Ramones kept going anyway. The kids are losing their minds. All revved up and ready to go. 

"The Ramones. The American Beatles. Yeah, that sounds about right to me.

"Let's GO!"


Originally a track on the Ramones' second album Leave Home in 1977, "Carbona Not Glue" was for a very long time the great lost Ramones track. It was expunged from the record (and the records) after a threat of legal action from the weasel manufacturers of Carbona Spot Remover. Razzafrazzin' weasels.

As mentioned several paragraphs north of here, "Carbona Not Glue" was replaced on UK copies of Leave Home by "Babysitter;" in the US, it was replaced by an AM radio mix of the recent chart-climbing (and then non-LP) single "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker." "Carbona Not Glue" remained banished from retail until Rhino Records brushed all of that nonsense aside with an expanded CD reissue of Leave Home around 2002.

It's a damned shame the track was unavailable for so long. My first copy of Leave Home was one with "Sheena" on it, purchased in I think '78. Although I had never heard "Carbona," I very quickly pieced together that something was missing here and tracked down an earlier pressing of Leave Home ASAFP. "Carbona Not Glue" became a Fave Rave instantly.

Was the track's status as Officially Unavailable--the punk rock equivalent of a Soviet being declared a non-person--part of its appeal to me? I concede the possibility, but I really don't think that was it. The track's shotgun marriage of substance-abuse lyrics and over-the-top amphetamine pop music was just thrilling, then and now. Irresistible!

And habit-forming.


Johnny Ramone regarded 1977's Rocket To Russia as the Ramones' best album. I've always felt the same, though the eponymous 1976 debut is another strong contender. Can't go wrong with any of those first four albums, including 1978's Road To Ruin. My Love At First Spin! embrace of Rocket To Russia is detailed here.

"Cretin Hop" is the leadoff track on Rocket To Russia, setting the stage for the album's dichotomy of dancing and mental decay with cathartic enthusiasm. There's NO stopping the cretins from hopping. You've GOTTA keep it beatin' for all the hoppin' cretins. Words to live by.


The Spector-produced End Of The Century was the Ramones' highest-charting album, and their first artistic disappointment. Before starting this frustrating project, Spector asked the Ramones if they wanted to make another good album, or did they want to make a great album? He promised the latter. He delivered the former. Spector's Wall of Sound diluted the Ramones' power rather than enhancing it.

And I don't mean to be overly critical of End Of The Century. The album for sure has its moments, with a too-clean rendition of "Chinese Rock" the only misfire, and the syrupy, string-accompanied remake of the Crystals' "Baby I Love You" the only out-and-out WHAT-WERE-THEY-THINKING?! waste of time. I even like "Danny Says," a track I can't imagine without Spector's precious-sounding touch.

But "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" is the sole moment on End Of The Century that absolutely 100% works, kitchen sink and all. From my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1):

"Where much of End Of The Century finds the Ramones sound clashing with Spector's Wall of Sound like Jets battling Sharks, 'Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?' combines the seemingly disparate forces for maximum punch. A cacophony of warring radio signals cedes turf to a louder-than-God martial drum beat (nicked from the Routers' 'Let's Go'), a boss jock (played by Sean Donahue) proclaiming, This is rock 'n' roll radio, c'mon let's rock 'n' roll with THE RAMONES!, Joey calls out a chant, and he and his de facto brudders suddenly, majestically make radio's dream real again.

"Do you remember lyin' in bed
With the covers pulled up over your head
Radio playin' so no one can see?
We need change, and we need it fast
Before rock's just part of the past
'Cause lately it all sounds the same to me

"I heard this song first on the radio. Not on American radio, I fear, but on a Toronto station, playing the track in rotation prior to the album's release. In the absence of new music from the Beatles, the Ramones had already become my favorite group. And here they were with a new song embracing and embodying the radio dream, the radio ideal. It was new, but it was just as I remembered it. 

"The dream of radio.

"Do you remember?

"Do you?"


With the Ramones on the radio? Yes. Yes, I do wanna dance. This may be my favorite cover ever done by anyone. 


"Glad To See You Go" was one of the first Ramones songs I ever heard of, even though the reference came about a month or three before I actually heard anything at all by the Ramones.

