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Gabba Gabba Hey
on June 4, 2002
This was the first Ramones album--maybe the first punk album--that I ever bought, and I can still remember how it FUZZED MY BRAIN.
After three years of Top-40 radio dominated by the likes of Andy Gibb, Seals & Crofts and Steely Dan, LEAVE HOME was more than a breath of fresh air, it was a tornado. Within six months of hearing this LP I was a complete convert, wearing torn jeans, playing nothing but barre chords, and hunting down the Sex Pistols, Clash, Ramones, etc. LPs that were then generally available only as imports.
Punk was very quickly turned into some quirky American marketing scheme--I'm thinking about Blondie, the Talking Heads and the Romantics here--but with a few short gliches (END OF THE CENTURY, for example) the Ramones remained true. They were one of the very few who found a connection between punk and traditional rock--"Pinhead" and "California Sun" sound just fine side by side, for instance--so I guess they didn't see much reason to fool with the formula.
And they were great fun. "Carbona Not Glue" and "Beat On The Brat" are a laugh, not the misanthropic mess they would have been in lesser hands. You can not keep your head from bangin' when listening to the Ramones.
Joey Ramone may be the most underrated singer in rock history. A lot of intitial critical reaction to the Ramones focused on the relentless bass/rythm guitar attack; to me it had as much to do with Joey's vocals as anything else. Could he hit high notes with George Michael? No. Would he want to? No. Joey Ramone put across NY swagger like nobody's business, and David Johanson would have given his eye teeth to sing like Joey.
Ramones LPs been called audio comic books, and to a large extent that's true. On the other hand, they were the only rockers I recall who had the guts to release a record about the absurdity of Ronald Reagan's embrace of the Third Reich, "Bonzo Goes To Bitburg." It was one of the last times Rock was actually important, I think, and it's also a great single; track it down.
Back when I was full-bore into the scene, I thought ROCKET TO RUSSIA was the best Ramones LP. Looking back, I think ROCKET was simply more accessible to a boy raised on melody; it also had a better cover photo and some of the 'professional' sound I was accustomed to. Today I see LEAVE HOME as the best Ramones LP, bar none. There are at least 7 classic Ramones songs here.
Adding the Roxy show makes this great LP a great double LP. Unlike some other live Ramones releases, this catches the band at their energetic peak--August, 1976. Joey's patter between tunes is the greatest.