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Rocket to Russia

8 Ratings: 2.1
Alternative Rock album by Ramones
1 review about Rocket to Russia

The Ramones Rocket to Perfection

  • Apr 9, 2009
  • by
ROCKET TO RUSSIA was released in mid-1977, at the height of the fury that was known as Punk Rock. Sire Records was gearing up for some serious sales and betting a lot on the Ramones, the New York City misfits whose 1976 debut garnered much acclaim but little popular acceptance. It's no wonder, then, that the album has the band's cleanest, leanest, most accessible sound, refined to defiant, power-chorded perfection. It contains many of their classics, and every song is a finely crafted pop-rock gem.

How can any rock lover resist the obvious, sugary-yet-substantial charms of "Rockaway Beach," "Do You Wanna Dance," "Cretin Hop," "Locket Love"? (Well, apparently lots of "rock lovers" did just that, too busy buying up all that Kiss and Debby Boone and Fleetwood Mac in 1977). There's the nihilist's anthem "I Don't Care," a punk dirge in which Joey declares "I don't care about this world/And I don't care about these words." "Ramona" is a bittersweet confection with a lovely melody. Here's a bit of poetry from "We're a Happy Family":

"Sitting here in Queens/ Eating refried beans/ We're in all the magazines/ Gulping down Thorazines/ I'm friends with the president/ I'm friends with the pope/ We're al making a fortune/ Selling daddy's dope"

And then there's the song that I consider to be about the most perfect pop song ever written, "Sheena is a Punk Rocker." An ode to free spirits everywhere, to New York City, and to the power of identity that the best rock'n'roll provides, "Sheena" is everything that makes the Ramones great in 2 minutes and 47 seconds:

"Well, the kids are all hopped up and ready to go/ They got their surfboards and they're heading/ to the Discotheque a Go-Go/ But she just couldn't stay/ She had to break away/ Well New York City really has it all Oh yea-ah, oh yeah!"

Second verse, same as the first. A put-the-top-down, fist-in-the-air, sing-along radio-friendly classic if ever there was one. However, when it was released as a single, radio stations took one look at the phrase "punk rocker" and recoiled in fear. Really. It's funny to think today that that phrase once struck horror into the stoutest of record company hearts, but it's true. Ah well, surely the less-threatening sounding "Rockaway Beach," with its Beach Boys-go-garage vibe and unforgettable chorus ("Rock-rock, Rockaway Beach/It's not hard, not far to reach/ We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach") would leap to the top of the charts and ensconce the Ramones in the nation's warm bosom.

Except that this sunny, funny, delightful little ditty was released in the dead of winter. And it died. And that was it. The Ramones stopped cold. Despite relentless touring, the spectacle of Punk Rock was a dangerous one once the Sex Pistols made headlines, and any band associated with it was thrown out with the bathwater. Plus, audiences outside of New York City's Lower East Side just couldn't get with four geeky-looking guys in motorcycle jackets, Captain America T-shirts two sizes too small and ripped-up blue jeans--not when there was John Travolta looking so suave and so dapper in his disco get-up!

The remastered version of this classic is beyond reproach--a booklet filled with photos I hadn't seen before and commentary by the illustrious Legs McNeil ("I mean, have you ever been to Rockaway Beach?" he writes. "The place is a sewer!"). Plus full lyrics, original record sleeve cartoons by John Holmstrom, and a nice little P.S. from Arturo Vega. The bonus songs are top-notch: the masterful "Slug" (this is a demo?!) and a slightly different version of "It's a Long Way Back to Germany" than the one on Road to Ruin. These are easily some of the finest re-issues on the market today.

So I say, screw disco and rock'n'roll forever! 1-2-3-4! Now the first four Ramones albums have been beautifully remastered, there's no reason for any home to be without 'em!
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