It was 1977, the place was (of all things) a piece in Playboy magazine, and the circumstance was a negative review of the Ramones' second album Leave Home

Yes, even when I was 17, I knew that Playboy published words as well as pictures. 

Playboy's review of Leave Home wasn't quite the first time I'd heard of the Ramones. It was predated by when Phonograph Record Magazine indoctrinated me into punk fascination. It is possible, however, that an earlier capsule review of Leave Home, also in Playboy, was the first time I heard of the Ramones (whom the Playboy writer compared to the Hullaballoos, and that probably wasn't meant as a compliment). PRM still may have been first, so put an asterisk next to my above-cited speculation that my introductory awareness of the Ramones was sandwiched between beautiful models in various stages of undress.

Getting back to that subsequent summer '77 review of Leave Home in PlayboyPlayboy's rock critic did not care for the Ramones at all. He--and I'm reasonably certain it was a he--took specific issue with "Glad To See You Go," deploring a lyric about killing girls to "get the glory like Charles Manson."

To be fair to that critic in '77, the line is off-putting, even repulsive. It's the sort of thing that makes me uncomfortable about murder ballads in country music, and about anyone's rendition of "Parchman Farm" or "Hey Joe." Let me go on the record with my opinion that killing people is bad. I was horrified when I read about this song in Playboy.

But sometimes we shouldn't take song lyrics at face value. The Ramones were steeped in pop culture influences, and their points of reference certainly included horror movies. Scary flicks from Freaks to Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired the Ramones' "Pinhead" and "Chainsaw," and "Glad To See You Go" and its Leave Home brother "You're Gonna Kill That Girl" emerged from that same homicidal spawning ground, a point of origin also shared by our stalker anthem "All's Quiet On The Eastern Front" up top. They are no more a call to mortal sin than any random Mickey Spillane novel is.

And I like Spillane. The Ramones just sound catchier.


We don't generally think of the Ramones as balladeers. But the Ramones were raised on AM Top 40 radio when AM Top 40 was fantastic, bred by the sounds of girl groups, British Invasion, Motown, garage, bubblegum, rock, and pop. Ballads were part of that environment.

And the Ramones were--perhaps incongruously--great at ballads. That should not be true...but it is. I'm not much for power ballads myself. But Ramones power ballads? The Ramones made power ballads cool.

We got a new album out. It's called Rocket To Russia. This one's called "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow."

With Dee Dee's count-in following Joey's introduction, the first time I heard "Here Today. Gone Tomorrow" was when the Ramones played it at my first Ramones live show. Stunning, and a remarkably effective slow burn amidst the fast-loud-rules of the Blitzkrieg Boppin' and Cretin Hoppin' that surrounded it in concert. 

By then, I think I'd already read Greg Shaw's rave about the song in the pages of Bomp! magazine. Hearing it live delivered on Shaw's promise, and the studio track lived up to it. The Ramones as balladeers. Someone had to pay the price.

It was worth it.


From a previous post:

In times of trouble, when we find ourselves caught at the crossroads of moral quandary and indecision, we must always ask ourselves one question:

What would the Ramones do?

I doubt many people think of the Ramones as avatars of hope. Maybe they shouldn't...but maybe they should? If ever there was a band that persevered, endured, and just kept on doing, popular resistance be damned, it was the Ramones. They were a cult act. They became legitimate pop culture icons, through sheer force of will. A miracle, indeed.

The song "I Believe In Miracles" came late in the Ramones' career. 1989. It was a mere seven years before their final concert, a good fifteen years after the Bowery birthed them; thirteen years after their debut album, eleven years after their final Hot 100 single, nine years since the last Ramones album to (barely) breach the upper 50 in Billboard's LP chart. They had continued to make records. Sales--modest to begin with--diminished further. There were no miracles in their foreseeable future.

The determinedly uplifting lyrics of "I Believe In Miracles" were written by Dee Dee Ramone, and they offer a stunning affirmation of faith in the face of dismally long odds. The song was on Brain Drain, an album which also contained "Pet Sematary," the title tune from a then-new film based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. I even heard "Pet Sematary" on commercial radio once or twice--there's your miracle!--so maybe a belief in better fortune wasn't entirely groundless.

