MEMOS FROM A MUSIC FIEND
BY ALEJANDRO MAGAÑA
The Ramones: S/T
Sire Records, 1976
To hell with it! Who’m I trying to impress?! I just wrote about The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper,” so why not keep it simple and obvious: tectonic movers only for now! That’s right, I’m putting these New Yawk mooks on a tier reserved for only the most impactful game-changing slabs of wax! Ya don’t like it, go squawk to the fuzz or cry to yer mommy cuz I ain’t here to argue: The Ramones changed rock and roll forever.
Sure there’s a bunch of bands that came before them, whose precious 45s were handled by Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy like pearls straight from the clam, like pirate booty, as though they could crack the code to a perfect pop song by listening to these jewels, all the early garage stuff, the kinda things Lenny Kaye would compile as the quintessential “Nuggets” collection, even the anointed ones, The Beatles and Beach Boys, it’s all grist for the Ramones mill.
This record took a week to record and cost only $6,400 to make; three days of tracking the instruments and four days of vocal tracking where they doubled them, making Joey sing each song twice trying to get them to match as close as possible. Enamored of The Beatles, they even recorded like ‘the mop tops,’ “the recording process was a deliberate exaggeration of the techniques used by The Beatles” essentially mixing everything down to just four tracks, with guitar and bass heard separately on the left and right channels, and drums and vocals mixed in the middle of the stereo mix.
The results are songs that are now such a part of the rock and roll tapestry, in some future U.S. they’ll be sung the way generations before mine recited Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes or the way we used to sing “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes…” but in this case it’ll be creepy to hear whole classrooms sing “Beat on the Brat” and chanting the “Hey Ho Let’s Go!” of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Somehow ably combining classic ‘50s drive-in and sock-hop melodies with heavy slicing riffs and Joey’s inimitable voice, they make lyrics like “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” sound like profound working-class prose.