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"It's Alive" is a live album by American punk rock band, Ramones. It was released in 1979 on Sire Records and produced by Tommy Ramone. The line-up for the album was Joey Ramone (vocals), Johnny Ramone (guitar), Dee Dee Ramone (bass) and Tommy Ramone (drums).
The Rainbow Theatre, London, New Year's Eve, 1977. This is the venue where the Ramones made punk rock history and cemented their place as one of the best bands of the genre with an energetic performance as they stormed through 28 songs on what was the band's first live album. Is it any good? With staple Ramones songs from their first three albums, it's better than good!
"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.
"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 was easily one of the best songs in any Ramones set list and graces many a punk rock compilation album.
"Blitzkrieg Bop" 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 which goes down well here and Rolling Stone magazine placed it No.92 in their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
"I Wanna be Well" is a song written by Joey about the various problems he was having in his life. He was compulsive to the point of paranoia, in that he thought he was always sick. The lyrics may not be all that great, but it's played to a pretty good riff and is backed by the timely beat of the rhythm section of Dee Dee and Tommy.
"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.
When "You're Gonna Kill That Girl" begins, you'd think it was Buddy Holly or someone like that, until Dee Dee chimes in the '1, 2, 3, 4' and you then know it's the Ramones. It's loosely based on Dee Dee's relationship with his former girlfriend, Connie, and was written by Joey. He's basically saying that if he'd stayed with her, Dee Dee would likely have killed her.
"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.
"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.
"Havana Affair" is one of my favourite Ramones tracks of all time. It's a song about the CIA spying on communist Cuba in and around the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion. The lyrics are pretty much a tongue-in-cheek laugh at the expense of the American government's radical proposals for Cuba, and the time changes in the song are ground-breaking for the time.
"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.
"Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" rolls in with a slow 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.
"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.
"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.
"Listen to My Heart" is a song by Dee Dee about breaking up with a girl with simple lyrics. Not to say they're stupid lyrics, but it's a true representation of how easy the bassist wrote things. It's another of those classic three chord wonders with an almost slow tempo, but it has its punchy moments, too. It's sung in that style only Joey Ramone could and is one of the highlights of any Ramones live show.
"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.
"I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You" is another one of those simplistic Ramones songs. Except for the title line, there is only one more; "So why you wanna walk around with me?" - and that's it. It's so easy, it's so Ramones, and it has a great pop-punk song with a hidden meaning, in that it's about Dee Dee's former girlfriend who wouldn't leave him alone.
"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.
"Do You Wanna Dance?" is a cover song, first recorded by Bobby Freeman back in 1958, but has also been recorded by the likes of the Beach Boys, Eddie Cochran and Cliff Richard. It's a song originally recorded to dance the twist to and has been altered for that classic Ramones song. The kids at the concerts were likely not performing the twist when the band played this live!
"Chain Saw" is one of the better up-beat songs on the album with some great vocals and even better lyrics. It's a song about Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic horror film, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", and how Joey's infatuation with one of the female stars led to a horror in itself as she was killed off in one scene.
We come to one of the best live Ramones songs now, and we're counted in with the legendary "1, 2, 3, 4" intro, which was uttered many times in many Ramones concerts. "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World" has an incredibly catchy chorus and one of the best endings to any song I've ever heard. You can feel the band is tight on this song and the passion they had for playing music is evident.
"Now I Wanna be a Good Boy" is a song written by Dee Dee on how he regretted running away from home when he was younger. For Ramones fans it's probably a good thing he did or we'd probably have never heard of him. According to Dee Dee himself, this was a filler track for the album "Leave Home" but it still holds its own with some great interaction between Johnny on guitar and Tommy on drums.
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.
"Suzy is a Headbanger" is basically a song about a girl who loves punk music, much to the disapproval of her mother. It was never played a lot live, but it's one of the best Ramones songs that didn't quite make the set list often, and I'm glad it made it on this album. It's a more rock and roll song than anything, and very enjoyable to listen to.
"Let's Dance" is a cover song, first recorded by Chris Montez in 1962. The Ramones do a credible job of re-imagining it and giving it that punk rock factor, although they keep in the synthesizer sound on it. It's a song about the various dance crazes that happened in the 1960s.
"Oh Oh, I Love Her So" is a punk-infused song which sounds a little like the Beach Boys could be playing it. The lyrics are so simple yet so enjoyable at the same time, with Joey once again writing about a girl he fell in love with and the things they'd get up to, like going to Coney Island to ride the coasters.
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.
"We're a Happy Family" is one of my favourite Ramones songs, and is probably the best on the album for me. It's about the all-American family and the typical life they live. The song has a great riff and is kept in time wonderfully by Tommy's drumming.
In summary, there's nothing to not like about this live release. The Rainbow was an incredible venue (it is now a Pentecostal church) and the fans present at the concert got a treat of unparalleled proportions. The 'punk' bands of today could learn a lot from the Ramones, a band I consider to be the world's first pure punk rock band. I have this on DVD also and love watching it now and then, purely for the energy the band gives out on-stage. This is one live album that you can't afford to not buy. It really is that good.
1. Rockaway Beach
2. Teenage Lobotomy
3. Blitzkrieg Bop
4. I Wanna be Well
5. Glad to See You Go
6. Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment
7. You're Gonna Kill That Girl
8. I Don't Care
9. Sheena is a Punk Rocker
10. Havana Affair
12. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
13. Surfin' Bird
14. Cretin Hop
15. Listen to My Heart
16. California Sun
17. I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You
19. Do You Wanna Dance?
20. Chain Saw
21. Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World
22. Now I Wanna be a Good Boy
23. Judy is a Punk
24. Suzy is a Headbanger
25. Let's Dance
26. Oh Oh I Love Her So
27. Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
28. We're a Happy Family
My rating: 9/10