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Friday, 31 July 2009

A New Appreciation for The Ramones Part 8

I said last time that I would mention a little something about the live recordings of The Ramones and I will do so briefly before finishing up.

There are seven "official" Live releases by the band (though one of them, 'You Don't Come Close' was not released on any of the labels that the band were home to): 'It's Alive' (1979), 'Loco Live' (1992), 'Greatest Hits Live' (1996), 'You Don't Come Close' (2001), 'Loud Fast Ramones: Their Toughest Hits' (2002) and NYC 78 (2003).

The best of them all is 'It's Alive' recorded at The Rainbow Theatre on 31st December 1977. It contains 28 tracks that span their first three releases and clocks in at 54 minutes and 49 seconds. It is considered to be one of the best live albums in music history.

As a young lad of 14 I was at this show and from what I can recall the front row seats at The Rainbow got trashed (that also happened when The Clash headlined there on the 'White Riot Tour' earlier in the year) but it was not a violent show, people needed room to dance and the seats were in the way!

Besides being recorded it was also filmed and the footage finally saw the light of day on the 'It's Alive 1974-1996' DVD package that was release in 2007 (a must for any fan of The Ramones. It contains 118 tracks from 33 performances in eight countries but only fourteen of the original setlist from The Rainbow show - I wonder what happened to the rest of them?).

The Rainbow Part One

The Rainbow Part Two

The Rainbow Part Three

I watched this afresh today and was totally blown away by it.

It would be many years before another live album appeared and when it did we kind of wished it didn't. It's not that 'Loco Live' is a bad set of songs, because it is a fantastic set list. It was the first release that CJ played on and he hates the album. He thinks that it is the worst thing he has ever played on! The show was recorded in Barcelona in March 1991 but it is mixed badly. The drums stand out too much and you could almost think that it was a very poor bootleg!

'Greatest Hits Live' was a lot better and it contained two songs that up to that point had never been on any studio releases (Lemmy's tribute to the band, 'R.A.M.O.N.E.S.' and 'Any Way You Want It' orignally recorded by The Dave Clark Five both with CJ on vocals).

'We're Outta Here' is a record of the final show by The Ramones that took place at The Palace in LA on 6th August 1996 - the album was released in November 1997. Again it's a pretty good set but personally I thought that the inclusion of all the different guests was not called for. It was show 2,263 of the band's career and the final time they would play together. Yes it was good that Dee Dee got a shot to play one more time with the band who gave him his identity and maybe it was a nice touch having Lemmy come out and sing his tribute to the band. But I could never understand why the guys from Rancid, Soundgarden and Eddie Vedder were part of the show. And I was even more puzzled that the final ever song The Ramones would play live would be the Dave Clark Five cover and not one of their own!

I have to admit I probably played the album once or twice and that's it. I always go back to 'It's Alive'. That record gives a proper account of what they were like live more than any of the other releases.

'You Don't Come Close' was recorded in 11th September 1978 in Bremen but wasn't released until 2001. Don't really know much about it. My guess is that it was originally a bootleg.

'Loud, Fast Ramones: Their Toughest Hits' was compiled by Johnny. The first 50,000 copies included an 8 track disc recorded at The Lyceum Ballroom, London on 25th February 1985 - the only official live release to have Richie on drums.

NYC 78 was recorded a week after The Rainbow show for the King Biscuit Flower Hour Radio Show. The set list is pretty similar to 'It's Alive'. The thing that stands out about this release is that it was the final recording with Tommy on the drums.

There have been loads of Ramones compilations over the years, about 12 I think. 'Ramones Mania' is superb as is 'The Anthology' and 'Weird Tales of The Ramones' (a 3CD, DVD and Comic Box Set) is worth a look at. Johnny compiled the set and it was released in 2005 - there's nothing new on it though the DVD does have a version of 'Substitute' that was banned by MTV as well as the documentary 'Lifestyles of The Ramones'.

