Ten Really, Truly Essential Ramones Songs
I appreciate the thought behind this Paste blog post trying to come up with the best 10 Ramones songs (except for the notion that you can quit caring about the Ramones after their 4th album). I like the Ramones, and I like top ten lists. But this blogger falls into the same trap many would-be Ramones appreciators fall into, which is concentrating too heavily on a single kind of Ramones song, instead of appreciating the diversity of excellent tunes they came up with. So I thought I’d toss together a corrective list, one that focuses on the least-appreciated aspect of the Ramones, which is their range. In that spirit, this list is in no specific order.
1) “Cretin Hop” I’ll give this list maker three up front, to show that this counter-list is offered in good will. You have to start off any Ramones list with a song that’s a straight-up punk piece—under two minutes, kind of weird, fast, goofy. The reason that the Ramones are cited as the first true punk band. This is a hard slot to fill, but I’m going with “Cretin Hop” because it’s got counting in it, pushing it out over the competition.
2) “Rockaway Beach”. And important aspect of the Ramones is how much they were trying to offer a corrective to the bloated rock music of their day by trying to return to the happy pop sounds of the 60s that were being drummed out by the self-important 70s era rock dinosaurs. So they borrowed from surf rock, girl groups, the stuff from the 60s that dominated the radio but not so much 80s-era movies about Vietnam. “Rockaway Beach” is a tongue-in-cheek surf rock song, and maybe my all time favorite song of theirs.
3) “Rock and Roll High School”. The Ramones obviously thought of themselves as a radio-friendly pop band, but in reality, they mostly weren’t. But they did have a few singles that legitimately approached the radio-friendly standard. I like this one better than “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” or “I Wanna Be Sedated”, those those are also great songs.
4) “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”. The Ramones had love for heavy metal, and did a number of songs where they tried to go a little harder. It was hard to choose between this one and “We’re A Happy Family”, but this one better approaches heavy metal-type riffs, albeit played out in punk style.
5) “Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World.” The Ramones pictured themselves playing for huge stadiums full of screaming fans. This was their stadium rocker. Between the stadium rock vibe and the unsettling lyrics, this could easily be a Weezer song, if it was just a little slower.
6) “Do You Wanna Dance?” In fitting with their “revive the 60s” project, the Ramones did a ton of great covers. It’s hard to pick a favorite—“Surfin’ Bird”? “Needles and Pins”?—but I’m going with this one because it’s the best example of how they updated the 60s pop sound and turned it into punk rock.
7) “I Don’t Care”. It’s hard to see the connections between the goofy weird Ramones and the often-nihilistic British version of punk rock that ended up being a more famous kind of punk. This song bridges the gap, and especially shows off Joey Ramone’s strange habit of aping a British accent that he probably picked up from listening to too many British Invasion records.
8) “The KKK Took My Baby Away”. The humor of the lyrics makes some people want to put this in a separate category from the long list of Ramones songs that showcase Joey Ramone’s romantic side and his love of pop love ballads. But this is simply the best example of this kind of Ramones song, and is further proof that their creative juices didn’t dry up after their 4th album.
9) “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes To Bitburg)”. For being such an angry political yelp from this previously apolitical band, this song is surprisingly neither fast nor loud. But it shows how capable the Ramones were at playing straight up pretty songs.
10) “Beat on the Brat”. No one is denying that “Blitzkrieg Bop” is a great song. But I always thought “Beat on the Brat” was more satisfying.
Bonus song: Motorhead loves The Ramones.