Top 10 Ramones Songs
Without the Ramones, the history of rock n’ roll would read very differently. They inspired countless bands over several generations, even if they never actually grabbed the gold ring, and it has often been said that they are second only to the Beatles in terms of influence. Everything about them was unique for the times. In an era of bloated ensembles passing themselves off as rock and rollers, the Ramones injected a much needed (and, yeah, still needed) sense of danger, adventure and — most importantly — fun back into the music. The task of plucking 10 songs out of such a fantastic catalog is nearly impossible, and subject to change at any given second. But, at least for now, here is our list of Top 10 Ramones Songs.
You want to talk about a self-declaration? “I don’t wanna be a pinhead no more / I just met a nurse that I could go for” is a declaration without peer. Inspired by 1932’s ‘Freaks,’ a bizarre film that starred actual circus sideshow figures, this song’s famous “Gabba Gabba we accept you one of us” line was almost an exact quote from the movie. Musically, it’s pedal to the metal, a ride never lets up. No wonder ‘Pinhead’ routinely served as the rave-up final song during any given Ramones concert, and begins our list of the Top 10 Ramones Songs.
‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’
The premise is simple enough — boy swipes friend’s girlfriend, friend writes song about it — but when Joey Ramone wrote ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away,’ he was talking about a real-life scenario. Seems Johnny Ramone stole, and later married, Joey’s girl; Joey, who never forgave Johnny, got some revenge in the form of this classic song. While Johnny was hardly a KKK member, he used to make Jewish jokes around Joey and Tommy Ramone — both of whom were Jewish. Dark, and roiling with kick-ass rock attitude, this song was a highlight on 1981’s unfairly maligned ‘Pleasant Dreams’ album.
‘Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?’
The lead-off track from a Phil Spector-produced album that the label, the management and the band hoped would be a commercial breakthrough, ‘Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio’ tells a different story. Reflections on past glory work in tandem with frustration over what it all had become, echoing the Ramones’ fate as the ’80s loomed. In a perfect world, this would have been a No. 1 hit. Instead, it’s just another gem on album filled with them.
Everyone knows their fast and loud side. Standing equal to that, however, was the Ramones’ ability to come up with pure pop gems along the way. Nowhere was that more evident than on ‘Questioningly,’ a beautiful song that shows off their keen melodic sense, and genuine heart and soul. Note the perfect production courtesy of Tommy Ramone and Ed Stasium, who again crafted something that should have been a commercial breakthrough. Alas, it was not meant to be. This song still breaks a heart, if given a chance.
The commanding drum beat laid down by Tommy here sets the stage for another Ramones song with a demented lyrical twist, this time from ‘Rocket to Russia.’ “DDT did a job on me / Now I am a real sickie / Guess I’ll have to break the news / That I got no mind to lose / All the girls are in love with me / I’m a teenage lobotomy.” If that ain’t poetry in motion, then what is?
‘I Wanna Be Sedated’
We reach the midpoint of our list of the Top 10 Ramones Songs with one of their most famous songs. ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ was another in a long line of songs that declared intent. If that intent was to sniff some glue, well, that was just part of the charm. Well, that and the union of a surging guitar riff and pounding rhythm section, as Joey tells his tale. In many ways, this song — as wacky as it is propulsive — was a culmination of the first four years of the Ramones’ existence.
‘Sheena Is a Punk Rocker’
A short, sweet and super-catchy little song that, upon release, seemed destined for big things. “I played it for Seymour Stein (of Sire Records) and he flipped out, and said, ‘We gotta get this right out,'” Joey Ramone recalled in the documentary ‘End Of The Century.’ Instead, the Sex Pistols‘ antics — “safety pins, and everyone gouging each others eyeballs out, and this and that,” as Joey said — seemed to scare off potential support for punk from radio. “Everybody flipped out. It really kind of screwed things up.”
‘Glad To See You Go’
With their second album, the Ramones fine-tuned their attack and approach a bit, resulting in what many consider to be their finest all-around effort. It was a pure mixture of flat-out loud, fast blasts of energy, married to a genuine bubblegum pop sensibility — as heard on ‘Glad To See You Go,’ which kicks off the album with a ferocious roar. Imagine Herman’s Hermits on steroids and speed, and without a care in the world.
If any song in the Ramones canon can be called the hit that got away, it’s ‘Rockaway Beach.’ Taking Beach Boys influences to the fore and amping them up Ramones-style, the song is irresistibly catchy. It just arrived at the wrong time. Released in the winter of 1977, this driving beat and perfectly formed vision of the band fell on ear-muffed ears — though it did eventually crawl its way up to No. 66.
It’s a perfect opening for an album and a career, so it’s a natural fit for No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 Ramones Songs. This remains the definitive example of what made the Ramones special — and it couldn’t have been more out-of-step with what was going on at the time. ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ was rock n’ roll distilled down to its bare essentials of three chords. Add in a ‘Hey Ho, Let’s Go’ rallying cry, (inspired by the Bay City Rollers ‘Saturday Night‘), and it’s easy to see how the Ramones gave rock and roll a swift kick. Heck, some four decades on, they still are.