On the subject of DVD releases there's a few worth checking out. I already mentioned 'It's Alive 1974-1996'(2007), 'End of the Century' (2003) is pretty good, as is 'Ramones Raw' (2004) and lastly 'Too Tough To Die: A Tribute to Johnny Ramone' (2006).

The 'Rock 'n' Roll High School' movie (1979) is worth a watch but it is very tacky and you can pick it up very cheaply these days.

So there you go. That's The Ramones. They have influenced so many down through the years and you can hear it on a thousand and one songs today. Dave Fricke from Rolling Stone magazine once said this about them and it is a great note to end this look back at their music on:

"The Ramones represent the truth of the fact that you are never too old to rock 'n' roll as long as you believe in what you are doing, and you can do it with purity and conviction. The age of your band is irrelevant. Rock 'n' roll is not for the young. It's for people who refuse to not give a s***.
They started by celebrating the most absurd aspects of teenage life. Sniffing glue, chasing girls around Queens, going to the beach. They took all that stuff and showed how timeless the basic content and emotions in those songs were - and yet to do it with such a joy and do it with such force, it's such exultation. Who hasn't wanted to beat on some guy with a bat because they're a pain in the ass?" (as told to Everett True in his book 'Hey Ho Let's Go: The Story of The Ramones' (Omnibus Press 2002)

Thursday, 30 July 2009

A New Appreciation for The Ramones Part 7

The fourteenth and final studio album for The Ramones was released in 1995 and titled 'Adios Amigos'. It was a sad time because Joey had been diagnosed with incurable lymphatic cancer, though few knew about it because as in all things in Ramones World it was kept a secret. Johnny had declared that if the album didn't sell enough copies then the band would break up, and in typical fashion the album failed to get out of the lower reaches of the Billboard Top 200 albums (peaking at 148).

'Adios Amigos' sounds a lot better than the previous releases because at the helm of production was Daniel Rey (he had co-written songs on previous albums with most members of the band). Under his watchful eye the band were able to recapture a little of the magic that made their earlier albums so special.

Five of the tracks are co-written by Dee Dee and Daniel Rey (with a sixth credited to Dee Dee & John Carco). Joey contributed two songs, the brilliant 'Life's a Gas' and the even more amazing 'She Talks to Rainbows'. CJ had two songs and Marky had co-written one for the final project.

According to The Ramones Wiki page the reason CJ got to sing on five (if you include the bonus track 'R.A.M.O.N.E.S.') was:
"In a reverse decision, many tracks on this album are performed at a slower pace because of Joey's maturing, ailing vocals, a factor the band had acknowledged in previous years. In preceding tours the band had originally played faster with negative reviews of the shows being the result."

But maybe the real reason was that Joey was sick and it was far too much of a strain for him to be able to do a whole albums worth of material.

The album opens with a classic cover version, 'I Don't Want To Grow Up'. It's a song that sets the tone for the rest of the album as they get back to singing perfect pop songs about dysfunction, love and broken hearts.

There's a great live performance on the Letterman show on 9th February 1996 of the song:

The Promo video for it was a throwback to the old days - Cartoon background and the band in real time. It is quality stuff:

Dee Dee's songs were interesting. Three of them he had released before ('Makin' Monsters for My Friends' & 'It's Not For Me to Know' had appeared on his 'I Hate Freaks Like You' album and 'The Crusher' was taken from his rap project as Dee Dee King) and each one of them sounded like old school Ramones, none more so than 'Cretin Family'. CJ on vocals for all of these sounded more like Dee Dee than Dee Dee did! Shame that his two songs ('Scattergun' and 'Got A Lot To Say'') didn't really make their mark, the same goes for Marky's 'Have A Nice Day'.

The other cover on the album is 'I Love You', originally recorded by Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers for their debut 'L.A.M.F' back in 1977. It doesn't quite have the sleaziness of The Heartbreakers version but it is passable.