Just, y'know, mostly groundless. "Pet Sematary" did well (# 4) on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, but never troubled the Hot 100. Brain Drain peaked at # 122. It was the Ramones' final studio album for Sire Records. And it was Dee Dee's last record as a Ramone.

Dee Dee's abrupt departure from the brudderhood was startling, and his decision to jump ship seemed to stand in contrast to the resolute dedication implied by what he wrote in "I Believe In Miracles." Perhaps sometimes a song is just a song.

And perhaps sometimes--most times?--a song can be more than just...well, just anything. I used to be on an endless run, believed in miracles 'cause I'm one. Our art is a lifeline to our aspirations, a potential guidebook to what we want to be, what we could be. If reality falls short of our intentions, that failing doesn't negate the audacity to hope, nor indicate that we should deny ourselves the opportunity to rise: we have been blessed with the power to survive, after all these years of being alive.

One could have expected Dee Dee's exit, his act of packing up and taking his miracles home, to signal the Ramones' death knell. One woulda been wrong. A young bassist dubbed C. J. Ramone joined Joey, Johnny, and Marky in the final leather-clad incarnation of this Gabba-Gabba heyday. C. J. is in the video for "I Believe In Miracles." The Ramones kept on going. That's what the Ramones did, always. Their three post-Dee Dee studio albums in the '90s carried flashes of brilliance. And Dee Dee, bless 'im, continued to write songs for his former group. 

That wasn't a miracle. That was family. The few, the proud. Semper Fi.

Should we believe in miracles? Well, what would the Ramones do? It's a simple answer: 1-2-3-4. Get on with it. Hey-ho, let's GO! It doesn't always work out. But sometimes, every now and again, miracles are there for those who believe.


Hey, when I said a bunch of paragraphs back that the Ramones' "Do You Wanna Dance?" may be my favorite cover ever done by anyone? I believed that when I wrote it, and it remains among my tippy-top tier examples of people doing other people's stuff. I like--love--the Ramones' version of Tom Waits' "I Don't Want To Grow Up" even more than I adore their annexation of "Do You Wanna Dance?"

Although "I Don't Want To Grow Up" is a cover, Tom Waits' music isn't on my radar, so I knew the Ramones' version before I even knew the song existed. Maybe I default to "Do You Wanna Dance" as my all-time # 1 cover because I don't consciously think of "I Don't Want To Grow Up" as a cover. Sure, Waits co-wrote it (with Kathleen Brennan), and recorded and released it first, in 1992, three years before the Ramones did it. To me, it's a Ramones song.

My Ramones book includes a specific celebration of "I Don't Want To Grow Up." And here's an additional li'l something I wrote about the song elsewhere on this blog:

The Ramones' final album, 1995's ¡Adios Amigos!, opens with this line-in-the-sand statement of intent, a Ramonesified cover of Tom Waits' "I Don't Want To Grow Up." And I take great satisfaction in the fact that a track on the very last Ramones record is among my all-time Fave Raves, right alongside the irresistible music on the Ramones' first four albums at the end of the '70s. Grow up? As if.

We're told that growing up is inevitable. It isn't. We age, sure, but there's more to life and living than the accumulation of calendar pages. What do you want to be when you grow up? When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. Somewhere along the way, I figured out I could be a better writer if skipped the maturity phase entirely. Honestly, I don't think I could have hacked adulting. Grow up! I say no. Why on Earth would I ever wanna do that?

Understand: I'm not Peter Pan, nor do I wish to be. I have responsibilities, and I carry them out. That's part of the deal, and that's cool. We can accomplish stuff, serious shit, without abandoning the sense of glee that helped get us this far.

Because I am proudly and emphatically a 63-year-old kid who still dreams, still reads superhero comic books, still listens to my rockin' pop music a little louder than I should. 

And I wrote a book. It's a book crafted by the wide-eyed spark that's always driven me, whether I was a six-year-old discovering Batman or a teenager hearing "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" for the first time.

As always: Growing up is for squares, man. The Ramones weren't gonna do it. We don't have to do it either. Don't want to. Won't need to. Ain't gonna.


