Not being such a big punk guy, I didn’t really expect to like the Ramones much. The occasional song I’d heard didn’t convince me either. However, I decided to give their debut an open-minded listen at some point, because…well, because how the hell can I own a music blog and not be familiar with such a cult record? Luckily enough, the timing was perfect for I was also in the midst of a serious Pixies obsession and the two seem to go hand-in-hand for me – I got to double my dose of short, stupid, catchy, head-banging tunes. Then, with each new album I’ve grown to like them more and more up to a point where I could listen to them anytime, anyplace and enjoy their music on multiple levels – both for empty-headed pleasure and analysis. Now I’m still not the world’s biggest punk fan (although I did give more bands a try and enjoyed some greatly), but I consider the Ramones absolutely essential for anyone with an interest in 20th century music. And here’s three reasons why:
1. They are a great rock ‘n’ roll band. Vague statement I know, given that there probably are as many definitions of what rock ‘n’ roll is as there are people on this planet. What I’m mainly referring to is the spirit, the feeling that you get from the Ramones’ music – that youthful energy, fun and sexuality, but also mixed with a dose of underlying sadness to balance things out. The image their songs often paint in my head is that of a teenager rocking his problems away and making the most out of the little things in life. And that’s why they make the most sense if listened when one’s actions are still driven by the gut and instinct, rather than the brain and experience. But that doesn’t automatically mean that it can’t be enjoyed on a purely musical level. Which brings us to our second point:
2. They are a great pop band. Underneath all the fuss, all the ‘punk’ attitude and posing which you may or may not connect to, Ramones actually wrote great tunes. By just reading the track-list of either of their first five albums, I can instantly remember how every single song goes, which is something I can’t really say for many bands. It’s true that 90% of the time they work within the ‘Ramones formula’, but you’d be surprised at how many things they can achieve with those three/four chords, those basic drum beats and that snotty, incomprehensible mumble they call lead vocal. Their appreciation of 60’s R&B/pop is no secret, and if there is one thing that they have in common with say, The Supremes, it’s the usual emphasis on melody and ultra-catchy choruses. What I’m getting to is this: the Ramones had substance too, not just spirit.
3. Their attitude. One of the things that attracted me to the band in the first place is what they used to cite as their main artistic goal: getting music back to its most basic, most sincere, most fun and most relatable. They were tired of those old prog-rock farts, their instrumental passages, poetic lyrics, concept albums, or intellectual pretentions. So they decided to cut it all down. Just four guys picking up a bunch of cheap instruments and writing about whatever’s on their mind. And to me, that is just fantastic – a classic “follow your dreams” story. It goes to show that sometimes in art having the right ideas and the right kind of creativity and the right time beats actual proficiency in the respective field. But I digress, the bottom line is that the Ramones in their prime managed to convince and inspire fans, critics and musicians while also staying true to themselves and their aspirations. They were always so cool. They never took themselves seriously. And in the end, they just wanted to have some fun.
Categories: 3 Reasons Why You Should Listen to a Band