The Original live at Portsmouth Polytechnic 23rd June 1977:

The Cover:

It's Joey's songs that are the real standout though. 'Life's A Gas' is like a throwback to the 70's sound of Slade and T-Rex and just perfect for the band. 'She Talks to Rainbows' is possibly one of the finest he ever wrote.

Joey would later release the song alongside Ronnie Spector. I hunted around for their version but came up with zip. There is a version of 'Bye Bye Baby' which I thought was pretty cool.

The remaining part of 1995 and into 1996 was spent on the road doing farewell shows culminating in Los Angeles on August 6th with a final show that would eventually be released on CD and DVD called 'We're Outta Here'. In my next blog I'll briefly look at the live albums and comment further upon this final performance.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A New Appreciation for The Ramones Part 6

Everett True has written a book about The Ramones entitled 'Hey Ho Let's Go - The Story of The Ramones' (Omnibus Press 2002) and whilst it is a pretty good read there are times in the book that I wish he would just shut up! In my previous post I ended by reflecting on the 'Mondo Bizzaro' album and confessed that I actually like the album. So I was a bit puzzled when I re-read Mr True's account of the album (Chapter 32 in the book). He is incredibly dismissive of the album and even at times the band.

He quotes Johnny's take on the recording of The Doors 'Take It As It Comes': I was in a clothes store one day and I heard the song come on a tape and thought it sounded like a good song for The Ramones. Usually, I don't like the way we do covers, but this one came out good." Everett True in the paragraph before this quote basically says it was a "pointless Doors cover".

Speaking of 'Cabbies on Crack', he says that "The Ramones were out of touch with their fans." Turning over the page he says of 'The Job That Ate My Brain' and 'Anxiety' that they "sound suspiciously like outtakes from the third Buzzcocks album...another sign of the band's artistic sterility that one could place the steals: before, it was all part of The Ramones sound."

I would not for a moment suggest that the mentioned songs deserve a place up there alongside Ramones classics like 'Sheena', 'Blitzkrieg' and 'Rockaway Beach' but Mr True is being overly harsh about those songs and that particular album. He's even worse when he moves on to the subject of the 13th studio release, 'Acid Eaters'.

True called the album "expensive karaoke", that was harsh! But then again it was not the best album they had released but it was a little different because every song on it was a cover version. True's assertion was that all the artists and bands that were covered had their music "desecrated by a band that were once the finest in the world...It was unfortunate that at a stage in their careers when The Ramones were finally achieving the recognition they deserved, they'd turned into a watered-down version of themselves."

'Acid Eaters' was originally scheduled to be an EP but their record label (Radioactive) had other ideas. Any fault with the sound quality on the album should go to the producer and the label and not the band (the producer was Scott Hackwith who also happened to be signed to the same management company, who also owned the label).

CJ did not like the album. He said, "Some of the songs on there are totally pointless - the Jefferson Airplane song we did, oh Lord. Even the porn star (Traci Lords) there couldn't save the song. It was horrible, horrible. I haven't listened to any of them for so long. I couldn't even call the names of the songs."

My personal view is as I have said, it was not their best work but again like albums before two or three tracks really stand out. CJ singing the album opener 'Journey to the Centre of the Mind' was real quality. 'Substitute' with Pete Townsend on backing vocals was pretty good. 'The Shape of Things to Come' (with CJ on vocals again - he also sang on 'My Back Pages') sounded like it was a Ramones song. In fact it is the songs with CJ on vocals that are the best on the album.

Of all their albums it is probably the one I play the least but I don't hate it like Everett True does. He gives the impression that all real Ramones fans loathe this album, so that must mean that I am not a real fan then!

To be continued (next up 'Adios')

A New Appreciation for The Ramones Part 5

Dee Dee had been busy with his side project under the banner of Dee Dee King and in March 1989 he released his first Rap album 'Standing in the Spotlight'. In May of the same year the 11th and final album on Sire Records by The Ramones was released entitled 'Brain Drain'.