We've established that wanting something to do can preclude any pointless desire to mature. Johnny Ramone laughed when I told him "I Just Want To Have Something To Do" Is the best KISS song that KISS never did. The track opens Road To Ruin with a strut I don't recall hearing the three Ramones albums that preceded it. Later, it accompanies the Ramones' first on-screen appearance in Rock 'n' Roll High School. Something to do? Mission accomplished!


She was asleep, sitting up, her head resting on my shoulder. I was in love with her. And I was already in love with the music of the band whose new album was about to be played on the radio. Love and music. Reasonable goals. I just want to have something to do.

It was October of 1978. Brenda and I had just met, already exchanged I love yous, and were determined to see where that road would lead us next....

Those were the opening paragraphs of a Love At First Spin piece I had planned to write about the Ramones' fourth album Road To Ruin. I felt the story would have too much overlap with my Love At First Spin tribute to Rocket To Russia, so the Road To Ruin entry will likely remain unfinished. But the facts remain: I first heard Road To Ruin when Rochester's WCMF-FM played it in its entirety, listening as I sat in my dorm suite with my arm around this girl I'd just met and fallen for. Road to ruin? Road to something better.

"I Wanna Be Sedated" stood out immediately, helped in no small part by its superficial resemblance to Alice Cooper's "Elected," transcending that influence with its paradoxical hybrid of a wish to be numbed combined with a full-throttle approach that couldn't be taken down by a flurry of tranquilizer darts. I can't control my fingers, I can't control my brain. Sounds a lot like the act of being smitten. I want it.


I swear that "I Want You Around" is represented here for reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that its appearance in the film Rock 'n' Roll High School is accompanied by scenes of actress P. J. Soles in her underwear. I mean, that didn't hurt, but it's not why I adore this song.

"I Want You Around" is another Ramones ballad, and maybe my favorite Ramones ballad. Joey told me that there's an unreleased alternate version, which he said sounds more like the Rolling Stones (presumably along the lines of "Tell Me"). I would love to hear that. But I already like the smooth, lovelorn sway of the familiar version as it is.


My heroes have always been junkies. When it comes to peppy songs about going out to cop dope, "In The Park" is the peppiest. My favorite track on the underrated Subterranean Jungle album.


Pure Ramones. I mean, one of the purest--if not the purest--of all Ramones tracks. No waste. No clutter. Just a minute and thirty-one seconds of everything great about the Ramones: the tempo, the hooks, the defiant melody, the inherent sense of pop history (including a Herman's Hermits quote), the backing ooooos, the absolute Ramonesness of it all. 1:31. Not a second to spare. Perfect.


It's important to have goals. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8!


The Leave Home album track "Oh Oh I Love Her So" shoulda been a single. Hell, it shoulda been a Burger King commercial. It still should! I met her at the Burger King/We fell in love by the soda machine. See, now I want a Whopper. Advertising in action. 


In our interviews, Johnny Ramone expressed his dislike for two tracks on Road To Ruin, "Don't Come Close" and "Questioningly." He regarded both as veering too close to a country and western sound, and too far from the piledriving approach that made the Ramones the Ramones.

But man, Road To Ruin is a masterpiece, start to finish. I always liked the album, but it took me years, even decades, to appreciate just how good it is. Its two supposed yodelers--and it would be a stretch to consider either of them "country"--are as much a part of Road To Ruin's greatness as "I Just Want To Have Something To Do" and I Wanna Be Sedated."

The bubblegum pop of "Don't Come Close" did in fact come close to making this Top 25 list. "Questioningly" is here, partially on the strength of its appearance in Rock 'n' Roll High School as P. J. Soles' character Riff Randell tries desperately to win tickets to a Ramones concert, but more for its sheer presence. It jumps out of speakers, another power ballad in the best sense of that phrase.

Johnny Ramone would have disapproved of a Ramones best-of list that includes no less than three Ramones ballads. Hell, he was appalled when I mentioned that I liked their 1986 single "Something To Believe In." We dig what we dig. 

And I dig how tracks like "Questioningly," "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow," and "I Want You Around" broaden the scope of what a Ramones song can be without diluting the concept in even the merest way. But they're not on my list to diversify it; they're on my list because I love 'em. 

