Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Now, this’ll be a straight walk-off, old school rules. First model walks; second model duplicates, then elaborates. – David Bowie, Zoolander
If Ramones was the Ramones setting the pace, and Leave Home was them duplicating it, then Rocket to Russia was the moment where the Ramones refined their musical approach to an absolute peak. They had perfected their loud fast rules, and were able to expand on them without abandoning them. They varied their tempos, landing hooks with their slow songs just as easily as with their fast ones. They sounded better than ever, with a production budget nearly twice as much as that of their first two albums combined. And they did two cover songs instead of their usual one.
Speaking of cover songs, today’s feature a ’60s icon, a ’90s platinum trio, and the sounds of surf, folk, chaos, and many more. Dive deep.
MP3: Full Blown Cherry – Cretin Hop (The Ramones cover)
Full Blown Cherry gets things rolling with a rockabilly take on “Cretin Hop” that’ll make you want to hop some more. The song wouldn’t sound a bit out of place in an old Memphis barroom. In fact, it’s a big surprise to learn that in order to get to that barroom, the trio would have to drive in all the way from their home base of Philadelphia.
MP3: Natalie Renoir & DJ Leao – Rockaway Beach (The Ramones cover)
If any Ramones song would merit the bossa nova treatment, it would have to be “Rockaway Beach.” The original conveys all the exuberance of summer, and the giddy impatience of getting to a place where that exuberance can fully flower. It’s not a far leap from that to the carefree vibe that Natalie Renoir and DJ Leao have to offer.
MP3: Ronnie Spector – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (The Ramones cover)
Ronnie Spector has some nice moments of intertwining with the Ramones over her career. She released this cover of “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” in 1980, the same year the Ramones released their cover of “Baby I Love You,” which Ronnie sang with the Ronettes. Almost twenty years later, Joey and Ronnie collaborated again, as he wrote for and sang on her EP She Talks to Rainbows. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t have more collaborations, but at least we can enjoy what fruit was borne from the ones they had.
MP3: Phineas and the Lonely Leaves – Locket Love (The Ramones cover)
This Peekskill, NY band appears on the acoustic tribute album Sheena Is a Folk Rocker with a take on “Locket Love,” a song that gets little love from cover bands for reasons unknown – P&TLL make it clear it’s just as strong as any of the Ramones’ better known classics. (If you’d like to check out the rest of the album, you can do so here.)
MP3: The Flatmates – I Don’t Care (The Ramones cover)
The Flatmates were a noted indie band, one often lumped in with the C-86 movement in England in the 1980s. Their guitar pop was smart and catchy, but they broke up before the decade was out, before releasing a proper debut album. This cover of “I Don’t Care” comes from Love and Death, a cobbled-together compilation of the best of their random releases.
MP3: Emily Jane Powers – Sheena Is a Punk Rocker (The Ramones cover)
Of all the Ramones’ Mad-Lib “(GIRL’S NAME) Is a (DESCRIPTIVE NOUN)” songs, “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” is arguably the best. It’s certainly the most popular as a subject for covering. Chicago’s Emily Jane Powers applies her style of recording – what she calls “densely arranged bedroom pop” – to the song, and the results are very pretty and just as endearing as the original.
MP3: The Residents – We’re a Happy Family (The Ramones cover)
In 1980, Morgan Fisher curated an album called Miniatures, where he asked a select group of artists to contribute songs that were one minute long. This was fine with experimentalists the Residents, who at the time were recording The Commercial Album, consisting of forty songs in forty minutes. “We’re a Happy Family” is a few seconds longer than requested, but it had to make room for “Bali Ha’i” somewhere, didn’t it?
MP3: Green Day – Teenage Lobotomy (The Ramones cover)
In 2002, the Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. In his acceptance speech, Johnny said, “God bless President Bush and God bless America.” In his, Dee Dee said, “I’d like to congratulate myself, and thank myself, and give myself a big pat on the back.” They chose not to perform, so Green Day did a brief medley of their songs, including “Teenage Lobotomy.” If anything showed the Ramones were ahead of their time, it was the sound of a platinum selling band performing their “hits” and sounding like (a) commercial smashes by Green Day, and (b) the Ramones on a good night.
MP3: Tim Timebomb – Do You Wanna Dance (Bobby Freeman / The Ramones cover)
For the first time, the Ramones had two covers on one album. The first, “Do You Wanna Dance,” was written and recorded by a teenaged Bobby Freeman in 1958 and stripped down and fired up by the Ramones 19 years later. Thirty-five years after that, Tim Timebomb (a.k.a. Tim Armstrong, guitarist/vocalist for Rancid) put out this reggae-influenced version. There are also versions by the Beach Boys, Bette Midler, John Lennon, the Mamas and the Papas, and many more. This is a song that proves a universal question can be asked in any number of ways.
MP3: Ramonetures – I Wanna Be Well (The Ramones cover)
The Ramonetures (actually Davie Allan and the Phantom Surfers) have a gimmick, but it’s a good one: surf-guitar instrumentals of Ramones songs, played Ventures-style. “I Wanna Be Well” flourishes especially well under this treatment, conveying the longing for better health, if not for LSD and DDT, as it laps against your ears like gentle ocean waves.
MP3: Soundgarden – I Can’t Give You Anything (The Ramones cover)
Last fall, Soundgarden released a three-CD box set of rarities called Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path, with one disc devoted entirely to cover songs. It revealed Soundgarden’s taste to be remarkably catholic; they covered acts ranging from the Beatles and Howlin’ Wolf to Spinal Tap and Cheech & Chong. Amidst that kind of company, “I Can’t Give You Anything” (not a standout Ramones track to begin with) gets a little bit lost, but Soundgarden give it a straightforward reading and acquit themselves well.
MP3: The Nasty Little Trolls of Infinite Wisdom – Ramona (The Ramones cover)
“Ramona” is another song of the Ramones that endeared them to the female segment of their fanbase. In fact, one has to wonder how many women there are today, in their late thirties, who were named after this song. The Nasty Little Trolls of Infinite Wisdom cover it with light acoustic and harmonies, making the “Nasty” part of their name seem like a massive lie.
MP3: Tokyo Cramps – Surfin’ Bird (The Trashmen / The Ramones cover)
The Cramps have a version of “Surfin’ Bird” that descends into utter chaos over the course of five and a half minutes. The Tokyo Cramps duplicate that cover quite closely here, but they fly their Far East psychobilly flag for about a minute and a half shorter. Anyway, one would be hard-pressed to think of the Peter Griffin version when listening to this live track.
MP3: The Queers – Why Is It Always This Way? (The Ramones cover)
“Why Is It Always This Way?” has gotten very little cover play over the years, which is when it comes in handy to know that the Queers covered Rocket to Russia in its entirety. When no other cover of note turned up, they won the closing track of this collection by default. They won’t be the last band to land a spot on these collections through making their own full cover album.
‘Rocket to Russia’ is on Amazon.