Joey had seemingly got his writers block out of the way and had written or collaborated on seven of the twelve tracks. Dee Dee as usual managed to find the time alongside his new rap career to collaborate on six.

Where 'Halfway to Sanity' had failed 'Brain Drain' actually had more than a few great songs on it. None more so than 'Pet Cemetery' which was written for the Stephen King movie by Dee Dee and Daniel Reys. Also the album opener 'I Believe In Miracles' is a certain Ramones classic as are Joey's contributions 'Can't Get You Outta My Mind' and 'Come Back Baby' and their excellent cover of Freddy Cannon's 1962 hit 'Palasides Park'.

Dee Dee seemed happier than he had been for years and was keen play down rumours that he was going to embark on a full-time solo career. "I am not leaving The Ramones", he was heard to have said, but come July 1989 Johnny received a call from the band's management office saying that Dee Dee was leaving the band!

Then auditions for a new bassist began with everyone assuming that Dee Dee would come back, he didn't. After a long search CJ Ward was the new bassist for The Ramones.

Despite Dee Dee's departure from the band he continued to contribute songs to them ('Poison Heart', 'Strength to Endure' and 'Main Man'). Joey also stepped up and would contribute seven to the new album 'Mondo Bizzaro' (though 'Touring' existed beforehand from the 'Pleasant Dreams' sessions). CJ's presence seemed to give some new life to the band and the album is surprisingly good. Even a cover of The Doors' 'Take It As It Comes' was pretty amazing.

The stand out tracks though are "Censorshit", written by Joey about how rock and rap albums were being censored by the Parents Music Resources Center (PRMC), a group of Washington wives out to put warning labels on records, a practice which has become standard. It has a reference to Ozzy Osbourne and Frank Zappa. Quote: "Ask Ozzy, Zappa, or Me. We'll show you what it's like to be free." The song is addressed to Tipper Gore former Tennessee senator, and Vice President Al Gore's wife.

and 'Poison Heart'

A New Appreciation for The Ramones Part 4

Work began on the ninth studio album in December 1985. After working with Tommy on 'Too Tough to Die' and reclaiming some lost ground in true Ramones logic they dispensed with his services and brought in Jean Beauvoir (formerly of The Plasmatics). Joey was still in a writing slump and only wrote two for the new project ('Mental Hell' and 'Hair of the Dog') and Dee Dee was proficient as ever and even Richie got in on the act contributing 'Somebody Put Something in My Drink'.

The three best songs on the album ('Something to Believe In', 'My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes To Bitburg)' and Richie's 'Somebody Put Something') make up for quite a disappointing album.

Apparently Johnny hated this as he thought Reagan had been the best President the States had had for years. Joey wrote the song in response to Reagan's visit to a German cemetery containing SS graves. As a compromise with Johnny the song title was changed for the album. Johnny was even refused to play it live (though it does turn up on set lists as the video below proves)

The video for 'Something to Believe In' is fantastic and quite possibly my favourite of all their promo videos.

The rest of the tracks never really reach the standards of classic Ramones. Dee Dee's ode to Sid and Nancy ('Love Kills') is woeful and only 'Crummy Stuff' gets close.

'Halfway to Sanity' was yet another disappointing album. The first three tracks ('I Wanna Live' 'Bop Til You Drop' and 'Garden of Serenity') are really great but then it all goes down hill fast. Daniel Rey was at the controls for the new album but even he couldn't work a miracle with the songs that were on offer.

'Halfway to Sanity' would be Richie's final album as a Ramone. Not long after all the recording was in the bag he left. He was fed up of not getting what he felt was his due financially which was a portion of the merch sales. As the band were ready to go out on the road they needed a new drummer. Clem Burke of Blondie lasted two shows (his name became Elvis Ramone). It's not that he wasn't a great drummer, because he is, it's just that he couldn't really play Ramones style drums which are a lot different to 'normal drumming'!

