Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Nineteen years ago this week – on August 6, 1996, to be precise – the Ramones played their 2,263rd and final concert. Today, while both the band and all its founding members are no more, their music not only survives, but thrives, both in the musicians it’s influenced and in its original form.
This week we’re celebrating the Ramones with a Full Albums post on each of their first five albums – Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket to Russia, Road to Ruin, and End of the Century. Look for covers of songs both immortal and forgotten, by the famous and the obscure – 66 of them altogether. We’re starting off with their self-titled debut, the result of certainly the best $6400 ever spent in music history.
The mid-70s were an era where Elton John and the Eagles held sway, disco was getting its toehold, and classic rockers like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin were proving that their best was behind them. To quote Kurt Loder, the Ramones “landed in this flabbed-out scene like a boulder on a box of sugar-cream doughnuts.” They gave the finger to the music world (literally – or did you never notice Johnny’s flipped bird on the album cover?) with a record that was 14 songs long and took less than a half hour to play, including the time taken to turn the record over. Louder than the New York Dolls, catchier than the MC5, and faster than anyone, the Ramones created the true blueprint of punk rock with one of the most influential albums in history.
The songs on Ramones are now woven into the fabric of popular culture; “Blitzkrieg Bop” alone has been in advertisements for Coppertone, Budweiser, and Taco Bell. They were also simple enough that anyone could perform them – which everyone then proceeded to do. What follows will serve as an indication of how strong and remarkably adaptable those songs have proven themselves to be.
MP3: Danger*Cakes – Blitzkrieg Bop (The Ramones cover)
“Blitzkrieg Bop,” the opening salvo of the Ramones catalog, declared the band to be “all revved up and ready to go,” and truer words were never spoke. Danger*Cakes, a band from Austin, Texas, apply their alternabilly chops to the song, generating steam heat with their swing-punk sound.
MP3: Noel Akchote – Beat on the Brat (The Ramones cover)
Noel Akchote is a French guitarist who mostly works in the classical and jazz fields, but in 2013 he released the all-instrumental Gabba Gabba Guitars (An Unplugged Tribute To The Ramones), showing that “Beat on the Brat,” among others, could be made quiet, intricate, and spellbinding without once mentioning baseball bats.
MP3: The Shovels – Judy Is a Punk (The Ramones cover)
The Shovels begin their cover of “Judy Is a Punk” with drums that thunder louder than the original, which makes it twice as surprising when the country fiddles kick in. Sounds like when Jackie and Judy went down to Berlin to join the Ice Capades, they got there by hitching a ride in an 18-wheeler.
MP3: Amazonics – I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (The Ramones cover)
The Ramones had a big heart beating beneath those leather jackets. Virtually alone among their peers, they could play a romantic boy/girl song and not get any grief about turning into wimps. In fact, songs like “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” grew their audience even more. Here’s an electrochill cover from Bossa ‘n’ Ramones, where the gentle music matches the lyrics far better than it does on the same album’s “Pet Sematary.”
MP3: Will Vallar – Chain Saw (The Ramones cover)
Will Vallar’s Bandcamp page reveals him to be a New York-based musician with an acoustic and an attitude: “Song topics include MTV, serial killers, internet dating, porn stars, Catholic school, jail, and Dexter.” He also covers “Chain Saw” in such a way that even Leatherface might find himself clapping along, if he would just put down his Poulan.
MP3: Whale – Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue (The Ramones cover)
Readers of a certain age might remember Whale as one of the ’90s’ one-alterna-hit-wonders, thanks to “Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe.” They were still around in 2002, when the tribute album The Song Ramones the Same was released. Their cover of “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” will make you wonder why their alterna-hits stopped at one.
MP3: Flesh Eaters – I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement (The Ramones cover)
The very first Ramones tribute album was 1991’s Gabba Gabba Hey. It followed the tendency of small-label tribute albums to mix (relatively) major artists with thoroughly unknown ones. So on the same album that features the likes of the Electric Ferrets and Bulimia Banquet, you’ll also get the Flesh Eaters, a key band in LA punk history, giving “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement” the ol’ fast-and-slow.
MP3: feedtime – Loudmouth (The Ramones cover)
One way to make a Ramones cover stand out is to play it faster and heavier than the original. feedtime, an Aussie band on the Sub Pop label that blew it by breaking up just before the grunge movement kicked in, accomplished the feat on their cover album Cooper-S, zipping through “Loudmouth” a full fifty seconds faster than da bruddahs.
MP3: Onda Vaga – Havana Affair (The Ramones cover)
Spanish Wikipedia reveals that Onda Vaga is an Argentinian band putting their own successful spin on the Latin-alternative music world. Their cover of “Havana Affair” appears on their album Fuerte y Caliente (that means “strong and hot,” gringos), and it sounds a lot more mournful in their hands.
MP3: Saturday Looks Good To Me – Listen To My Heart (The Ramones cover)
Midwestern indie-poppers Saturday Looks Good To Me make “Listen To My Heart” sound like it was recorded during a merry skip through a huge tunnel. Its infectious sound conveys all the potential joy of a summer day, something the Ramones would prove to have an equally strong ability to express, albeit in a whole other way.
MP3: River City Rebels – 53rd & 3rd (The Ramones cover)
“53rd & 3rd,” the story of a Vietnam vet turned hustler taking a razor blade to the unlucky john who picked him up, can lay claim to being the darkest song on Ramones. The River City Rebels, on their album Playing to Live, Living to Play, take on the song with a thermos full of piss ‘n’ vinegar, proving that Phish weren’t the only band from Burlington, VT who knew how to play quality music.
MP3: Silicon Teens – Let’s Dance (Chris Montez / The Ramones cover)
Right from the start, the Ramones proved themselves masters of covering songs and making them their own. They showed a special affinity for ’60s AM pop, especially early in their career; after they turned Chris Montez’s “Let’s Dance” from a twist to a pogo, the song was never going to be the same. The Silicon Teens (actually Daniel Miller, founder of Mute Records and singer/performer of “Warm Leatherette” by the Normal) put an equally singular synth-pop stamp on their cover, turning it into music to assemble robots by.
MP3: JMXW – I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You (The Ramones cover)
The Ramones’ global reach becomes more and more evident when you discover the number of musical salutes they received from our friends in foreign lands. Here’s another of those, appearing on Ramones Forever: An International Tribute; JMXW from Belgium turn in a version of “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You” that’s half thrash, half spaghetti-noir.
MP3: Generalissimo – Today Your Love, Tommorow The World (The Ramones cover)
Generalissimo, a noise rock band from Oakland, close up this cover collection with a hard, disciplined take on “Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World.” Picture the full throttle sound of Dead Kennedys crossed with the herky-jerky rhythms of Devo and you’ve got an idea how this cover sounds; now give it a couple spins and see how good it sounds.
Hey, ho, let’s go to Amazon for the original ‘Ramones’.