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"Rocket to Russia" is the 3rd studio album by American punk rock band, Ramones. It was released in 1977 on Sire Records and was produced by Tommy Ramone & Tony Bongiovi. The line-up for the album was Joey Ramone (vocals), Johnny Ramone (guitar), Dee Dee Ramone (bass) and Tommy Ramone (drums).
This was the last Ramones album to feature Tommy on drums after he decided to concentrate on producing records, and his place on the drum stool would be taken by Marky Ramone. "Rocket to Russia" peaked at No.49 in the US album charts and spawned two singles, "Rockaway Beach", which reached No.66 on the Billboard Hot 100, and "Do You Wanna Dance?" which got to No.86.
"Cretin Hop" kicks off the album and it 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.
"Locket Love" is another song which has the classic Ramones three chords in and around two minutes. It's a lot like a 1960s pop song but with a punk sound to it. The song is about being with that special someone but knowing the relationship is over. The narrator is trying to tell himself to give it another go but deep down he knows it's over.
"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.
"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. The song fades out to a frantic household going about their daily duties, people having breakfast, waking up, looking for socks, etc.
"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.
"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!
"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.
"I Can't Give You Anything" is a song written by Dee Dee, which has that 1960s pop music feel to it. In fact, a lot of the Ramones songs do that, but they're usually not Dee Dee's work. It's another simple song but is very effective in its delivery, and I like the honesty in the lyrics. The narrator is basically saying that he has nothing but if she can live with that, he's all hers.
"Ramona" was written by the entire band and is a love song of sorts. Legend has it that it was originally supposed to be called "Rocket to Russia" and had completely different lyrics, but the band changed it and that's how the album got its title. I'm not entirely sure what the song is all about but I would imagine it's got something to do with a groupie who used to hang around.
"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.
"Why is it Always This Way" brings the album to a close with the music sounding a lot like the Monkees. The guitars are what you'd expect from the Ramones, but I do get that 60s pop vibe going on with it, too. It's a song about how someone went down the wrong track in life and died as a result of it.
In summary, the Ramones wrote many bad songs but make them sound good. They also wrote some excellent songs and made them sound even better. What you get with "Rocket to Russia" is a mixture of that, and you have some of the best songs the band ever wrote with a lot of them becoming permanent fixtures of the band's concerts. Go out and buy this album, you won't regret it for one second.
1. Cretin Hop
2. Rockaway Beach
3. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
4. Locket Love
5. I Don't Care
6. Sheena is a Punk Rocker
7. We're a Happy Family
8. Teenage Lobotomy
9. Do You Wanna Dance?
10. I Wanna be Well
11. I Can't Give You Anything
13. Surfin' Bird
14. Why is it Always This Way?
My rating: 8/10