The band finally got their new drummer and it was none other than Marky! Things were not good in the camp though. Marky was clean and sober, Dee Dee was taking all sorts and communication again was at a bare minimum. That said they still went out and played over 100 shows across the globe.

It seemed to be that this was going to be the way The Ramones survived from now on. Patchwork albums with maybe two or three great songs on them but live they were as tight as ever. A Ramones show is one of the best shows to be at. It is like a case of assualt and battery. One song finishes and before you have time to draw breath another begins and you are further punched in tha face by this prize fighter of a rock and roll band!

There was not a band who could touch them for sheer intensity when they were on stage. Of course there were always better musicians around but live dysfunction is something no one appeared to have!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

A New Appreciation for The Ramones Part 3

The band that had sung about being a "Happy Family" back on 'Rocket to Russia' in 1977 was anything but happy in 1983 when they came to together to record their seventh studio album. Relations between the members were very fractured and during time in studio at least one relationship got back on track and that was between Johnny and Dee Dee. They jointly wrote 'Psychotherapy' and it was the song that saved 'Subterranean Jungle' from being another failed attempt at greatness. By the end of recording Marky was gone. Fired due to his excessive drinking and by time the band hit the road they had a new man on the stool, Richie Ramone (Reinhardt). Marky appears on the cover but as you can see he is almost hidden behind the window and not alongside his fellow band members.

Actually it was this album that was a turning point for the band. With it's release they left behind their dreams of Billboard Chart success and as Gil Kaufman says in his liner essay for the expanded edition, they "focused on just being themselves." Good thing as well because the album tanked reaching only #83.

'Subterranean Jungle' is an odd album because it includes three cover versions (it opens with two, The Music Explosion's 1967 #2 hit, 'Little Bit O' Soul' and The Boyfriends 'I Need Your Love' and also The Chambers Brothers song 'Time Has Come Today'), maybe that was a reflection of the fact that the band were struggling to write songs on their own or with each other.

The rest of the album is not brilliant by The Ramones standard and in my mind only 'Psychotherapy', 'Outsider' and 'Somebody Like Me' really stand out. 'Time Bomb' which featured in many live shows was Dee Dee's first outing as the main vocalist on an album.

Richie's first album as a fully fledged member of The Ramones would be 1984's 'Too Tough to Die', an album that some say is their last truly great album. It was and is a vital return to form. As if in celebration at reaching their 10 year mark they brought Tommy back to produce alongside Ed Stasium. The only exception to their production was Dave Stewart at the controls for 'Howling at the Moon' (a track that almost seems out of place on the album in my mind).

The video is a bit rough and recorded live in Manchester in 1985

They showed on The Old Grey Whistle Test that they were still a force to be reckoned with. A fantastic three song set including 'Warthog', 'Chasing the Night' and 'Mama's Boy'. Having been absent from the UK for 5 years they played four nights in London to great acclaim.

I have a bootleg of the final night of the Lyceum shows (27th Feb 1985) and it is a remarkable 32 track set:

Durango 95 / Teenage Lobotomy / Psycho Therapy / Blitzkrieg Bop / Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio? / Danger Zone / Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment / Rock 'N' Roll High School / I Wanna Be Sedated / Beat On The Brat / The KKK Took My Baby Away / Go Mental / I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You / Suzy Is A Headbanger / Let's Dance / Too Tough To Die / Smash You / Chinese Rock / Wart Hog / Rockaway Beach / Surfin' Bird / Cretin Hop / California Sun / Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World / Pinhead / Mama's Boy / Highest Trails Above / Sheena Is A Punk Rocker / Chasing The Night / Judy Is A Punk / We're A Happy Family / Howling At The Moon / Commando

32 songs in 64 minutes! Richie once said "There are three speeds with The Ramones: fast, pretty fast and very fast!" (Sounds interview 1985)

'Too Tough To Die' did better in the UK than in the States reaching #63 but the band were not overly focused on the charts anymore. It was all about the music.

