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"Hey! Ho! Let's Go: The Anthology" is a double disc compilation album released in 1999 by New York's finest punk rock band, Ramones. The band members to feature on the songs were Joey Ramone (vocals), Johnny Ramone (guitar), Dee Dee Ramone (bass), C.J. Ramone (bass), Marky Ramone (drums), Tommy Ramone (drums) and Richie Ramone (drums).
58 songs spread out over 14 studio albums, spanning 20 years of punk rock is what you get with this definitive compilation album of the history of the Ramones. Or is it? Are there tracks missing that should have been on one of these two discs? In short, yes, but you can't really justify dropping any songs that did make it either. If I had to name one song from each studio album that isn't here, it would be in chronological order: "Loudmouth", "Commando", "We're a Happy Family", "I'm Against It", "The Return of Jackie and Judy", "Sitting in My Room", "Outsider", "Wart Hog", "Love Kills", "Weasel Face", "Learn to Listen", "Poison Heart", "Somebody to Love" and "Cretin Family". These songs could form a compilation album of their own, but whoever decided the track list of this album deemed them not needed.
The album kicks off with "Blitzkrieg Bop", which has the staple Ramones chant, 'Hey! Ho! Let's Go!" in the lyrics. The song is a good introduction to the world of punk rock music, and is about the ferocious speed of which someone would dance to the music the band plays on stage. "Blitzkrieg Bop" was certainly a live favourite and Rolling Stone magazine placed it No.92 in their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
"Beat on the Brat" is a song written by Joey about all the spoiled kids he saw when he was growing up in Queens. Johnny's three chord riffs are ever present in the track, and Joey's vocal style is a little different to some songs, but he still delivers it well. The band would pass out bats with the words 'use on a brat' on them at early gigs.
Next up is "Judy is a Punk", which is a furious punk record with a rock and roll edge to it. Joey's lyrics aren't to be taken seriously when after the first chorus he sings "Second verse, same as the first" and repeats as said before the next part which goes "Third verse, different from the first". It's a song about two girls and their escapades.
"I Wanna be Your Boyfriend" is the album's first venture into a slower, almost ballad-sounding song. It's a song about falling for a girl and wanting to be with her, and the harmony from the backing vocals makes it sound better than it is. It's not one of my personal favourites because it's too 'soppy' but it works for some.
"53rd and 3rd" is a street corner in New York City where male prostitutes attempt to make money. Some have said it's directly related to Dee Dee but I'm pretty sure it isn't, and is just about someone he met attempting to buy drugs. It's another Ramones classic which was covered by Metallica, although it sounds nowhere near as good as the original. It's the first song on which Dee Dee sings on, although it is the last verse only.
For those that know the Ramones, "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" could only have been written by one person; Dee Dee. It goes back to his childhood and his early days of drugs with glue sniffing. In a book he once said "When we wrote that song, it was like an obvious joke because nobody we know sniffs glue, 'cause that is the most uncool thing you could possibly do." It's a continuation of heavy punk with a great bass line.
"Glad to See You Go" has that all too familiar Ramones sound of three chord guitar and fast drum beat, backed by Dee Dee's ever-present bass. It's a song about the bassist's ex-girlfriend who was a heroin addict. After one argument too many she stormed out of their apartment and he allegedly shouted out of the window "I'm glad to see you go".
"Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment" is one of the best Ramones songs, ever. It has some great verses with a catchy chorus and is about a former girlfriend of Joey's who was sectioned in a mental hospital and after so many shock therapy sessions didn't even recognise who he was.
"I Remember You" is another song written by Joey about a former girlfriend. (seeing a theme here on the songs so far?) It's one of the slowest tracks on the album and could be classed as a love song. It's about how he misses her, lying awake at night wondering why things never last forever.
"California Sun" begins with what mostly always began a live Ramones show and Dee Dee counting in the '1, 2, 3, 4' to start the song. It's yet another Beach Boys influenced song and is a cover, originally recorded by the Rivieras in 1964. The Ramones give it their own personal touch and it's one of the more cheerful highlights of the compilation.