That much is beyond question.


January 17, 1978.

On a snowy winter evening, I bought one of the greatest fun-in-the sun tunes of all time. "Rockaway Beach" represents the only instance where I can tell you without question the precise date when I bought a specific record. My 18th birthday. Home from college for winter break. My parents took me to Beefsteak Mining Company at Penn Cann Mall in North Syracuse for a birthday dinner. After the meal, a quick stop at Gerber Music netted a gift for myself: the 45 of "Rockaway Beach."

In 1978, the legal drinking age was 18. That evening of 1/17/78, I planned to go out with friends and execute my newly-earned status as NOT! a minor with a beer or three. Or seven. 

Ah, but it was January in Syracuse, NY. The snow began to fall. And then it fell heavily. Wiser teen heads prevailed. The ritual I'm-18-and-I-like-it! partying was postponed to another night. I wasn't thrilled with that turn of events, but a nightclub was too far, too hard to reach.

As the snow fell in the darkness of the suburbs, I had a new single by my new favorite band. I hadn't heard it yet, but my full-on embrace of the Ramones' previous single "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" meant I was predisposed to adore "Rockaway Beach." And it did not disappoint.

In between my acquisitions of "Sheena" and "Rockaway Beach," I wrote my first-ever attempt at rock journalism. My work was flawed, but it was a start. Decades later, I got to sing "Rockaway Beach" at a release party for my book about the Ramones. Like Gary Frenay wrote in his song "Syracuse Summer," Seasons change and you live extremes. 

But ain't no snowfall gonna cover my sunny dreams. Chewin' out a rhythm on my bubblegum. I've been eighteen for a long time now. Surf's up.


The record that changed my life. I don't know what I can add to that. "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" gets its own chapter in The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), and its importance to me cannot be overstated. Hearing this for the first time in 1977 altered my path through everything that followed. Like Sheena herself: I had to break away. Sheena knew that New York City really had it all.

Smart girl, that Sheena.


We should have seen this as a sign: if "Swallow My Pride" couldn't become a smash hit single, any top-of-the-pops aspirations the Ramones harbored were doomed from the start. Looking just at the Ramones' American singles, we can say maybe U.S. radio wasn't quite ready for "Blitzkrieg Bop" in '76, that "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" was pretty but not smooth enough for American airwaves, and maybe "I Remember You" didn't have the prerequisite oomph to be radio-ready.

But "Swallow My Pride" was perfect. Perfect. It's pure pop, drawing inspiration from the best '60s influences, and it doesn't even have any specific punk or glue-sniffing aspect to put an asterisk on its commercial sheen. It's a revved-up counterpart to the Bay City Rollers' "Rock And Roll Love Letter" or KISS' "Shout It Out Loud."

Perhaps "Swallow My Pride" was too good for Top 40 in 1977, and I guess progressive FM might have thought it too pop (or whatever other excuse they could concoct to dismiss something so obviously beneath their smug carcasses). The Ramones' next three singles--"Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," "Rockaway Beach," and "Do You Wanna Dance"--maintained a similarly irresistible spark, and even managed to breach the Billboard Hot 100. No subsequent Ramones single even came close.

The Ramones deserved a string of hit records. "Swallow My Pride" should have been one of 'em.


It may be apocryphal, but I think Dr. Demento hisself once called "Teenage Lobotomy" the funniest record ever made. If so, the Doctor is IN!! If not, well, I want a second opinion, Doc. Gonna get my Ph.D, I'm a middle-age lobotomy!

See? Further evidence of the folly of growing up. The Ramones have been right all along.


"Touring" was originally recorded for Pleasant Dreams, but rejected by Sire because it sounded too much like "Rock 'n' Roll High School" ("Which it might've," Joey conceded with a laugh in our interviews). The Ramones revisited the track in the early '90s, and redid it for 1992's Mondo Bizarro. That's the definitive version.

