An unlikely icon: Joey Ramone’s 10 best songs of all time
Sometimes rock and roll can have a seriously debilitating effect on people. It can produce the same kind of ocular distortion as your favourite pair of beer goggles. It’s what made people fall for Rod Stewart in the sixties and it’s what made people fall in love with the lead singer of the Ramones, Joey.
As the frontman for the Ramones, Joey was thrust into the New York city limelight as he and the group forged their own boot-stamped path toward punk glory. At six foot five and as gangly as a bunch of rubber bands safety-pinned at the middle, Joey somehow cut a romantic love interest.
The reason being that Joey Ramone, whether he wanted to be or not, was the face of America’s punk movement. Britain may have been churning out punk bands at an alarming rate but for New York, there was only one band who could truly take the crown as Prince of Punk, the Ramones.
Across their time as a band, the Ramones suffered what most punk bands suffered, an inability to align their DIY ethos with their need to pay rent. While other bands compromised to for commercial success Joey Ramone and the band refused to conform, for the most part.
Below is a list of the Ramone’s greatest tracks with their iconic frontman Joey.
10 greatest Ramones song of all time:
10. ‘I Don’t Want To Grow Up’ (1995)
Taken from the band’s final album ¡Adios Amigos! ‘I Don’t Want To Grow Up’ could well be the band’s defining number, albeit a defining track written by none other than Tom Waits.
The track remains as a shining reminder of a talent that burned so brightly but sadly for far too short a time.
9. ‘Psycho Therapy’ (1983)
When the Ramones first began in the bowels of underground New York, they were the frontrunners of a brand new sound. Call it punk or call it heavy metal bubblegum, the fact remains that at the time, the Ramones were the cutting edge.
By 1983 things had certainly changed. But while the music world around them was spinning off in more make-up drenched areas, the Ramones returned to their roots and churned out this thumper.
8. ‘Poison Heart’ (1992)
As The group began to further deteriorate, Dee Dee leaving the band in the early ’90s, the Ramones looked set to either crumble or turn to stone. ‘Poison Heart’ is the sound of the band solidifying as they’re hardened by CJ Ramone’s energetic introduction.
With that impulse of energy, Joey Ramone is allowed to demonstrate his more ferocious side. It’s a trip back to the beginning of their career from very near the end of it.
7. ‘Teenage Lobotomy’ (1977)
Right in the heart of the punk battle, the Ramones released their seminal album Rocket to Russia, it’s fiery lyrics and ferocious speed made it an instant hit.
Startin off the LP’s second side was the powerful ‘Teenage Lobotomy’. Ed Stasium, who worked with the band on the album told Rolling Stone of the song: “It has every element of what’s great about them, in one song – the big drum intro and the ‘Lobotomy’ chant; the little background-harmony ooohs; the subject matter.”
6. ‘Pet Sematary’
The eighties were a crazy decade for the Ramones, ending with Dee Dee leaving the group. But before he did the acclaimed novelist and supreme Ramones fan, Stephen King, asked if the group would write a theme song for the film adaptation of his bestselling horror novel Pet Sematary.
What transpired is one of the band’s few commercial hits and added as a nice ending note to finish the hellish decade for the group.
5. ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ (1981)
Possibly one of Joey’s most personal songs, by 1981 the Ramones were running on thin ice. Their familial tendencies had long since dissolved and this song typifies the strain.
Allegedly written about Linda Ramone who dated Joey before marrying fellow bandmate, Johnny Ramone, there are even suggestions that the ‘KKK’ reference was to Johnny’s staunch right-wing beliefs. It would be a point of considerable pain for the group and cause its members to barely fraternise with each other. The trouble is, when they did, they came up with gold like this.
4. ‘Beat on the Brat’ (1976)
If you ever needed proof that the Ramones were living the punk life before anyone else then ‘Beat on the Brat’ is the only song you need. Joey wrote the track with a simple premise “I was living in Forest Hills, walking around the neighbourhood,” he said. “Annoyed by all these rich ladies with their bratty kids.”
Joey constructed himself a simple song with powerful motif and with the quick inversion of the 1968 bubblegum hit ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’ one of the band’s seminal songs was complete.
3. ‘Bonzo Goes to Bitburg’ (1985)
The highest-charting of Joey’s later work sees the Ramones’ singer again fighting with his bandmates political beliefs. On May 5th 1985, President Ronald Reagan laid a wreath at a cemetery where 49 Nazis were buried. It caused a media uproar.
“What Reagan did was fucked up,” said the Jewish Joey. “Everybody told him not to go, all his people told him not to go, and he went anyway. How can you fuckin’ forgive the Holocaust?” Joey was determined to let him have it, even if it did upset Johnny.
2. ‘Blitzkreig Bop’ (1976)
The first song of the Ramones self-titled debut album was, undoubtedly, the first powerful notes of a band determined to make an impression. The song rattles out at just over two minutes and was a firm fan favourite form the very beginning.
Played at pretty much every Ramones gig over their 22-year career, if there was one song to symbolise their undying influence it is this punk number’s infiltration of the mainstream. Who can resist “Hey, ho, let’s go!” whenever they hear it?
1. ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ (1978)
If ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ is the mainstream hit that even your grandmas would throw her fists up into the air for, then ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ was the reason the band were still the kings of the underground.
Though the track was a rather autobiographical affair (Joey suffered severe burns to his face in 1977 and was recovering when he penned the song), the way Ramone sang the lines, with sardonic disenchantment, endeared him to a mass of disengaged youths.
He was the epitome of it all; tall, awkward, gangly, ugly hair, ripped jeans, a stinking old leather jacket, and as stubborn as a mule. Joey Ramone was the archetypal punk and he will be forever sorely missed.