"Swallow My Pride" is a song on which we really hear Dee Dee's backing vocals. It's another classic song with more catchy lyrics, but you kind of expect that with the Ramones. Lyrically, it's about how the band's debut album didn't do as well as they expected and how they manned up and soldiered on with this one.
"Commando" is another of my personal favourite Ramones songs, with one of the catchiest choruses on any record. It was written by Dee Dee about the Vietnam War which was going when he was younger and his experiences when his dad was in the army based in Germany. It's a song the Ramones played live many times.
Of the next song, Tommy once said "Something like "Carbona Not Glue" has to be tongue-in-cheek. It's absurd, like saying that you should try something 'more' poisonous." The song is quite heavy with a classic guitar riff and a sing-a-long chorus. It caused a little controversy at the time as kids were sniffing glue because of the band, taking their songs and titles to the extreme.
"Pinhead" is perhaps in the top 10 of most recognisable Ramones songs, and a staple live song throughout the band's career. It's about acceptance in society and how some people look at you as if you've got three eyes or something. The now infamous Ramones chant of "Gabba gabba we accept you we accept you one of us" kicks the song off into pure punk rock bliss.
"Sheena is a Punk Rocker" is one of the most iconic Ramones songs of all, and one of the best they ever wrote. It's basically a song in the mould of "Judy is a Punk" in a the way that Sheena abandons her friends that are all going to disco, in order to listen to punk rock. This is another Ramones song which is reminiscent of the Beach Boys style of music.
"Cretin Hop" is an anthem amongst Ramones songs, which is a tribute to the band's fans at the time that would pogo up and down at gigs. The cretin element of it wasn't meant to be derisory towards the fans, more like that's what everybody else thinks they were. I like the guitar playing on this song with its classic three chord riff that is so simple yet so effective in the way it's played.
"Rockaway Beach" is a song about a beach in Queens, New York, bear to where all four Ramones members grew up. It was written by Dee Dee about how they would hitchhike to the beach instead of catching the bus, because the bus would play disco music. It's a great song with some neat guitar playing, and if you imagined the Beach Boys playing punk rock, this track would be something like what you would come up with.
"Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" rolls in with an acoustic guitar and Joey's wailing of "Oh oh oh, I love ya", which is specifically designed to help you feel the emotion he's experiencing when singing it, or more specifically, the heartache the narrator is going through. It's a song about being with a woman but knowing that you can't carry on with her and the chorus sounds wonderful as Joey sings his heart out.
"Teenage Lobotomy" is yet another storming Ramones song. Two minutes long, three chord guitar and classic drumming - it doesn't get much better than this. It's another follow-up to the mental health themed songs the band had been writing, and was a staple part of the majority of Ramones gigs. This is easily one of the best songs on the album and graces many a punk rock compilation album.
"Surfin' Bird" is an excellent song with a fast tempo. It was originally recorded by Trash Man, but I do prefer the Ramones version more than that, because it stays true to the original, yet it in that classic Ramones way and Joey puts so much effort into singing it. This is definitely a highlight on the album and one of my favourites.
"I Don't Care" is a simple song with simple lyrics, and is about coming out of depression, not caring for what happens next. I like the way Joey sings the lyrics, backed up with Dee Dee repeating the same words. This song is a reminder of how you can make simple music sound so good.
"I Just Want to have Something to Do" is one of the best song off the album, but I think that's just because Joey manages to get the line "eating chicken vindaloo" into the song. I do like the very catchy chorus, too, even if it is mainly just Joey singing "tonight" over and over. It's a song about hanging out with friends but having nothing to do because of poverty.
"I Wanna be Sedated" is an absolute classic of a song with a an excellent slab of punk rock that deals with the constant pressures of touring the world and how Joey in particular was burning out and needed a break. This is one of the best Ramones songs ever, no doubt about it. The video to the song has the band sat at a table while chaos resumes all around them.
