There’s no mistaking a Ramones song. The funny thing is, throughout their career, the band paid tribute to their roots and influences by peppering their albums with versions of their favourites by other artists, making them sound like Ramones songs too. To see what I mean, try listening to this CD without lurching into ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, ‘Carbona Not Glue’ or ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’.
Sequenced in the order in which the Ramones cut the songs, this collection kicks off with Chris Montez’s original of ‘Let’s Dance’, which the band revived on their debut album “Ramones” in 1976.
In some instances, rather than be pedantic about original versions, some songs are included in the renditions first heard by the Ramones. Hence ‘California Sun’, featured on their second album “Leave Home”, is heard here by the Rivieras (not Joe Jones); ‘Surfin’ Bird’ and ‘Do You Wanna Dance’, from 1977’s “Rocket To Russia”, are by the Trashmen and the Beach Boys (as opposed to the Rivingtons and Bobby Freeman); and ‘Needles And Pins”, from their fourth LP “Road To Ruin”, is by the Searchers (rather than Jackie DeShannon).
In 1978 the guys teamed up with the Paley Brothers for an update of Ritchie Valens’ ‘Come On, Let’s Go’, a childhood favourite of Joey Ramone; the band’s 1980 album “End Of The Century”, produced by Joey’s hero Phil Spector, contained a revival the Ronettes’ ‘Baby I Love You’; and in 1982 Joey got together with Holly (of Holly & the Italians) to cut a version of Sonny & Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’.
‘Little Bit O’ Soul’, here by the Music Explosion, and ‘Time Has Come Today’ by the Chambers Brothers were both revamped by the band on 1983’s “Subterranean Jungle”. The sessions also yielded a version of the 1910 Fruitgum Co’s ‘Indian Giver’, which sneaked out on the B-side of a 12-inch single in 1987.
In 1993 the Ramones released “Acid Eaters”, an entire album of cover versions, represented on this CD by Jan & Dean’s ‘Surf City’, the Troggs’ ‘I Can’t Control Myself’, the Byrds’ ‘My Back Pages’, the Seeds’ ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’, Max Frost & the Troopers’ ‘Shape Of Things To Come’, the Amboy Dukes’ ‘Journey To The Center Of The Mind’, Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody To Love’ and Love’s ‘7 And 7 Is’. TheJapanandBrazileditions of the album also contained the band’s version of the Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin’ Safari’.
“Adios Amigos”, the Ramones’ farewell album of 1995, included their version of Tom Waits’ ‘I Don’t Wanna Grow Up’. Waits repaid the compliment by contributing a cover of the band’s ‘The Return Of Jackie And Judy’ for the Ramones tribute album “We’re A Happy Family”. It’s not every day that one band records a tribute to another, but Motorhead did just that with ‘R.A.M.O.N.E.S.’ on their 1991 album “1916”. In return, the Ramones’ own version of the song was included on theJapanedition of “Adios Amigos”.
The set concludes with the Stooges’ ‘1969’ and, poignantly, Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’, as covered on Joey’s solo album “Don’t Worry About Me”, released in 2002, by which time he, Johnny and Dee Dee were dead. The Ramones were no more. See, poignant.
By Mick Patrick