Drive drive drive the night away
Straight on through to the break of day
Drive drive drive the night away
When it's in your blood, it's in your blood

That's an exuberant toast to rock 'n' roll, to the joy--joy--of playing music, distractions and debris notwithstanding. Screw the whinings of rock stars. Keep your "Turn The Page" and your "Shooting Star" and other meely-mouthing about the hardships of playing in a rock band. Oh, misery! You poor, poor idols of millions! 

The Ramones knew the story. In its lyrics, "Touring" implies the day-to-day drudgery of its subject matter, but its music, its driving, driving sound and ambience, is too passionate and powerful to allow the pitfall of tedium. Rock and Roll. Showtime! When it's in your blood, it's in your blood.

THE LAST FOUR OUT: "California Sun," "Don't Come Close," "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment," "Rock And Roll High School" 

THE NEXT FOUR OUT: "I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You," "I Wanna Live," "She's The One," "Time Has Come Today" 

HONORABLE MENTION: "Come On Let's Go" by Paley Brothers and Ramones

If you like what you see here on Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do), please consider supporting this blog by becoming a patron on Patreonor by visiting CC's Tip Jar. Additional products and projects are listed here.

Carl's new book Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones is now available, courtesy of the good folks at Rare Bird Books. Gabba Gabba YAY!!

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at You can read about our history here.

I'm on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

Thursday, June 29, 2023

10 SONGS: 6/29/2023

10 Songs is a weekly list of ten songs that happen to be on my mind at the moment. The lists are usually dominated by songs played on the previous Sunday night's edition of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. The idea was inspired by Don Valentine of the essential blog I Don't Hear A Single.

This week's show draws exclusively from the playlist for This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 1187. This show is available as a podcast.

THE RAMONES: Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

Because New York City really has it all, I'm gonna be there TODAY for a 6:30 pm in-store appearance at Generation Records, 210 Thompson Street in the Village. See, NOW New York City really has it all! Sort of. I'll be at Generation to talk about my new book Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones, and I hope some of my NYC-area pals can show up to keep me company. It might even be a real cool time. 

Anyway, this is a good excuse to open both the show and this week's 10 Songs with another spin of "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," the record that changed my life, and the greatest record ever made, and a big underlying part of the case I presented when the Ramones were inducted into The Power Pop Hall Of Fame. Maybe I'll talk a little bit about that at Generation tonight.

MARVIN GAYE: Ain't That Peculiar

When I started this cockamamie daily blog in January of 2016, one of the earliest posts was a reprise of an article I wrote for Goldmine about a decade before that. "Rock The Coin Right Into The Slot: The Definitive Rock 'n' Roll Jukebox" was an attempt to to list the 100 U.S. 45s that could stock a hypothetical definitive rockin' pop jukebox, and one of those chosen singles was "Ain't That Peculiar" by Marvin Gaye. In a subsequent post, I offered this explanation/disclaimer for selecting this particular record:

And there probably isn't another fan in the world who wouldn't have selected "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" or "What's Goin' On" or one of Gaye's duets with Tammi Terrell over "Ain't That Peculiar." Ain't that...y'know?

I do believe "Ain't That Peculiar" is prime jukebox material, but in retrospect I should have gone with the searing heartbreak of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" instead, at least for the jukebox. Nonetheless, "Ain't That Peculiar" sounds great in this week's playlist. 

And peculiar or not, my paid supporters will get to see an otherwise-unpublished celebration of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (from my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! [Volume 1]) this Saturday. If you would also like to see it, you can become a patron of this blog for a mere $2 a month. 

Jukeboxes, radio playlists, and greatest records ever made. An infinite number, as long as they take turns. I heard that through...the usual word-of-mouth means. Peculiar? Your grapevine my vary.

DANNY THE K: Roller Derby Girl

Our regular listeners know Dan Kopko from his stellar work with the Shang Hi Los and the Peppermint Kicks. Now, assuming the nom de bop of Danny the K, our esteemed Mr. Kopko has a solo album, Cigarettes & Silhouettes, And Other Songs, due soon from the irresistible force known as Rum Bar Records. That album's advance single "Roller Derby Girl" hip-checks its way into the playlist this week, with more to come. Let's roll.