"Don't Come Close" is a slower song with acoustic tones and Dee Dee's bass lines can be enjoyed to the full. The song has a surprising solo near the end, which is not heard much on many Ramones songs at all.
"She's the One" is one of the heavier songs but you also get tones of the Beach Boys dropping in on another Ramones song again, and this is definitely one of my favourites. Lyrically, it's pretty obvious what it's all about, in that the narrator has found his one true love. It's a pleasure to hear Dee Dee and Johnny in unison on the guitars here.
"Needles & Pins" is a 1963 song originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon but more famously recorded by the Searchers, Cher and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. It was written by Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzsche and the Ramones try to keep to the original sound as much as possible. The guitars aren't loud and Joey's vocals are subdued compared to other songs the band has recorded. I could definitely think of better songs to cover and I'm not sure why this one was chosen.
"Rock 'n' Roll High School" is up next and again we get some more pure punk rock, but it's in small doses as Johnny's guitars are in the background once more. In fact, so is everything else off "End of the Century" (which this album came from) come to think of it, except for backing vocals which aren't Dee Dee's - they're possibly Joey's vocals only slowed down to sound a little unlike his voice. Anyway, the song is as you've come to expect by now with some fun rock and roll guitar licks but nothing out of the ordinary goes on here.
"I Want You Around" is an acoustic song with a pop sound of the 1960s that Joey sings with style. The song didn't appear on any Ramones album until this anthology but did appear on the soundtrack to the "Rock 'n' Roll High School" film, released in 1979. Although Phil Spector didn't produce the song, he did remix it specifically for the film's soundtrack.
"Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" is a song about how good music once was and how it's all become too diverse, straying from the roots of rock and roll. The Ramones are basically saying it's up to them to change this for the better by referring to artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, T. Rex and Alan Freed. The song is a throwback to that 50s and 60s rock and roll style with an interesting saxophone sound playing over the guitar. Unfortunately, Dee Dee's bass is a little on the quiet side and, for me, it's too over-produced.
"I Can't Make it on Time" is a decent song but what was Phil Spector thinking when he put that plinky-plonky keyboard sound in the chorus? More and more layers of noise are present here which makes a good song sound like it's bad, and it really isn't a bad song. Some people like the 'Wall of Sound' effect, but with the Ramones, the drums sound like Marky's hitting a tin can and it just doesn't work.
"Chinese Rock" is a song written by Dee Dee with Richard Hell about being addicted to heroin. This is one of my all-time favourite songs - not just the Ramones, but of any band I've ever listened to. The band, at first, refused to play it, but once Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers recorded it for their debut album, "L.A.M.F.", Dee Dee knew it had to go on a Ramones album. It's one of the heaviest songs the band ever did and the chorus is insanely catchy without being too obvious about its subject nature.
"I'm Affected" is a song that's big on Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" production trait, but again, it's just too much. You can barely hear the drums over the loudness of Joey's vocals except for the reverberating sound of a small drum roll which repeats in the song. The highlight is a Johnny Ramone solo, which was largely unheard of during the band's career. It's a song about love, with the narrator saying that he's fallen for a girl and he'll do anything for her.
Danny Fields is the man in the song on "Danny Says", who was the band's manager at the time, and is about the band having to go on tour whenever he says. The narrator (or narrators in this case) are saying that they want to surf but they're stuck in the Idaho snow to play a show, then they're whisked away to Los Angeles at Christmas time when there's no snow. They're basically saying that it's a hard life on the road and they miss their families. Musically, it's a slow number which is played with a lot of passion. Luckily, Phil Spector got the sound just right on this song.
"The KKK Took My Baby Away" is one of the finest punk rock songs ever, but is a song that may not have even come around had certain events not happened. It's really about how Joey's ex-girlfriend, Linda, left him for Johnny. He's not saying Johnny is a KKK member, but he's saying that the two were so far apart politically, that he put them both together to make it sound like he's not being so obvious as to what it's about. I really like the vocal harmony on the chorus of this song, and the guitar sounds great, too.
