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Thursday, 5 November 2015

Revisiting: Rocket To Russia - Ramones (1977)

Nothing is ever easy in the world of the Ramones. The release of the third album in less than two years had been proceeded by Sheena is a Punk Rocker reaching the UK Charts (#22). The song had actually been a replacement song on the 2nd album Leave Home after Carbona Not Glue had to be removed due to Carbona being a trademarked product. So the US edition of the album included Sheena and the UK edition Babysitter was the replacement song.

The single that followed it, Rockaway Beach, should have been a summer release but the record label decided to release one of the greatest summertime songs in the middle of winter - and surprise bombed!

The album is considered to be one of their finest and a number of the songs were still part and parcel of a Ramones show even up to the end of their career:
Teenage Lobotomy (Final show).
The recording began on August 21, 1977 and took place in Midtown Manhattan at Media Sound Studios, a premises of a former Episcopalian Church. On the first day of sessions, guitarist Johnny Ramone brought a copy of the Sex Pistols' single "God Save the Queen" with him, remarking that their type of music "robbed" the band. He emphasized that the album's sound engineer Ed Stasium needed to incorporate better production than that of the Sex Pistols, to which Stasium replied "no problem." Johnny relates: "These guys ripped us off and I want to sound better than this."

As with the previous Ramones albums there is a very dark humour as they thrash out in true punk fashion a Surf meets Bubblegum Pop style dealing with dysfunctional families, Mental illness, and the ups and downs of romance. Two cover versions are on the album (Do You Wanna Dance and Surfin' Bird).

The album was received well by the critics. Dave Marsh (Rolling Stone) began his review of the album by stating: "Rocket to Russia is the best American rock and roll of the year and possibly the funniest rock album ever made."

The band thought they had made a great album that would have some hit singles but it was not to be. Whilst it reached their highest placing on the Billboard Chart lack of airplay threw a spanner in the works of greater success and the band knew who was to blame for that!

According to the critics the lack of record sales was largely due to the fellow punk band Sex Pistols turning people off the genre "with their antisocial behavior," as put by author Brian J. Bowe. Rock music historian Legs McNeil relates: "Safety pins, razor blades, chopped haircuts, snarling, vomiting--everything that had nothing to do with the Ramones was suddenly in vogue, and it killed any chance Rocket to Russia had of getting any airplay." Joey also insisted that the Sex Pistols were partially responsible for the low sale numbers, concluding that before the 60 Minutes‍  (An American TV News Magazine program) spotlight on the Sex Pistols, Rocket to Russia had decent airplay. After this, Joey asserted that "everyone flipped out and then things changed radically. It really kind of screwed things up for ourselves."

This would also be the last studio album that Tommy would play drums on but he would continue to be involved in the production of future Ramones albums.
Rocket To Russia - Ramones
Produced by Tony Bongiovi and Tommy Ramone
Released 4th November 1977
UK Charts #60
US Charts #49

    Joey Ramone – lead vocals
    Johnny Ramone – lead guitar
    Dee Dee Ramone – bass guitar, backing vocals
    Tommy Ramone – drums

Singles on Rocket To Russia
August 1977 
UK Chart #22
US Chart #81

December 1977
US Chart # 66

US Chart #86

On December 17th Ramones began a UK Tour - 11 dates that included shows in Carlisle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Cambridge, Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Aylesbury, and two dates at The Rainbow in London on the 31st December and 1st January 1978. The New Year's Eve show would be recorded for a live album (that would be released in 1979 as It's Alive) and some of it was also filmed.

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