The tracks I really rate on the 'Too Tough' album are the title track 'Too Tough to Die', 'Warthog' which some think is quite cartoonish, 'Chasing the Night', 'Daytime Dilemma' and 'Planet Earth 1988' in which Dee Dee wrote some very prophetic words: "The solution to peace isn't clear/The terrorist threat is a modern fear/There are no jobs for the young/They turn to crime turn to drugs/Battleships crowd the sea/16 year-olds in the army/Our jails are filled to the max/Discrimination against the blacks"

Joey said years later that "A lot of people had started to give up on us. But 'Too Tough to Die' reinstated us and put us back on top." That was a tough place to be when you consider that bands like Black Flag and Husker Du were in their element in those days.

The Ramones were no longer considered to be the Punk kings and the music press was not overly kind to the band on release of this album but 25 years on I still consider it to be one of their finest albums. They had struggled for a good few years now but it seemed like they were back on track with this one. Most bands would have hung up their guitars if they had two albums that went down like a lead balloon, but The Ramones were fighters to the end and the title of the album was really a reflection of what that purpose of heart they possessed was about.

To be continued

A New Appreciation for The Ramones Part 2

It would be a further two years before a new studio project arrived and that was 'End of the Century' produced by Phil Spector. They didn't have a great time working with the legend and stories are told of Spector pulling a gun on the band when they wanted to leave the studio after thinking they had done enough! 'End of the Century' was also the first album on which the band appeared without their trademark leather jackets and from it came a hit single that was nothing like The Ramones at all! 'Baby I Love You' had orchestration on it and not the usual power chords the band had become known for. In the UK the single reached the lofty heights of #8, their biggest selling single by a country mile ('Sheena' had been the highest placed single up to this point at #22).

What's so funny about this TV performance is the lack of guitar sound and yet the band casually mimes! They hardly ever played it live and there is a very rough version recorded in Newcastle in January of 1980.

A few insights around the time of the recording come from Trouser Press magazine where the band spoke about the recording process with Spector:
"Phil would sit in the control room and would listen through the headphones to Marky hit one note on the drum, hour after hour, after hour, after hour." (Dee Dee) and Joey noted that "Phil insisted that we play songs over and over. The entire process took only three weeks, but in Ramones time, it was interminable."

Johnny said regarding the recording of 'Baby, I Love You' that, "I wanted to do a Phil Spector song...I realized that it was a mistake, and to me it was the worst thing we've ever done in our career."

The album is embraced by some, hated by many yet I think it has some of their most enduring songs ('Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?', 'I'm Affected', 'Rock 'n' Roll High School')

The album became their biggest hit reaching #14 in the UK and #44 in the USA.

The following year The Ramones were back in the studio and the end result was 'Pleasant Dreams'. All was not pretty in the camp though as communication between Dee Dee, Joey and Johnny was not on a good level. Johnny was quite dismissive of the direction he perceived Joey was wanting to take the band. His response to Joey's album opener 'We Want the Airwaves' says it all: "At that point, I don't give a s*** whether we get play or we don't; I don't care. All I want to do is keep our fans happy and not sell out. I'm fighting that within the band. They are trying to go lighter, looking for ways to be more commercial. I'm against the band doing that." Johnny needn't have worried himself as the album failed to chart in the UK and only reached #58 in America.

It was an odd choice having Graham Gouldman (10cc) produce the record and whilst it is not their best work I'm glad that Gouldman didn't leave his fingerprints on the album otherwise I have no idea what they would have ended up with!

For me only three songs actually stand out on the album, 'We Want the Airwaves', 'She's a Sensation' and the classic 'The KKK Took My Baby Away' that Joey had written about Johnny stealing his girlfriend (apparently they rarely spoke after that and yet the band continued on another 15 years!).