"She's a Sensation" is a song written by Joey and is another one of the continuing Joey/Linda/Johnny saga that's was recurring on "Pleasant Dreams". The lyrics are written with a lot of heartache and sung with passion. Johnny throws in some different riffs throughout the song which shows him in a different light of versatility instead of being a three-chord wonder. The vocal harmony which ends the song is wonderful.
There's a true story attached to "It's Not My Place (in the 9 to 5 World)", in that Joey's parents would tell him to stay in school or he won't get a good 9 to 5 job, when all he wanted to do was play music. I guess he put them in their place because he made something out of his life in music. The song is a fun and boppy number that's not particularly heavy but still has some great elements to it.
"We Want the Airwaves" jumps in with a fun punk rock song that lets Johnny loose as far as creativity on guitar riffs go. It's a song about how the radio will play any old rubbish but when it comes to bands like the Ramones, the stations shy away and hide in their corners. They're basically saying that real music will die if they don't get any air time.
"Psycho Therapy" is without doubt on of the most famous Ramones song and was very popular when played live. It has a meaty riff and stonking bass line that goes along with Dee Dee and Joey's wonderfully crafted lyrics that you can't help but like. It's a song that goes back to the youth of the narrator who's an unruly child and his parents want to take him to a shrink to find out why his behaviour is so bad.
"Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)" is one of those Ramones songs you should hate but it will grow on you quicker than the green plant-like stuff grows on Jody Merrill in Stephen King's "Creepshow" (played by King himself, an avid Ramones fan). It's a catchy pop song more than anything that has great rhythm.
When "Mama's Boy" begins, you know from the opening bars that the Ramones mean business. The production is much better with Tommy Ramone back at the controls along with Ed Stasium. Richie's drumming is clear and Johnny's guitar is a bit angrier backed by Dee Dee's audible bass, and Joey's vocals sound really good, too.
I just adore the opening (and chorus) riff in "Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)", which is showing Johnny in a different light instead of labelling him a one-trick pony with three chords. Lyrically, it's about a young girl who was brought up on the right side of the tracks and she falls for someone on the wrong side who is completely the opposite.
"I'm Not Afraid of Life" is a song about various aspects of the world with the narrator saying he's scared of nothing and will rise to the challenge of anything thrown in his way. It has a strange melody to it that's a little bit like something the Doors would have recorded but still manages to keep hold of that classic Ramones sound.
"Too Tough to Die" is a song about Johnny Ramone's battle to regain fitness after brain surgery from an incident that took place in between the album it came off and "Subterranean Jungle". It's a song that punches through walls in a rocking sort of way with its heaviness and is one of my favourites off the whole album.
"Endless Vacation" is a song in which Dee Dee has taken lead vocals, and his style of singing is made to make you imagine he's in a mental institution to numb the pain he's going through. It's one of the fastest blasts of a song the Ramones have ever done and I can't help but smile when listening to it because of its ferocity.
"My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)" is one of the best Ramones songs, absolutely no question about it. As the story goes, it's about former US President Ronald Reagan's trip to Bitburg cemetery in Germany which houses the graves of many Nazi war dead, in a move that caused widespread outrage amongst Americans and Jews. Before he left the US for Germany, he infamously said that the soldiers buried there were "victims just as surely the victims in the concentration camps". Joey's singing is really good here on a song that had its name changed with Bongo Goes to Bitburg in brackets at Johnny's request, who was a staunch Reagan supporter.
"Somebody Put Something in My Drink" was written by Richie about a true story. The drummer was out partying with Joey when his drink was spiked with hallucinogenic drugs when things started to get a little hazy. The sound is a little different than normal, though, and I think that's down to the production of Beauvoir. Joey's vocals are harsher, making it sound like he's got a cold or something and guitar is tuned down a notch or two. Other than that, it's a good song and a live favourite.
"Something to Believe In" was written by Dee Dee and producer, Jean Beauvoir. The video for the song parodied things like Live Aid and the band called it Ramones Aid, with a number of musicians appearing in it like Ted Nugent, Weird Al Yankovic and Spinal Tap. The song is a slow number with a quiet guitar riff in the background and bell chimes make an appearance, too. Joey's singing is perfect on this song and it's my favourite off the whole album. It's a song that reminds me of Joey and it was the first one I played when I found out he'd died.
