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Listening Post: The 40th Anniversary of The Ramones’ Record Debut

Rock

Ramones, “40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of their First Record ‘Ramones’ ” (Rhino, three discs of both stereo and mono recordings plus LP vinyl of their first record. Released next week). It all depended, at the time, on whether or not you “got” the joke. Critics did. And loved the Ramones with proud, self-congratulatory excess. Dave Marsh: “The Ramones know only one tempo – accelerated; their subject matter is puerile and inane, and the singer ain’t real tuneful. As a result, they are great, the embodiment of the amateur passion of rock and roll at a moment when it has nearly died out.” Yes, their Nazi allusions made Robert Christgau “uneasy” but his theory had “always been that good rock and roll should damn well make you uneasy, and the sheer pleasure of this stuff – which, of course elicits howls of pain from the good old rock and roll crowd – is undeniable. For me, it blows everything else off the radio.” Not that “Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World” ever quite made it to the Top 40 Radio of the ’70s (“I’m a shock trooper in a stupor/Yes I am/ I’m a Nazi Schatze/’Y’Know I Fight for the Fatherland/Little German Boy/Being Pushed Around”). They were both punk and commentary on being punk, right from the beginning – these four guys who are all gone now and whose last name was never really Ramone (unlike the famous record producer and recording engineer Phil.) In recognition of their 40th anniversary, here is their debut, augmented with singles mixes and outtakes and a live concert at Hollywood’s Roxy Theater (including one set never before released). To make sure the outlay is fully authentic, there’s a vinyl LP of the original record, too. Listening to it now, you can practically smell the aroma of dance-floor sweat and stale beer and self-satisfied bad attitude that made their brand of anti-social music so much further away from the authentic psychopathology of the Sex Pistols (who sadly imparted the information that a guy who called himself “Sid Vicious” could certainly kill his real girlfriend. The Ramones only sang “You’re a loudmouth baby/You better shut it up/I’m gonna beat you up/Cause you’re a loudmouth babe.” The Ramones were always ironizing esthetes. The Sex Pistols were often jerks – and worse – so that the teens on the bottom of the ladder could parody in their imagination the impotent rage of those at the top). In our era, the “joke” of the Ramones has accreted about two or three more layers, not all of them loving. But the great inspiration of this commemorative of a great rock moment is the understanding that the full nostalgic blast of this music is so much purer and grander in mono, not stereo. Which is exactly why in all its three-chord splendor, it existed in semi-respectable clubs and halls and on records that were never really smash hits. (It wouldn’t have been much of a world if they had been.) ŒŒŒŒ out of four. (Jeff Simon)

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