The Ramones: the world’s first punk band. The leather-clad, take no prisoners leaders of the underground New York scene. The Nazi referencing, glue-sniffing, hard-hitting rockers who went scorched earth on the makeup-wearing, spandex-clad glam rockers of the prior era. The antithesis of pop music.
This might be the common image of the legendary Queens punk band, but that’s far from the reality. Joey was a huge fan of pop music, especially the Phil Spector-produced girl groups of the early 1960s, and before joining The Ramones, he was the singer in a glam outfit of his own, Sniper. Johnny and Dee Dee appreciated the wild theatricality of the New York Dolls, while also taking inspiration from the manic energy of harder-edged bands like The Stooges.
This is all to say that there was never anything precious about what could or couldn’t influence a Ramones song, especially in the band’s early days. Dee Dee favoured gritty street realities like drug use and male prostitution, but even he would take more emotional approaches on songs like ‘Listen to My Heart’. But it was Tommy who had the greatest appreciation of pop music, proven by contributing the single true-blue love song of the band’s first album, ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’.
When Tommy sat down to compose what would become the band’s signature song, ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, his initial starting point was that he wanted a song with a chant at the beginning. Where did he get this idea from? Scottish pop-rock band the Bay City Rollers and their then number one hit, ‘Saturday Night’.
“There was a big hit by the Bay City Rollers at the time called Saturday Night, which was a chant-type song,” Tommy Ramone explained just before his death in 2014. “So I thought it would be fun to do for the Ramones too. And somehow I came up with ‘Hey! Ho! Let’s go!’ I just liked the term because it made fun of Mick Jagger singing the Stones’ version of ‘Walking The Dog’, where he goes ‘High low, tippy toe’. We all used to goof on that and sing ‘hey ho!’ instead.”
It just goes to show that having a diverse palate and an open mind can often lead to success. Try to pick out the similarities in the two songs down below.