"I Don't Want to Live This Life (Anymore)" is a song which is based around a poem written by the Sex Pistol's Sid Vicious which goes like this:
"You were my little baby girl,
And I shared all your fears.
Such joy to hold you in my arms
and kiss away your tears.
But now you're gone, there's only pain
and nothing I can do.
And I don't want to live this life,
If I can't live for you.
To my beautiful baby girl.
Our love will never die..."
It's a poignant poem and I can't help but share Sid's remorse when he found the love of his life, Nancy Spungen, dead in their hotel room from a single stab wound. Sid insisted he didn't kill her but we'll never know the true story as he died of a heroin overdose just four months later.
"I Wanna Live" has the narrator talking about how even with his wealthy and successful life that money can't buy you everything and he's considering ending it all. The lyrics are sombre and the line "As I execute my killer" is a very clever play on words as to what he's thinking about doing. In the same context, he's also saying that he wants to live. It's a different Ramones record in that it has very little guitar, relying instead on faint strumming in the background until the chorus when Johnny lets it fly.
"Garden of Serenity" is an enjoyable song off the album which is played to a slower beat throughout but Joey's vocals are aggressive and angry-sounding in the chorus. The song is about what's inside Dee Dee's head as he tries to keep himself calm from the paranoia brought on by taking drugs. He's going to a calm place so that he doesn't do any damage in the real world.
"Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" is a song about a truce in 1914 during World War I that culminated in carol singing, food exchanges and even a game of football between opposing soldiers, proving that we're all human after all. It's not my favourite song on the anthology but it's definitely one of the most poignant ones.
"Pet Sematary" was written specifically for the Stephen King film of the same name, which was released a month before this album. It's no secret that King was a huge Ramones fan and it's not the first time he's used a heavy band in his works as he worked with AC/DC on "Maximum Overdrive", too. It's a good song but if I'm to be critical of it, I think it's too commercialised and not heavy enough. It's been overdubbed too much on the chorus and the guitars just aren't loud enough. I do like the lyrics, though, which fit the novel and film quite well.
"I Believe in Miracles" is a song written by Dee Dee about life in general. What he's saying here is no matter what he's done in life he's had a good time and he just can't believe he's still there to do it all again. That luck would run out on him in 2002 when he died of a heroin overdose. The first thing that's noticeable with the guitars is that the Ramones are heavier than any previous album. It's still classic Ramones three chord riffs but it has that extra kick to it and Joey's singing is as good on any record he ever made.
"Tomorrow She Goes Away" could really belong on the Ramones' debut album back in 1976 because of its simplicity. It's quite clearly the Ramones of the 1990s but still has that early feel and the magic the band had of being untouchable back then. The vocal harmony in the chorus is magnificent and it really is a well written song on the whole. It's a song about a relationship gone bad and the narrator's girl is moving out, so he can't wait for tomorrow.
Written by Dee Dee, "Poison Heart" is a slower song but still packs a punch. The only problem is, it's a strange song for the Ramones to play - it almost doesn't fit but yet it still does. Dee Dee is the narrator in this instance and he's saying that it's hard to trust people because he's been let down so many times in the past by various people including friends and family. I like the chorus of this song and the line "I just want to walk right out of this world" sums up Dee Dee in an instant.
"I Don't Want to Grow Up" is a cover of Tom Waits' original song which was first recorded in 1992 for his album, "Bone Machine". It's a wonderful poppy-punky song with some great lyrics and even better guitar playing. When the Ramones made their final UK "Top of the Pops" appearance, the band played this song before launching into "Makin' Monsters For My Friends", becoming one of the select few to ever play two songs on the same episode of the show.