ROCKAWAY BITCH: I Wanna Be Sedated

CHICKS SINGIN' RAMONES SONGS! Singin' 'em well, too. This is the fifth time out of the last six weeks that the Carbona-huffin' splendor of Rockaway Bitch has bludgeoned its way onto the TIRnRR airwaves. And it's high time something from RB lead singer Patti Rothberg's own superb catalog also made a reappearance here. We'll play Patti solo and with Rockaway Bitch next week.

THE 5th DIMENSION: Don't Cha Hear Me Callin' To Ya

This track from the soundtrack of the dazzling documentary Summer Of Soul captures a live performance by the 5th Dimension, and it sizzles--sizzles--in a way the studio version never quite matched.


"Mod Girl" is a very cool track from Steve Stoeckel's current Big Stir Records release The Power Of And. We dig this the most ut, but we're never sure if we wanna program the fab album version or its equally groovy unreleased a cappella mix, which highlights the amazing backing vocals of Jamie Hoover and Elena Rogers. Oooooo--sublime! That alternate version really needs a general issue. Steve! Rex! Christina! Mod girls AND Mod boys! THE WORLD IS WAITING!

Meanwhile, we are going with the album track on this show this time. The a cappella mix will return in a near-future playlist. Can't go wrong either way. 

SUZI QUATRO: I May Be Too Young

The Greatest Record Ever Made!


We have not played Mickey Leigh's work to the extent we oughtta. I mean, we have programmed a few different tracks by his old combo the Rattlers here and there: "On The Beach," "Livin' Alone," "For Johnny's Entertainment," "What Keeps Your Heart Beatin'?," and their cover of the Nightcrawlers' "Little Black Egg." Sibling Rivalry (which was Mickey and his brother Joey Ramone, covering Blodwyn Pig's "See My Way") has received the plurality of our Mickey Leigh spins over the years. But we should be doing more.

And we're gonna. I just purchased Variants Of Vibe, a 2022 album by Mickey Leigh's Mutated Music, and it joins my copy of Sibling Rivalry's In A Family Way and the CD reissue of the Rattlers' Rattled! I snagged in Berkeley in 1999. Variants Of Vibe is quite good, and it makes its TIRnRR debut with a wonderfully punchy tune called "It Felt Like Love." Feels like we should be playing it. 


The Paley Brothers should have been huge, but I don't remember hearing any of their great stuff contemporaneously to their release in the '70s. The only Paleys track I knew at the time was their outtasight collaboration with the Ramones on a sugar-frosted amphetamine cover of Ritchie Valens' "Come On Let's Go," introduced to me via its appearance on the soundtrack to the Ramones' 1979 cinematic masterpiece Rock 'n' Roll High School.

I first heard the original of the Paleys' 1978 gem "Come Out And Play" when it appeared as the title tune for a Rhino Records various-artists power pop compilation in 1993. That collection also just happened to offer the CD debut of Syracuse's own power pop powerhouse the Flashcubes, a group that remains up there with the Beatles and the Ramones as my personal Top O' The Pops.

So yeah, obviously TIRnRR likes to play this triumphant team-up of the Paleys and the 'Cubes, remaking "Come Out And Play," takin' a rad song and makin' it (even) better. It's on the new Flashcubes album Pop Masters, due this summer from Big Stir Records. We're playin' it. Come out and play, friends. Come out and play.


Touring is never boring. Oh! That reminds me!


On June 29 at 6:30 pm--hey, that's TODAY!--I will be making an in-store appearance at GENERATION RECORDS, 210 Thompson Street in NYC on behalf of my  new book GABBA GABBA HEY! A CONVERSATION WITH THE RAMONES. The book contains my 1994 interviews with Joey, Johnny, Marky, and C.J., which were cited by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as essential reading. I'll be at Generation to chat with fellow Ramones fans, talk about the book, the interviews, and how the music of the Ramones impacted my life. If you are in the New York area today, I would love to see you at Generation Records. Hey-ho, let's GO!  

If you like what you see here on Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do), please consider supporting this blog by becoming a patron on Patreonor by visiting CC's Tip Jar. Additional products and projects are listed here.

Carl's new book Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones is now available, courtesy of the good folks at Rare Bird Books. Gabba Gabba YAY!!

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at You can read about our history here.

I'm on Twitter @CafarelliCarl