To be continued

A New Appreciation for The Ramones Part 1

It's more than 30 years ago since my ears first heard the sound of The Ramones blaring out of the radio (thanks John Peel) and in that moment the way I listened to music totally changed. All around at the time were bands that were far to self-indulgent with themselves. Albums were a bit of a chore to listen to as musicians seemed to max out on heavy duty guitar solos and over the top keyboard solos. It was not uncommon for songs to last eight or nine minutes. Enter into this mix the self titled debut album of a band from Forest Hills, New York called The Ramones.

Released on April 23rd 1976, containing 14 songs that clocked in at 29 minutes and 4 seconds! This album was a radical departure from what had been the norm. Even in New York City bands like Television and Talking Heads were quite arty whereas The Ramones were a band that had their sight clearly set on reclaiming true pop music! Though in saying that, the themes of their songs were not exactly "radio friendly" and on release the album was pretty much ignored by American Radio and the record only reached #111 in the Billboard Charts.

Not taken seriously in their own land the band's first date outside of the USA was in London at The Roundhouse alongside The Flaming Groovies on July 4th 1976 to celebrate the American Bi-Centennial. A further show at Dingwalls in Camden the next night had pretty much the founding fathers of English Punk Rock in attendance (The Sex Pistols, The Clash and the Damned).

May 29th 1977 was the first time I saw them live and it totally blew me away. The venue was the Croydon Greyhound and they were touring with The Talking Heads. Their second album 'Leave Home' was already out and they were getting some stick from politicians over the track 'Carbona Not Glue'. It didn't phase them though and each show was becoming a celebration of dysfunction.

Later in the year The Ramones released their third album 'Rocket to Russia' and managed to get a hit record with 'Sheena is a Punk Rocker' which reached #22 here in the UK and they were back touring in the UK again in December that culminated in the famous New Year's Eve show at the Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park that was recorded and eventually released as 'It's Alive' in 1979. Sire Records actually made a huge mistake in releasing 'Rockaway Beach' to coincide with the tour. Legs McNeil in his liner notes for the expanded edition of 'Rocket to Russia says, "Rockaway Beach is the band's anthem to every juvenile delinquent's ultimate summer beach party". The song opens with the classic line, "Chewing out a rhythm on my bubble gum/the sun is out and I want some." As it happened the sun was not out, it was winter and the single failed to chart!

By 1978 The Ramones were about to put out 'Road to Ruin'. That was a little bit different because it was more pop orientated and even included acoustic guitars! Live though they were still the same buzzsaw guitared rock and roll band as can be seen from their performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test the same year. The fourth studio release was also the first for new drummer Marky as Tommy remained in the background producing.

One of the high points of the album was of course the inclusion of what has become a classic Ramones song in 'I Wanna Be Sedated'. That song over the years has made a profound impact so much so that even Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed it on his recent tour stop in Boston (22nd April 2009).

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Alison Krauss & Union Station Band

Watched Alison and her band live from the White House last night (hope someone puts some of the video online). Thought I'd share a few videos that display just what a good band they are.

Alison Krauss & Robert Plant

This is a fantastic rendition of Shawn Colvin's 'Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us' filmed in Dusseldorf on May 10th 2008.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Bruce Springsteen - Hampden Park. The Videos

Scouted about You Tube and here's some of the videos from the show. Not all of them are brilliant quality but the sound is fine. The order of the videos is in line with the set list (see previous blog)

Flower of Scotland/Badlands

Out in the Street

Working on the Highway

Atlantic City

Incident on 57th Street

Pink Cadillac

Cover Me

Waiting on a Sunny Day

The River

Lonesome day

Born to Run

Thunder Road

Dancing in the Dark

Twist and Shout/La Bamba

Bruce Springsteen - Hampden Review

Flower of Scotland [Nils solo accordion intro]
Out in the Street
My Lucky Day
She's the One
Outlaw Pete
Working on the Highway
Working on a Dream
Johnny 99
Atlantic City
Raise Your Hand (instrumental) - Bruce collects the signs