"She Talks to Rainbows" is a song written by Joey about being in a relationship with a woman and she doesn't quite know him at all, instead preferring to talk with anything else in the world but him. I suspect she was a drug user (if it's a true story) and she was off in her own world and not reality. It's quite a sad song that is sung with a good amount of passion and you can't help but feel for him.
"R.A.M.O.N.E.S." completes the anthology in the best way possible - a tribute to the band which was originally written by Lemmy and recorded by his band, Motörhead. The lyrics are all about the band, past and present members included, and how much they rocked on record and on the stage. It's a very fitting end to the anthology from one of Joey's best friends.
In summary, this is the definitive anthology from the world's best punk rock band. If you're just getting into the Ramones and want to test the water from their catalogue, you won't go wrong buying this double CD. Who knows, it may inspire you to buy more of the band's albums. If you're already fan like me and already have the albums, here's a ready-made playlist that you can just throw in the iPod and listen away.
1. Blitzkrieg Bop
2. Beat on the Brat
3. Judy is a Punk
4. I Wanna be Your Boyfriend
5. 53rd & 3rd
6. Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
7. Glad to See You Go
8. Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment
9. I Remember You
10. California Sun
11. Swallow My Pride
13. Carbona Not Glue
15. Sheena is a Punk Rocker
16. Cretin Hop
17. Rockaway Beach
18. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
19. Teenage Lobotomy
20. Surfin' Bird
21. I Don't Care
22. I Just Want to Have Something to Do
23. I Wanna be Sedated
24. Don't Come Close
25. She's the One
26. Needles & Pins
27. Rock 'n' Roll High School
28. I Want You Around
29. Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?
30. I Can't Make it on Time
31. Chinese Rock
32. I'm Affected
33. Danny Says
1. The KKK Took My Baby Away
2. She's a Sensation
3. It's Not My Place (in the 9 to 5 World)
4. We Want the Airwaves
5. Psycho Therapy
6. Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)
7. Mama's Boy
8. Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)
9. I'm Not Afraid of Life
10. Too Tough to Die
11. Endless Vacation
12. My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)
13. Somebody Put Something in My Drink
14. Something to Believe In
15. I Don't Want to Live This Life (Anymore)
16. I Wanna Live
17. Garden of Serenity
18. Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)
19. Pet Sematary
20. I Believe in Miracles
21. Tomorrow She Goes Away
22. Poison Heart
23. I Don't Want to Grow Up
24. She Talks to Rainbows
My rating: 10/10
Ramones Anthology is a good collection of the Ramones key tracks but is not neccessarily the best way to get into the band. Usually to be found for a budget price [I saw it recently in HMV for £5!], this 57 track 2 disc anthology covers most of the bases for someone new to the band. It would also be fair to say that for the non-fan this is possibly all that you need to get.
I bought this album a few years back and found the sound initially a bit repetitive and samey. All the tracks seemed to blend into one. It was only when I started getting Ramones albums that I found I enjoyed the short burst of energy that you get from putting on one of their albums. If you've got half an hour before going out or something its like a little 'boost'. Great 'getting ready to go out' music!.
On this album the volume of tracks slightly detracts from this, in a way you weren't meant to listen to the Ramones in such vast quantities. I find this with lots of bands though, try listening to the entire two discs of The Best Of Black Sabbath and tell me there is not repetition in there, if you make it all the way to the end of disc 2 in one sitting you deserve congratulations!. The point is that pretty much ALL bands can be accused of sounding the same with alot of their music, stand up Oasis, Rolling Stones, Status Quo for example. But more important is do you like the sound the band makes?. I have said several times to people I know that Coldplay or Keane or Snow Patrol all sound the same. It won't stop them liking it though, it depends on if you like the sound to begin with.
I'm only saying this because people always use this as one of the main beating sticks for the Ramones. It's true they didn't deviate much from the core sound they had but it doesn't mean the songs are ALL the same. To my ears there are big differences between the 70s Ramones and the 80s Ramones. In the 80s the band was frustrated with the lack of commercial success they had acheived. Joey Ramone [lead singer] especially thought that the band should be as successful with the public as they were with their peers and the critics who generally loved them. John Peel was asked to name his top ten favourite albums once and he said that it was an impossibility to do that, but that the Ramones debut album would be in there.
