So let’s talk about cars and girls. Wait, no, the Dictator’s already prompted us to do so. Instead let’s talk about some great punk-rock records that often get glossed over. Sure everyone loves the classics, but classics are often boring and overrated, see Bruce Springsteen’s entire career. I love London Calling, but so do frat boys and while I’m certainly not ceding The Clash to them, I am willing to acknowledge that mainstream taste is encroaching on the elitism we all suffer from and lie to ourselves about.
Therefore, let’s investigate some liver-damaging rock and roll. On tap we have overlooked releases by Ramones, The Professionals and Johnny Thunders.
Anyone who reads NME or Uncut can fuck off right now—your taste is informed by mongoloid music journalists who are probably the worst kind of people imaginable. Alcoholics and perverts, every last one. Also, anyone who spends $10 to hear someone rant about Exile on Mainstream is an asshole and I will happily receive phone calls to do the same at $1.99 the first minute and $.50 each additional minute. My number is 1-800-GOFUCKYOURSELF…
Ramones, Animal Boy (Sire Records). This album is great. I was four when it came out in 1986 and even then I was astute enough to observe that this album was destined to be an underrated gem. First of all it contains one of my all-time favorite Ramones tunes, “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg,” a song about how lame Ronald Reagan was. I lived through the Reagan years but I was a small child and didn’t care about politics at all. Hi-C juice boxes and Ghostbuster action figures were more my scene but I trust Joey Ramone’s political views more than any current political analyst. The song builds from an opening guitar track that gets propelled into the stratosphere when the synthesizers hit. The album certainly suffers from the terrible production aesthetics of the era but all is forgiven when Joey launches into the first verse. The sing-along chorus, complete with background na-na-nas will make you pump your fist in the air and into the face of any Republicans who happen to be lurking about, though I’m sure they avoid the kind of dirtbag dive bars I assume my readership frequents.
The largely forgotten drummer Richie Ramone, second only to Clem Burke on the list of Ramones who seem to have never existed in the group’s eyes, is responsible for the fantastic “Somebody Put Something In My Drink.” We’ve all suspected that this has happened to us at one time or another and Richie lays it out for all of us with this raunchy gem. The lyrics are so stupid, they are actually genius, with lines like, “I don’t like anything colored pink / That just stinks / It’s not for me.”
Like the rest of the album, the chorus is more infectious than scabies. Also worth mentioning is that Richie is a pretty great drummer and this song highlights his bash ‘em and mash ‘em approach.
Dee Dee pitches in writing on several tunes including the amazing “Love Kills.” Despite never having met them, I hate Sid Vicious and I hate Nancy Spungen. This song is about those idiots but don’t let that stop your enjoyment. It’s simple, catchy, and features Dee Dee’s idiotic “punk” vocal style. I should hate this song because the individual elements irritate me, but much like the Ramone’s themselves, when all the elements combine in an unwashed, corroding bowl of musical spaghetti, the results shine.
“Eat that Rat” is a great stomp as is “Apeman Hop.” “Mental Hell” has a memorable riff and “Crummy Stuff” is a personal favorite of mine because I too have had enough crummy stuff, and haven’t we all?
The Professionals, I Didn’t See It Coming (Virgin). This album is in my opinion, about ten billion times better than Never Mind the Bollocks. It’s like a Sex Pistols record minus all the things you hate about the Sex Pistols, namely Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten. In all fairness, I like John Lydon and I think PiL is fantastic but after hearing this, I never want to throw Bollocks on the turntable anymore. ”Kick Down the Doors” is about as anthemic as it gets. Steve Jones’ guitars are layered to perfection and Paul Cook is so on point that Vlad Tepes would be impressed. It turns out Steve Jones is a pretty good singer as well and when given free reign, he demonstrates that his pop rock and roll sensibilities could have been put to far better use with the Pistols.
“Payola” is excellent and “Northern Slide” should have been a hit song. Fuck that, it is a hit song to me and that’s all I care about. The bass thumps along brilliantly and even the saxophones are okay despite my ruling that saxophones are only cool in rock and roll if Hanoi Rocks are involved or if it’s the Thin Lizzy song “Dancing in the Moonlight.”
Buying the CD version will grant access to the greatest song at this moment, “1-2-3.” I play this on any jukebox that gives me the option, like twelve times in a row. It’s probably my favorite punk song to play for US army members in bars. Annoying the armed forces is generally a poor idea but if this song is playing it will steel you against all attacks and grant you the strength of an anti-aircraft gun.
And don’t forget “Mods, Skins, Punks.” This song should be used to demonstrate the stupidity of the Hot Topic, choose-your-own-adventure approach to counterculture. Plus it’s got the thickest wall of sound this side of Phil Spector’s evidence locker pistol.
Johnny Thunders, Que Sera Sera (Jungle Freud). Now anyone who knows me knows I’m one of those people with an unhealthy Johnny obsession. But really is there any other kind? This album holds a special place in my heart. I spent hours and hours digging through filthy Philadelphia record shops trying to find it, to no avail. Mind you, this was pre- “NYC ‘70s punk is a great way to be a hipster dipshit,” so the vinyl market wasn’t as robust as it would later become with idiotically expensive, 9,000-gram reissues. Then on my birthday I was gifted a copy, on pink vinyl no less, from my great buddy Tyler “My Fist, Your Face” Kulp. He sacrificed it from a rare vinyl Johnny box set he had. What a stand up guy.
So enough babbling about how my friends are way better than yours, let’s talk about the album. This album was allegedly created in a relatively sober period for Johnny, but who cares? That’s like saying the surface of the sun is cooler than its core. The songs are great regardless of how fucked up Johnny was and that shouldn’t matter anyway because the alarm should only go off when a group claims to have all gotten totally clean. It’s a sure sign that they’re all fucked in the song department and that their next album will be a piece of shit. Que Sera Sera, is anything but fucked.
The opening track “Short Lives” features Patti Palladin who I would marry given the option. It’s a catchy little ditty about all your friends being dead. “M.I.A.” follows as a classic Johnny rock and roll track. It’s the same riffs and licks we’ve all come to know and love and that’s what makes it more kick ass than a Charles Bronson movie loaded with extra cool mustaches.
“Little Bit of Whore” is pretty much as awesome as you’d think it would be given the title—sleazy, yet catchy and fun. Also a great break-up and break-things song.
“Blame it on Mom,” featuring the incomparable Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks (see saxophone comments above), is a Dolls-style rocker that looks to Johnny’s past while still sounding fresh. “Endless Party” is the same: a track about a former Dolls member actually, drummer Billy Murcia. In fact I get the impression, listening to the album, that Johnny was lamenting the dissolution of the New York Dolls when he made it.
All in all, Que Sera Sera is pretty fucking awesome and sometimes I think I like it better than So Alone. It sounds more focused, where So Alone can come off kind of scattershot.
Well, there it is. Three great albums that will never make Rolling Stone’s top-100 list, thank God, but that are no less amazing for it. Living in the shadows of classic albums can be hard but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that sophomore slumps and half-assed efforts are sometimes nothing of the sort. Next time you bother to tear yourself away from technology long enough to stop blowing your iPod and go to a record store, dig through the records and pull out that copy of The Clash’s Sandanistas or Stiff Little Finger’s Now Then. It won’t earn you points with the poseur fuckwads who sit around jerking each other off to Blank Generation but take it from me, those kids all have the clap anyway.