I will admit right up front that I am not a fan of the Ramones. Now I don’t mean that in the pejorative sense like so many people do when they say “I’m not a fan of….” – which basically means “I don’t like…” – what I am saying is, I don’t have any of their albums, I have never seen them live, and I don’t even own a Ramones T-shirt. But having said that, I do love all their well known singles such as Blitzkrieg Bop, I Wanna Be Sedated, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?, Psycho Therapy, and Pet Sematary.
As a history of music fanatic, I often read about the music and musicians that influenced the bands and music genres that I grew up listening to. Many of those bands or musical styles owe a lot to those seminal punk bands of the 1970s including the Ramones. Whether it’s talked about in their (auto)biographies, or mentioned in magazine, newspaper, radio or television show interviews, with some of my favourite musicians, when asked about their favourite or most influential bands, the Ramones will be mentioned more often than not.
Recently I clicked onto their Wikipedia page after hearing the Ramone’s first and most well known single/song Blitzkrieg Bop when I was in the States. I can’t remember exactly where I was at the time or what I was doing, but I remember sending myself an email titled “Were the Ramones the Greatest Kid’s Band Ever?” with the hope of turning it into a post. And so, here it is my listicle;
Nine Things That Prove The Ramones Were The Greatest Kid’s Band Ever?
1. Song Length
I sent myself that email after noticing that most of their songs are as long as the average Wiggles song or other kid’s music songs. Looking at their first album, there are 14 songs and yet the album length is just over 29 minutes long. The average length of those 14 songs on their debut album is 2 minutes and 4 seconds with the shortest song clocking in at 1 minute 30 seconds and the longest song being only 2 minutes and 35 seconds long. It wasn’t until their fourth album that they had songs go longer than 3 minutes with two songs on Road to Ruin clocking in just over that mark. By their seventh album Subterranean Jungle they finally had a song that went longer than 4 minutes but it wasn’t until their next album that the longer than 4 minute song was one of their own rather than a cover.
Their highest charting song, and one that was played on heavy rotation on rock music playing stations around the world is their song Pet Sematary which was written and recorded for the movie adaptation of the Stephen King book of the same name. That song clocked in at 3 minutes and 30 seconds but all in all, when you take away those one or two songs per album that do go longer than the 3 minute mark, the rest of their songs remain an average of 2 minutes long.
2. Song Style
Country singer Harlan Howard who is most famous for writing some of the best known country songs is also known to many as the originator of the cliché (in regards to writing the perfect country song), all you need is “three chords and the truth.” The same can be said for most popular songs, be they country, rock, pop, children’s songs and especially the Ramones genre of punk.
Fans of the Ramones would know that the whole point of what the band’s music stood for first and foremost was that it was aimed at taking pop and rock music back to where it was when they were growing up rather than the direction it took in the 1970s with the bombastic over-produced sounds, experimental music, and the long and often progressive structures of the songs presented by the likes of Pink Floyd, Elton John, Led Zeppelin and early Genesis.
3. Lyric Contents
Children’s bands and performers such as Parachute Express, Imagination Movers, Lah-Lah (and Lah-Lah’s Big Live Band), Justine Clarke, The Dirty Sock Funtime Band, The Kerplunks, Hi-5, Peter Combe and of course The Wiggles know that using simple words and themes are best for children’s songs. These performers for kids are known for their simplistic and repetitive lyrics which help young children not only learn their lyrics, but learn new words as they develop their speech abilities. Often times in a Wiggles song, there is simply one verse followed by the chorus followed by verse one repeated and the chorus sung again and that’s the whole song. Sometimes the verse is repeated with a few lyrics changing, but for the most part, it’s really just verse one followed by the chorus followed by verse: part two followed by the chorus.
Sound familiar? “I Wanna Be Sedated” anyone?
Sometimes kid’s performers will make up funny lyrics or words that will also help young kids develop their sounds. In their popular song about one of their wiggly friends, Dorothy the Dinosaur, the Wiggles sing “Romp-Bomp-A-Chomp!”
Sound familiar? Once again I give you “I Wanna Be Sedated” as an example. “Ba-ba-bamp-ba ba-ba-ba-bamp-ba” anyone?