This band tends to be a bit of a love it or hate it kind of thing. I've seen people turn off the Ramones saying that Joey sounds like a 'dying sheep!'. They do tend to polarise. I have most of the Ramones individual albums so I am a fan for sure. You can pick each of those up for about £5 a go on Amazon and I suddenly realised I had bought pretty much all their albums without even realising it!.
The buzz-saw guitar approach and 2 min long songs make up the band's first 5 albums, 'Ramones'-1976, 'Leave Home'-1977, 'Rocket To Russia'-1977, 'Road To Ruin'-1978, 'End Of The Century'-1980. They were also involved in a film and soundtrack 'Rock n Roll High School' from 1979, 2 tracks from which feature on this album. These albums make up Disc 1 of the Anthology, though if you have the money/inclination I would personally advise picking up a couple of these instead. My favourites of these are 'Rocket to Russia' and 'Road to Ruin'. I reckon the first album and 'End Of A Century' tend to get a bit overrated. The attitude seems to be 'well all the Ramones albums sound the same so you may as well get the first one'. Have a listen for yourself and find out.
Disc 2 is actually more interesting I think and plays better as a whole experience. On this disc the compilers have cherry picked from the 9 albums the band released between 1981 and 1996, when they disbanded for good. This disc contains my personal favourite Ramones song 'Bonzo Goes To Bitburg' originally from the 'Animal Boy' album in 1986. A great political song, critical of Reagan's overall insensitivity as a president:
"There's one thing that makes me sick is when someone tries to hide behind politics, I wish their time would go by fast, somehow they manage to make it last."
relevant today definitely!. The band was a strange mix of staunch Republican [Johnny Ramone] and hippy Democrat [Joey Ramone] and this friction led to some great songs but also was the eventual undoing of the band with Joey and Johnny not on speaking terms by the end as Johnny was accused of 'stealing' Joey's girlfriend which supposedly inspired the wonderfully titled 'The KKK took my baby away', included here.
Other notable great tracks on Disc 2 include 'Pet Semetary' from the Stephen King film and 'Poison Heart' which is just a brilliant single. So Disc 2 is more the cherry picked highlights from some patchy albums rather than a grouping of songs which work better in their original format, which Disc 1 is. In this way I see Disc 1 as a sort of 'taster' for the first 5 albums and Disc 2 as the proper 'best of' saving the consumer having to trawl through the later albums.
Ultimately it is important to seperate Ramones the 'brand' from Ramones the 'band'. Everyone from skinny indie kids to David Tennant as Dr Who has borrowed something from the Ramones style, be it the skinny jeans and leathers or the Converse shoes. And how many Ramones shirts are out there!?, I admit I own one but I'm a fan of the band. Ask probably 80% of the people who own a Ramones shirt their favourite album by the band and they'll probably quote this anthology or nothing!. This leads to an incorrect assumption that the Ramones are 'overrated'. Maybe they are critically, but not commerically. I think the only Ramones album to go Gold certified was the 'Ramones Mania' compilation. When you consider that in the US Gold is 500,000 copies and bands like AC/DC have sold about 15 million copies of just one of their albums 'Back In Black', its not really that much.
I would advise getting the aforementioned 'Ramones Mania' compilation or diving straight in and getting one of the first 5 Ramones albums. Having said that, Disc 2 is a neat compilation and it is certainly good 'value' for money so if you find it for under a fiver on Amazon then go for it. Enjoy!
Often cited as the first ever punk band, spearheading the New York music scene of the mid-to-late 1970s, having a career spanning decades and being the name on the backpacks/belts/t-shirts/clocks/trainers of thousands of rebellious youths who shop in HMV and Virgin the World over, it should come as no surprise that there are no shortage of compilations of The Ramones musical output on offer. Spanning 2-Discs and 58 tracks, Hey Ho Lets Go! The Anthology looks incredibly appealing to the music fan who doesnt want to go trawling through the bands entire discography to find their best work, because surely, especially at the £10 the compilation can often be found for, thats just far too good a deal to pass up right?