The Requests
Incident on 57th Street
Pink Cadillac
Cover Me

Waitin' on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
The River
Kingdom of Days
Radio Nowhere
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born to Run

Hard Times
Thunder Road
American Land (with Evan Springsteen on Guitar)
Bobby Jean
Dancing in the Dark
Twist and Shout/La Bamba

We had seats in the Upper Tier of the South Stand at Hampden and whilst not a great view for taking pictures we were able to enjoy the show undercover and so avoid the showers that came prior to show time. It had been 28 years since The East Street band had played in Glasgow and 16 since Springsteen himself was here (on the Human Touch/Lucky Town tour). A packed Hampden Park waited expectantly for show to begin.

Just before 8pm Nils Lofgren strolled onto the stage with his accordion and played 'Flower of Scotland' and everyone rose up to sing along to our unofficial National Anthem. Then enter the band and before you know it we are on a ride for our lives. A storming version of 'Badlands' opens the set and the crowd roar into life and that's quckily followed by a fine mix of old and new. It's amazing that a song like 'She's the One', originally released in 1975 sounds so fresh 34 years later!

After 'Working on a Dream' the band launch into a trio of fantastic songs, 'Seeds', 'Johnny 99' and Atlantic City' and with the full band playing these tunes it makes you wonder what they might have sounded like had the 'Nebraska' album never been released by Bruce in it's stripped down demo like quality.

The instrumental of 'Raise Your Hands' sees Bruce running up and down collecting signs. Some he nods approvingly at and others he shakes his head with a wry smile on his face. 'Incident on 57th Street' is the first of the requests granted. The banner for it was huge and the choice got a cheer of approval. 'Pink Cadillac' was next. Bruce looked like he wasn't going to play it at first but then commented on the hard work that had gone into making the sign and did the song anyway. 'Cover Me' was the next request and many was it a stomping version!

'Waiting on a Sunny Day' was up next and the singalong was fantastic. Bruce spotted a little girl of maybe 10 years old (or younger) in a pink stetson and he got her to sing the chorus. She was brilliant and received a huge cheer from the crowd.

The home stretch was real quality culminating in a riotous version of 'Born to Run' that had the whole stadium rocking. Encore time was probably a lot shorter than it's been at some shows on the tour but it was still superb. Beginning with 'Hard Times', another banner request in 'Thunder Road', the very rocking 'American Land' (on which Springsteen's son Evan and Suzie's son also played on) which had the stadium doing a jig and then the closers 'Bobby Jean', 'Dancing in the Dark' and 'Twist and Shout/La Bamba'. All in all the set was just under three hours and if Bruce could have got his way he would have played on for longer.

A show to remember for the ages. It had everything you want in a show, passion, fun, quality musicianship and a firm belief that just for those few hours that the world can be an alright place to live despite the darkness that often seems to surround us.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Bruce Springsteen - Glasgow Tonight!

It's been 16 years since Springsteen was last in Glasgow and 28 since the East Street Band last played. So tonight at Hampden Park is going to be a rocking place if previous shows on the tour are to go by.

I thought I'd share a few videos from the current tour.

Ghost of Tom Joad (Dublin 11th July 2009)

American Land (Dublin 11th July 2009)

Night Dublin 12th July 2009)

Sherry Darling (Dublin 12th July 2009)

Saturday, 11 July 2009

The Huntingtons & Ghoti Hook Reunion Show

June 13th 2009 Philadelphia, The Huntingtons and Ghoti Hook played a reunion show. Here are their sets:

The Shop Assistants Live @ University of London 1986

The Shop Assistants Live October 3rd 1986 University of London.

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