THE RAMONES opted to open their debut with one of their most recent compositions. Their odd obsession with the Scottish teenybopper group BAY CITY ROLLERS (or at least their briefly BEATLES level popularity) peaked as their single Saturday Night hit the top of the charts over the beginning of 1976. They set out to concoct a new anthem which coopted that song's chanting hook for their looming upcoming sessions. (The later DO YOU REMEMBER ROCK N ROLL RADIO recycles it more blatantly.)
Primarily written by TOMMY, the 'hey ho' sections are the result of the primitive distillation of this influence. Interestingly, they also conclude with an adding the instruments' buildup reminiscent of the BEATLES' Twist & Shout. Why Joey isn't backed by a larger chorus remains a mystery. Indeed, other than doubletracking, the vocals show little evidence of ANY production 'protection' whatsoever, making JOEY's quirky pronunciation of words like 'bop' more noticeable. The drums as well are very dryly recorded. Of course this matters little as the deliriously infectious track rolls by. Confoundingly, JOHNNY and DEEDEE marry their limited aspirations with ferocious precision throughout a well mapped out arrangement.
The song's blazing music also inadvertently undercut their early notions of creating a new rock free of blues influences- the primary riff, much like La Bamba and Louie Louie, compresses the standard 1-4-5 pattern into a riff instead of a sequence of changes. (LESTER BANGS once famously bookmarked these three songs as part of a list succinctly mapping punk music's history.) They still DO make the move up to D towards the resolution in E, via a single repetition of the main riff's ADE, and in between throw in a bar of B- a move not out of place in Bessie Smith era jazz ballads (or honkytonk music for that matter.) Like the doowop derived ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, SHEENA IS A PUNK ROCKER or the more obvious YOU'RE GONNA KILL THAT GIRL, these kinds of progressions show that as purveyors of pop tradition they had more black influence in their music than they realized.
BLITZKRIEG BOP's surprising current status as a sports arena anthem belies its content. Lyrically an ode to concert attendance, DEEDEE made small but significant alterations. By retitling the piece with an overt Nazi reference, the images of standing in line took on an unforeseen fascistic undercurrent. His other substitution further muddled their narrative loyalties- and reinforced their outsider vantage point- by suggesting that the fans should all be shot in the back. In a career full of demented humor, one of their most maliciously delicious sick jokes.
An instantly recognizable RAMONES classic, BLITZKRIEG BOP witnesses the band bringing their stated dream of combining THE STOOGES with bubblegum to successful fruition, setting off a rallying cry which soon would count hundreds of new bands amongst their devoted followers.
RAMONES BLITZKRIEG BOP
Photo by Roberta Bayley