Monday, April 8, 2013


Although conceptually the alchemical combination of bubblegum and outsider hard rock, in practice the RAMONES' material was typically divided rather clearly into either frenetic bashers or mellow ballads. However, with some regularity (usually once an album) there would be tracks where the marriage of heavily driven commercial pop reached exceptional crystallization. The British Invasion-influenced LISTEN TO MY HEART definitively stands as this release's token blast of unexpectedly melodic, catchy energy.

Introduced by an assertive slide down an octave of E on guitar, DEEDEE counts the song off  '1-2-3-4' (notably, deep into side 2, the first time they have begun a song in this trademark manner.) Basically verseless, the song is focused around a simple D to A chorus, and on this figure once again JOHNNY hypnotically moves 'down' while simultaneously DEEDEE moves 'up' on his bass' higher register. This change which will be recycled shortly into the verse of the next record's opener GLAD TO SEE YOU GO. Next, a strong bridge of E-G-E-A wraps up with a handclap driven display of what shall become one of punk music's dominant guitar figures: a half-step, one-fret slide down on the 'one' of each bar.

After revisiting the chorus/verse the RAMONES unveil one of the debut album's niftiest surprises: returning to a misleading measure of the expected E, there is a startling jump to Dflat to begin a recitation of the lp's most forthrightly vulnerable lyric. This is stated over an E to A change which concludes in B- far from the most obvious choice to return to the dominant section's key (D), but somehow it smoothly works. All in all, it is sharp, smart middle eight--seemingly well outside the RAMONES' grasp--but of which any pop band could be justifiably proud.

JOEY easily acclimates himself to the unironic resignation of the words' heartbreak, and the rest of the group similarly wield a lifetime of AM radio absorption into a bracingly winning performance. Not that this is reflected in consideration of the production-- an instrumental chorus halfway through sports an extra overdubbed guitar arpeggio which is mixed so low as to be barely detectable (although note must be made of how well TOMMY adopts to dynamic 'jumps' in sections such as these.) As well, DEEDEE adds a background vocal line at the end of each middle eight which must finally be described as unintelligible.

Sometimes, to avoid pondering alternate universe's shouldabeen scenarios can be gnawingly difficult. In the mid sixties a composition this potent simply would have been bookmarked as a probable single for some lucky combo. In the contexts of this recording's eras & tastes however, an overachieving band chalks up another ace concoction for a scarcely existent (albeit rabidly clued in) audience-- and the yawning void of dull reality unworthily swallows up another barely detected, underappreciated classic.


Photo by Roberta Bayley

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