What does it sound like?:
Four brudders who shook the world stare you out from 40 years ago – well, Joey is barely visible with his hair and Jackie-O shades obscuring his face but the intent is clear – like us, loathe us, we don’t care.
Like other punk debuts from The Pistols, Patti Smith and Television you wonder if they really deserve this kind of deluxe treatment. Not from some sad old git in his 999 t-shirt and bovver boots point of view that it’s selling out and not “punk” etc but because the original statement is so perfect in its simplistic beauty that it doesn’t need additions.
I’m guessing a sizeable proportion of people who buy this 3CD and 1LP Anniversary set with a book of images and essays will have bought this on vinyl, cassette, CD and probably the recent (excellent) Rhino vinyl reissues of the first four Ramones studio albums. There’s a strong argument that you don’t need anything else except maybe It’s Alive and Ramonesmania. So do you really need this?
Well, yes, I think you do. The original intention was for their debut to be released in glorious mono like the 60’s garage and surf bands that they were channelling. Sire baulked at such insolence from these li’l idiots so instead the album was mixed ala George Martin 1963 with wiiiiidddee separation so if your speaker busted you could have a better shot an deciphering Joey’s drawl or get your ears syringed by Johnny’s guitar. Going back to his original mixing session notes, producer Craig Leon has produced a mono mix of the album which features on one of these CDs and the vinyl. The first thing you notice is that Johnny’s “wan-too-free-fahw”’s remain intact giving the impression of the band performing this album live in the studio in one rush. The sound is far more ragged than the stereo mix, the drums have more presence and it just feels more, well, punk rock. This sounds like its being played by The Trashmen or similar and that is in no way a bad thing. – it’s meatier, beatier and bouncier.
The stereo mix sounds no different to the last couple of remasterings and hasn’t been brickwalled to death to do battle in the loudness wars. The live sets are fun and underline what a fiercely tight sound they had, with some cutely polite in between song chat and Johnny’s chainsaw guitar on Beat On The Brat a particular thrill. The two concerts, early and late shows from LA Roxy in the summer of 76 are identical in setlist and song intros you wonder if they couldn’t have found something else from the era that hadn’t been previously released, particularly in their native Noo Yerk.
Sometimes the familiarity of these songs makes you forget the darker moments and lyrical maturity. Yes of course they threaten to beat on the brat with a baseball bat, hit their loudmouth girlfriends who they don’t wanna walk around with but want to be their boyfriends. 53rd and 3rd ‘s tale of boys turning tricks for male clients ending in murder when DeeDee “drew a razor blade / and I did what God forbade / Now the cops are after me / But I proved that I’m no cissy” still makes you uneasy. Despite their cartoon-y image the band wore their badge of alienation and difference with pride. The album demos are interesting, particularly for ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ which sounds even more like The Cars than the finished take but like a lot of the bonus material has surfaced elsewhere before.
So for those who’ve heard of the band and bought the T shirt (or haven’t heard the band but have the T shirt, yes, channel that worthless rage at the youth, Grandad) this is a perfect one stop shop.
Of course the doubling up with mono LP and CD will annoy some but think of the arguments you can have with a pal & two turntables about which is best.
What does it all *mean*?
That punk’s not dead. And the new version is bit rougher than you are used to but it plays nice.
Goes well with…
That morning commute when you’re striding through the station feeling like you are Richard Ashcroft but looking like Richard Briers
Might suit people who like…
The fucking Ramones, pinhead! *beats you on the head with a baseball bat*