Saturday, January 2, 2010

R - The Ramones - "Leave Home"

Ah, sweet sweet Ramones, wash over me and beat me senseless.

Said it before, will say it ad infinitum: had the Ramones broken up after their third record, they would go down in history as the greatest rock and roll band of all time. Not one artist or band can match the mind blowing greatness of "The Ramones", "Leave Home", & "Rocket to Russia". They were perfect: perfect sound (both retro & futuristic), perfect songs (right to the point, catchy as bubblegum and adrenalized as punk), perfect image (da brudders!), even perfect song introduction (there's nothing that prepares you for some intense jumping up & down better than Dee Dee Ramone yelling "onetwofreefaw!") You simply can't claim to like rock & roll without embracing these three records as tightly as you would your best girl or guy. Fanfreakintastic.

The Ramones's sophomore effort sometimes gets short shifted as the middle child in their holy trinity of goodness, which is wholly unfair, as it easily equals the first in songwriting and easily surpasses it in execution (the songs are tighter & faster, & the production is WAY better (like adding the sound effects on "Pinhead" & the backing vocals on "You're Gonna Kill That Girl"). It's really hard to write about this record, as I can't readily think of as many synonyms for "perfect" as needed without grabbing a thesaurus. Difficult to see how songs this melodic & well crafted failed to make a dent on the charts, yet obvious that they didn't stand a chance in the discofied pop charts, The Ramones really should've had their own cartoon ala the Beatles: imagine the plot lines to accompany songs like "Suzy is a Headbanger" or "Beat on the Brat" - truly a missed opportunity by Hanna-Barbera.

Anyway, if you hadn't already guessed, I love this record. 14 songs with a total running time under 30 minutes (the longest song, "Pinhead" at 2:42, is shorter than David Freidberg's bass solo on the previously reviewed Quicksilver record), you are truly left wanting much much more, but it's better that way. The Ramones weren't into padding this early in their career. All four Ramones (Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, & Tommy) are all on top of their game, & it's a fun, FUNNY listen. Though sometimes flirting with bad taste ("Glad to See You Go"'s " shout-out to Charles Manson, or "Commando" flirting with Naziism), they don't go too far over the edge to get the laugh, & mostly it's at their own expense ("Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment" or "Carbona Not Glue"). On top of that, "Leave Home" has, in my opinion, their greatest cover: "California Sun". Their version makes the original totally obsolete, and even blows away the Dictators' hysterical cover from two years earlier. When side two fades out, you can't help wanting to turn the record over and play it again. So you do!

VERDICT: GABBA GABBA HEY! Long Live the Ramones!!!
VIDEO: from London at the end of 1977, this video truly captures the Ramones at their peak, right before the departure of Tommy (Marky, his replacement, played far too fast, which undercut the melodies of the songs). Watch how Johnny & Dee Dee are in constant motion, with Joey a truly commanding presence at the center. The last three songs in this video are from "Leave Home", but just go ahead and listen to the whole thing: 5 great songs in 10 minutes from a white hot band, what more could you want?

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