Thursday, April 11, 2013

LET'S DANCE-- Ramones 12

Kicking off something like a closing suite--a high velocity three song blast clearly designed to wrap up the debut powerfully-- LET'S DANCE finds the group for the first time dabbling in outside material. The first in a series of intriguingly chosen oldie covers, this tune--like many up until ACID EATERS--originates from the AM radio regions of the pre-British Invasion Top 40. The 1962 hit was performed by Chris Montez, a Ritchie Valens influenced chicano from southern California.

Although the RAMONES often claimed they began writing their early material due to an utter inability to learn other groups' songs, this recording finds them altering the arrangement to fit their approach with striking confidence. (At this point they were also including the marginally more difficult CALIFORNIA SUN in their sets.) Unlikely to duplicate the dominant swivel of the Mexican-flavoured keyboard vamping, the band modifies the melody to fit the restrictions of their pulverizing format. JOHNNY & DEEDEE downstroke unfazed throughout- most notably through a middle break, transformed from a subdued passage of organ flourishes into a fevered rush of ascending chords. TOMMY distills the tug of war between the pushing tom verse and the snappy swing of the chorus into his codified drives. (After this, the device of drummer spotlighted tribal intros will become commonplace on their records, utilized on many of their best known songs, such as TEENAGE LOBOTOMY and ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.) JOEY seems to struggle somewhat with the accelerated pace of the wordy phrases ('Bristol Stomp and Mashed Potato too' is all but unintelligible) and the dry prominence of the vocal mix, as usual, offers little 'protection.' DEEDEE attempts to lend some support, but finally JOEY's plight is made comically plain as he misreads Montez' ad lib 'OK, Wail now!' into 'OK, Wait a minute.' In a final, backward looking nod of a touch the studio's Wurlitzer style organ is added on, fattening up the final measures and the big chorus coming out of the break.

There is a touch of jingoism in the RAMONES' determined unwillingness to pay recorded tribute to any music other than the prominent pop which predated the Beatles' ascendance, perhaps a patriotic desire to reiterate this country's place as key purveyors of the form. (They were still years from finally tackling the Searchers' NEEDLES AND PINS, and that was actually written by Sonny Bono.) Perhaps more importantly they unconsciously sought evidentiary validation of their aesthetic, proof that fun primitivism wasn't a concept concocted out of thin air. Years later on ACID EATERS, with many more miles behind them, a world weary assessment of Psychedelia and English rock would be conceptualized. For now, however, as the band roars through the careening 1-4-5 romp of LET'S DANCE, the accomplished singular goal is to remind all of the celebratory power of simple, if not outright dumb, rock 'n' roll.


Photo by Roberta Bayley

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