Tuesday, December 3, 2013
HERE TODAY GONE TOMORROW-- Rocket to Russia 3
Image via THIS AINT THE SUMMER OF LOVE. Thanks!
Little that the RAMONES had recorded up to this point could have prepared their audience for the stunning terrain which would be embarked upon with ROCKET TO RUSSIA's next track, HERE TODAY GONE TOMORROW. Perhaps somewhat anticipated by the forthright honesty of LISTEN TO MY HEART, or the detailed realism of BABYSITTER, or the pained remorse of I REMEMBER YOU, this unprecedentedly serious portrait of doomed romantic failure represented the starkest departure from their predominant approach thus far.
An early composition by JOEY, the tune shows him working around his favorite melodic pattern, a stripped down triumvirate of chords adopted from the chorus of ALICE COOPER's I'm Eighteen, and immediately utilized on his inaugural songwriting attempt: I DON'T CARE. He would fall back on this barre chord foundation often over the years (the A-G-F driven I JUST WANT TO HAVE SOMETHING TO DO is a famous application of it), but this recording arguably illustrates his most effective and unique utilization of the template. Rooting the song in D on guitar leaves open the option of swooping down to the other chords of E and Fsharp instead of climbing up in blocks (surely JOEY's original approach). The unsettling drama of the melody rests upon the arresting drone of this change.
Unfolding an unfamiliar aura of abnormal solemnity with the first, sad strokes of a hi-hat (!) countoff, the band maintains startling, restrained gravity throughout the track-- their longest so far. The impressively layered guitars draw a curtain of slowly swelling overtones, and when the presence of this undercurrent becomes more ominous during the second verse, it signals that there will be no letup from the lyric's sober stare. By the time they reach the pause preceding the instrumental break, the foreboding hum has gradually increased its volume into practically a separate instrument, and as this crescendo lurches into the final chorus it is apparent that any expected punchline shall be absent.
TOMMY's exceptional studio professionalism and arrangement expertise (the group inched ever closer to an uneasy comfort with guitar solos with the primitive arpeggio picked out over the instrumental section) prudently match the hypnotic incantation of JOEY's impassioned vocal. Wrenching maximum heartbreak out of the contradictory resignation present in the lyrics, JOEY wields effective touches with consistent flair. He imbues the repetitive, monosyllabic cliche of the verses with strikingly dextrous melodrama (choruses too: 'for-EVer'), and he knowingly holds back the key catchphrase for the startling musical pauses which end each stanza. The poetic economy of JOEY's phrases-- effectively painting broad strokes of evocative remembrance with just over 40 words-- embodies one of his most underappreciated triumphs.
JOHN HOLMSTROM's accompanying illustration attempts to inject some levity into the proceedings, but the imagery of dismissive graveyard laughter-- 'Here Lies Someone's Dead Body' reads an epitaph-- unexpectedly underlines the only hinted-at morbidity of the song's mood. (Perhaps it should be noted that the 'Ritchie Ramone' headstone refers to an early, brief bandmate-- not the future drummer.) It would rank as the least effectively matched of his ROCKET TO RUSSIA insert designs with little probable debate.
But surely, that is far from surprising- for this was a sharp detour from the RAMONES' traditional comic book landscapes. Here, suddenly, the blunt realities of everyday pain were sized up and confronted-- without the usual aid of accelerated tempos, or cartoonish caricatures, or distracting distortions of personality flaws (or guitar tones). In retrospect, the unflinching realism of HERE TODAY GONE TOMORROW demonstrated a clear turning point. The following decades would find the band struggling to preserve an ideal balance between their trademark twisted humour, and the expulsion of hard truths absorbed as the ensuing years unleashed their unforeseen struggles (and resultant acrimony). For the moment, however, the RAMONES bravely widened their emotional palette-- and broadened their followers' palates. Humbly brandishing the fewest chords and words necessary, the RAMONES constructed a monument to the determined, seemingly unlimited, power which could be manifested through minimalism's hidden, stunning strengths. And the atypical HERE TODAY GONE TOMORROW-- as precise as a Japanese Haiku, as stark as the rain dampened streets of Film Noir, and as mesmerizing as a meditative mantra-- would tower through the coming tomorrows as one of the band's outstanding achievements.
RAMONES HERE TODAY GONE TOMORROW