Well, yes and no, but more on that in a minute. First of all I should maybe talk about the band a bit first. While there have been many incarnations and member swaps, the iconic Ramones will always be singer Joey, guitarist Johnny, bassist Dee Dee and drummer Tommy, all adopted the Ramone surname as part of their stage persona, and it is safe to say they have, since their debut record in 1976, proven one of the most inspirational bands ever to take to the stage.
For those whove never heard a Ramones song, and Id wager youd be in a minority, the band were pioneers of what is now accepted as the punk song. 4-Chords, rapid speed, wacky lyrics, rebellious attitude, all blended with pop sensibilities. Kind of like Blink 182 or Green Day, just not terrible. Not only did the band, most prominently main songwriter Dee Dee, pioneer this form of music, they also created some of the most infectiously brilliant examples of it. Its not hard to see why the bands appeal is so widespread, as they are basically the step inbetween the nihilistic, riotous attitude of the Sex Pistols and the ridiculously catchy harmonies of The Beatles.
The bands biggest problem, however, is that they rarely diversified from this sound. This leads to it, especially when faced with 58 tracks of it, becoming incredibly monotonous and even tedious. There can be no denying that the bands biggest hits, songs like opening brace Blitzkreig Bop and Beat On The Brat, t-shirt favourites I Wanna Be Sedated and Sheena Is A Punk Rocker and Beach Boys-flavoured California Sun are absolutely fantastic 3-minute assaults on the ears guaranteed to get even the stuffiest of music fans pogoing, but the problem is that maintaining such a high standard for 58 tracks is a tall order, and its one The Ramones, on evidence of this collection, just arent upto. For every Sheena theres a droning mess like Judy Is A Punk, every Sedated 4 Gimme Gimme Shock Treatments and more. Its amazing how little there actually is that can be said about The Anthology considering its size.
I mean theres very little thats actually outright bad, possibly the worst offender would be I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend, but its so outrageously corny in its attempt at balladry that you cant help but actually come around to it, its just that there is only so much pop-punk one can endure before you start to want something more, especially when it becomes clear The Ramones werent even particularly consistent at crafting great songs. This could probably have been whittled down to about 15 songs easily and had a more positive impact, bizarrely, the compilation also managed to omit the bands cover of the old Spiderman theme tune, which is glaring in its absence once you get to the latter half of the 2nd disc, when the songs really do all begin to blend into one repetitive tune.
There are 2 versions of The Anthology on the market, one with a cardboard sleeve that includes an informative, if possibly misleading little booklet (it says that upon the bands first foray into the UK, they bumped into a pre-gigging incarnation of The Clash and told them to start gigging, no matter how good they were, yet I could swear they were actually already a few shows into their career by the time The Ramones crossed the Atlantic) and one that simply includes the 2 discs in a Jewel case. Obviously the sleeved one would be the preferable choice.
Speaking of The Clash actually, one cant help but think of their comparable On Broadway 3 Disc collection, and how it worked so much better due to not only the diversity of the material contained within, but also benefited from unreleased material, making it of interest for not only band devotees, but also a solid collection for the casual fan. Its hard to tell whom Hey Ho Lets Go would be aimed at, as Id assume Ramones die-hards actually own all their records, and this really is overkill for the casual listener.
It seems quite silly, a review this short, for a compilation this big, yet there really isnt much more I can say about this collection. It serves as nothing but overkill, and sadly the sheer amount of completely generic pop-punk material actually served to do nothing but detract from my opinion of the band. While theres no denying The KKK Took My Baby Away and Teenage Lobotomy are masterful examples of merging spiky guitars with catchy hooks, but there are far more misses than there are hits in the bands catalogue, and one really would be advised to seek out a more concise compilation of the bands work - Hey Ho Lets Go! The Anthology is a bit like asking for sugar in your tea and having the entire contents of a full bowl emptied into your cup.