4. Band Member’s Names
Wiggles fans would be well aware that current and former members of the musical group are known by their first names to the kids, but are listed on the albums and presented on the television shows and DVDs as all having the surname of Wiggle. That’s Anthony Wiggle, Emma Wiggle, Simon Wiggle, Lachie Wiggle, Murray Wiggle, Greg Wiggle, Jeff Wiggle and Sam Wiggle. Now I don’t know if their supposed to be brothers (and now sister), or cousins, or their shtick is simply that they hire people from within their extended Wiggle family tree, but having them all with the same surname is very reminiscent of…
Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, Tommy Ramone, Marky Ramone, Richie Ramone, Elvis Ramone, and C. J. Ramone. In fact, one might even suggest that the names of each of the Ramones is more child friendly with the adding of the letter y to or in the case of Richie, the y sound being used on his name.
5. Uniform Image Styling
Whether it’s The Wiggles wearing their coloured skivvies and back pants (with their first female member Emma wearing a black skirt to match the male member’s trousers), the Lah-Lah (and Lah-Lah’s Big Live Band) wearing their French inspired stripes of red and white with blocked black or black and white with blocked red, Hi-5 wearing their custom made funky coloured mismatched clothing, The Kerplunks wearing their matching ensembles, the Imagination Movers wearing their overalls, or The Aquabats wearing their Aquabats super hero costumes, children’s musical groups tend to have a uniform look amongst the members of the group.
The Ramones adopted a uniform look of long hair, leather jackets, T-shirts, torn jeans, and sneakers.
6. Cartoon Version
Children’s musical groups love to be cartoonised (yes, that’s a word) or produce cartoons film clips to go with their music. Whilst The Wiggles haven’t actually been in the cartoon format in an actual cartoon, they have cartoonised versions of themselves for their magazine, colouring in books and other merchandise. The members of Hi-5 have CGI style cartoon versions of themselves for the opening title of their television show. Although not often thought of as a children’s band, They Might Be Giants has released a few children’s albums that blend the lines between their music for grown-ups and their music for children. Their 1998 hit Doctor Worm (the song finished in 13th spot on Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 1998) had a cartoon film clip.
And the Ramones who were big fans of The Simpsons allowed the producers of the show to draw Simpsonised (that too is a word) versions of themselves and they recorded a very Ramones version of Happy Birthday which was dedicated to Mr Burns in the fourth episode of the fifth season of the show. Marky Ramone who was the second and longest serving drummer for the band stated that being a part of The Simpsons show was a highlight of his career. And while one might suggest the the 30 seconds that the Ramones appeared on The Simpsons is not really something that they did cartoon wise, the first album that Marky Ramone played on with the band, the 1978 album release Road to Ruin features a cartoon version of the band on the front cover.
7. Colourful Logo
Many bands have logos. Metallica has a logo. Iron Maiden has a logo. Tool has a logo. Pretty much every metal band has a logo. But they’re not kid friendly. They aren’t full of bright colours, or easy to read fonts. I mean take a look at the Cradle of Filth logo; it’s not really that easy for the uninitiated to decipher. But the Ramones, their logo is, kid friendly as. Easy to read font. Colourful bird holding a baseball bat and apple tree branch. Kids love it. Seriously, they do. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the next point…
8. Merchandise For Kids
Children’s groups are lucky in the sense that not only will they sucker the kids in with their yearly release of an album (or in the Wiggles’ case, sometimes two or three albums per year), but they will have merchandise galore including toys, books, and yes, the one bit of merchandise that all bands can relate to; the T-shirt. And kids love wearing their Ramones tops.
9. Loved Throughout The Ages
Children are still singing songs such as Yellow Submarine and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da from the Beatles 45 years after the band broke up. And children are still learning songs from children’s groups and performers that were around before I was born and those that came along during my own youth. And now that people who were fans of the Ramones in their teen years are now parents of young kids and tweens, these parents are hoping to pass on their love of the band to their kids. Back in 2006 members of various punk rock bands got together to record the album Brats on the Beat: Ramones for Kids featuring ‘kiddified’ covers of classic Ramones songs.
Here’s an example of the kiddfied version of Rock and Roll High school.
And part of their Lullaby Renditions series of albums, Rockabye Baby! also created an album of lullaby versions to help get babies to sleep. Sometimes I really wish my kids could have been sedated when trying to get the to go to sleep. Other times however, to be a little selfish, I wanted to be sedated…
So what do you think? Are the Ramones the greatest kids band of all time?