Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
The Ramones knew they were playing some of the best rock ‘n’ roll in the world, and by 1978, they were starting to grow aggravated about how few shared that knowledge. So, taking the if-Mohammad-won’t-come-to-the-mountain approach, they started making small concessions, in the hopes that these little changes would be the all they needed to get radio airplay. Road to Ruin, their fourth album, featured an occasional guitar solo here, an acoustic ballad there, even a couple of songs that lasted longer than three minutes. But the strain of being something other than their true selves was evident, and the record failed in its play for fame, charting outside the top 100. It shouldn’t have been a surprise – the Ramones’ reach was doomed to exceed the mainstream’s grasp – but it was a frustrating letdown all the same.
So what are we left with today when we listen to Road to Ruin? Well, it was a beat away from the first three albums – literally, as Marky Ramone had just taken over Tommy’s drum stool – and a little less cartoony. It was evident when da brudders were trying, but it was evident when they were succeeding as well. And in “I Wanna Be Sedated,” they came up with a song that has worked its way deep into popular culture. Final result: an album that can justifiably be called the fourth straight Ramones classic.
There are dozens and dozens of covers of the dozen songs on Road to Ruin; the twelve below are a good mix of the big and the little, the loud and the quiet, all seeking to do justice to the original. We think they succeed.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – I Just Wanna Have Something to Do (The Ramones cover)
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have a history of making Ramones songs sound like RHCP songs; when Johnny Ramone asked them to contribute to the We’re A Happy Family tribute album, they responded with a cover of “Havana Affair” that Johnny loved so much he insisted it open the album. They’re opening this album with a live acoustic cover of “I Just Wanna Have Something to Do,” originally performed at one of Neil Young’s Bridge concerts.
The Mr. T Experience – I Wanted Everything (The Ramones cover)
The Mr. T Experience worked on the sunny side of the punk-pop street, specializing in lighter fare such as “Up and Down,” their cover of a Sesame Street classic. They also covered Road to Ruin in its entirety, which helped to make their virtual twin cover of “I Wanted Everything” a lock for this collection.
Thea Gilmore – Don’t Come Close (The Ramones cover)
Thea Gilmore has a history of giving her covers remarkable reworkings (a history we’ve written about before). “I like to provoke a response, whether that’s someone telling me they love what I do or throwing a bottle at me,” she once said in an interview. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to bottle her after hearing what she does to songs like “Don’t Come Close.”
The Huntingtons – I Don’t Want You (The Ramones cover)
The Huntingtons are a Baltimore punk band that carried their Ramones worship to peaks that few if any could ever match; not only did they release an entire album of Ramones covers (File Under Ramones), they found employment as Joey Ramone’s backing band for a couple of his solo gigs at CBGB’s. This cover of “I Don’t Want You” comes from their live album The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and starts off with a sly dig at the crowd.
Tom Petty & Stevie Nicks – Needles & Pins (Jackie DeShannon / The Ramones cover)
Like “California Sun” before it, “Needles and Pins” is a Ramones cover where another cover is better known than the original; in this case, Jackie DeShannon’s version has been aced out for oldies radio plays by the Searchers. Tom Petty clearly patterned his cover after the Searchers’ twelve-string sound; on his live album Pack Up the Plantation, Stevie Nicks stopped draggin’ his heart around long enough to give him a vocal assist.
Rancid – I’m Against It (The Ramones cover)
Tim Armstrong, who you’ll remember from yesterday’s entry, doesn’t need to resort to his Tim Timebomb persona to play Ramones covers; his band Rancid is more than capable of delivering the goods themselves. Here they are giving “I’m Against It” the bum’s rush.
Allo, Darlin’ – I Wanna Be Sedated (The Ramones cover)
A certain style of indie pop now seems to come with the scarlet letter T for twee, leading bands to be shunned for wearing those threads. Don’t let Allo Darlin’ be one of those bands. They don’t just play with all the light warmth of angora – they also know how to plumb the heart of punk to discover shared truths. One of those truths just happens to be the expressed desire “I Wanna Be Sedated.”
Bullet Treatment – Go Mental (The Ramones cover)
Bullet Treatment’s bullet treatment of “Go Mental” comes from an interesting source: an album called Strength to Endure: A Tribute to Motorhead and the Ramones. The first nine songs are Motorhead covers, done by a band called Riotgun; the next seventeen are Ramones covers by Bullet Treatment. If you guessed the Ramones covers are shorter, you’re right; if you’d like to hear more, this is the place.
The French Kicks – Questioningly (The Ramones cover)
“Questioningly” may have been the most atypical Ramones song yet – acoustic, subtle melody, guitar solo, over three minutes, Joey wearing his broken heart on his sleeve like never before. The fact that it works, and works beautifully, gives the lie to the canard that the Ramones were dumb and loud and nothing more. This cover comes from the French Kicks’ 2008 Covers EP, where it keeps the company of songs by the Zombies, Lindsey Buckingham, and the Shirlees.
Gigantor & Leonard Graves Phillips – She’s the One (The Ramones cover)
On the off-chance that the name Leonard Graves Phillips rings a bell but you don’t know from where, he was the lead vocalist of the Dickies, who were frequently referred to as the California version of the Ramones – same accelerated tempos, same way of owning songs they covered, only with a happier, have-a-nice-day vibe that New York would never offer. Here Phillips guests with Gigantor (whose cartoon theme song the Dickies also covered) on “She’s the One,” from the tribute album Blitzkrieg Over You.
The Manges – Bad Brain (The Ramones cover)
“Bad Brain” is where the pioneering hardcore punk band Bad Brains got their name from, and no amount of goofy sound effects will ever detract from that claim to fame. The Manges give it a good run for its money on yet another foreign tribute album. This is from 1,2,3,4! I Cretini saltano ancora: An Italian Tribute to the Ramones.
The Whiskey Daredevils – It’s a Long Way Back (The Ramones cover)
On their album Old Favorites, Cleveland’s Whiskey Daredevils – self-described as “America’s finest country punkabilly band” – cover songs by the likes of the Butthole Surfers, Circle Jerks, and Dead Kennedys. It shouldn’t be a surprise that their Ramones cover is the shortest one on the record; they handle “It’s a Long Way Back” in a minute flat, slamming the lid on this collection with an all-fired bang.
‘Road to Ruin’ can be found on Amazon.