Monday, June 10, 2013


The RAMONES forged one of the strongest bonds with a segment of their audience in their unflinching, yet hilarious explorations of the lyrical topic Mental Illness. Peppered with knowing details regarding confinement procedures and specifically namedropping applicable pharmaceuticals, the band laid bare their first hand experiences and personality imperfections. But, as is the case here, the group's diabolically twisted sense of humor and relentless drive to distort dreaded negatives into celebratory strengths often turned reality on its head, and the most troubled of their fans found brazen new champions--willing to bring to light (then, taking the offensive, making light of) the darkest treatments for the most feared symptoms of the deeply devastating struggles that almost all strive to keep secret.

Of course they were far from the first. After all, the earliest of rock and roll was, by popular definition of the day, "crazy, man, crazy!" and some of the braver souls of the bedrock blues and country & western idioms wove the grim tales of their unsteady conditions. But true derangement as a subject did not find full flower in raw rock until the mid sixties on (kicking into high gear after LSD usage became prevalent). From the SONICS' Psycho to BLACK SABBATH'S Paranoid, however, a certain distance was maintained-- sometimes, as with the former, a matter of frenzied humor, and sometimes, as with the latter, a matter of self deluded misdiagnosis. Perhaps not until LOU REED's Kill Your Sons was a completely, grimly accurate directive reported from the front lines of what Blue Oyster Cult would much later term 'the Psychic Wars.' As LESTER BANGS once pointed out, the post-VELVET UNDERGROUND track was a big hit with everybody on the 'inside.' Then the sagas of SYD BARRETT and ROKY ERICKSON predicated the new genre of 'Acid Casualty Rock.' And eventually IGGY POP might record Kill City on weekend furloughs from rehab, but the void presented itself for somebody to seize the inevitable next step forward.

Enter the RAMONES, their antisocial mental struggles so inextricably woven into their group alchemy that finally they were painted into a corner where there was nothing left to do but humorously mock its hold over them. Kicking off a series of like-themed compositions, GIMME GIMME SHOCK TREATMENT also takes some time for the reactionary lampooning of early 70's hippiedom, which would later become far more prevalent as the British Wave of punk commenced. (Along this tack, the tune also sneeringly references the 1968 bubblegum hit Gimme Gimme Good Lovin' by Crazy Elephant.)

Strapped to one of their most explosively charged musical concoctions thus far, the band barrels ahead at its most delirious tempo yet. The relentless chunks of tight chord changes careens through a breathtaking 98 seconds, and one of this LP's most effective mixes ups the ante considerably--with nifty guitar scraping overdubs on the title line and swirling echo on JOEY's vocals (whose impassioned performance leaves little doubt his personal stake in this 'comedic' song.)

It's a long way from NAPOLEON XIV's They're Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa! to GIMME GIMME SHOCK TREATMENT, and unwittingly the RAMONES had staked out turf that would remain distinctly and identifiably theirs over the long haul. Time after time over their career they would return to this potent, familiar realm--always forthright, always absurdly exaggerated, yet always tinged with the unsettling ring of truth. Through wielding the blackest of humour the group exorcised their faults in public, and an appreciative contingent of the crowd shared the visceral catharsis of their wicked, snickering laughter.


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