by Carly Civello
Despite their fame in the late twentieth century, the four members of the Ra mones weren’t great musicians— when they formed the band, they were still learning how to play their instruments. As a result, their music wasn’t complex, but their striking outfits and carefree DIY spirit set the tone for the punk movement and its DIY subculture. The band hated the hippie movement, and the musi cality and training of those performers, and they wanted to let people know… loudly. According to lead singer Tommy Ramone, “[Our] music is an answer to the early seventies when artsy people with big egos would do vocal harmonies and play long guitar solos and get called geniuses. That was bullshit. We play rock and roll. We don’t do solos.”
In 2014, exactly 40 years after their founding, I discovered the Ramones, and punk, for the first time.
I retied the loose laces of my Doc Mar tens, plugged in my electric guitar, and got ready to play the easiest song in our setlist: Blitzkrieg Bop by the Ramones. It was my favorite song that I got to per form at middle school rock camp be cause the lyrics were simple, there were only three chords to learn, and I thought the song was incredibly catchy and fun. As I began to play, I realized the song re ally was a “bop.” Although I had learned one of the most iconic songs by one of the most iconic punk bands, I had no idea what punk meant at the time. Punk to me was all about looking cool, and looking cool meant leather and Doc Mar tens. That’s it.
It’s been almost 50 years since the Ramones were founded, and it’s worth re visiting their hit song, Blitzkrieg Bop, and discuss how it was the foundation for the punk movement beyond just looking cool.
The quintessential Ramones song was written and first performed in 1976— much like the other songs they would go on to write, it was held together by a handful of chords and an insanely fast tempo.
The name of the song refers to Nazi war fare with blitzkrieg translating to “lightning war,” and the song mimics the lightning fast and incredibly loud nature of this war tactic. There’s also a reference to sex in the song— “bop” was sometimes used to refer to sex during the time the song was written. The chant at the be ginning of the song, “Hey ho! Let’s go!” existed simply because the band wanted a chant in their song just like the Bay City Rollers. Following the chant, the instrumentals and lyrics launch a full-scale attack on the audience (just like a blitzkrieg). “Hey ho, let’s go/ Shoot ‘em in the back now/ What they want, I don’t know/ They’re all revved up and ready to go,” a verse goes. This refers to the uncertainty in war and the quick nature of a blitzkrieg (and also sex/a “bop”).
The bop is over before you know it at only two minutes and 13 seconds long, but it perfectly encapsulates the band and their foundation for the punk movement. It was a loud answer to the sweet melodies and guitar solos of rock during the 60s and 70s. The simplicity of their music made a social and political statement by not making one at all. An interviewer in 1977 asked the band why they play so loudly, and they answered, “We like that. I don’t know.” They played it loudly because they wanted to. They chanted at the beginning of the song be cause they wanted to. They played their music simply because they wanted to. Their do-it-yourself philosophy and their DIY because you want to attitude influenced the punk movement and its DIY subculture. Everything from their outfits to their self-taught instrumentals to their low-budget performances influenced DIY subculture. You just can’t have punk without the Ramones.
The group continued to record and per form music until the 1990s when Tommy, Dee Dee, Joey, and Johnny disbanded in 1996. However, their legacy and impact on the punk movement has long outlasted their touring days.
Seven years removed from my time in middle school and rock camp, the Ramones mean something different to me now. They’re a symbol of more than just not caring and looking cool; the band is iconic to me for their ability to be authentically themselves and not give a shit about what anyone else thinks. Simply put, this authenticity and indifference to what other people and society want is the very foundation of punk.
Looking cool is about wearing what you want to wear, not what other people want to wear. I wish I had realized that in middle school—I wish I had learned to not care. The Ramones and their music inspire me to be authentically myself in everything I wear, say, and do. And that’s pretty damn punk!
- Davey, Ryan. “Blitzkrieg Bop: 1976 and the Birth of Punk.” Ceremony, Ceremony, 29 Nov. 2020, ceremonymusic.ca/home/punk1976.
- Gilmore, Mikal. “The Curse of the Ramones.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 12 July 2020, www.rollingstone.com/feature/the-curse-of-the-ramones-165741/.
- Jones, Dylan, et al. “How the Ramones Became Punk Pioneers.” British GQ, 15 Aug. 2020, www.gq-magazine.co.uk/culture/article/ramones-inside-story.
- Moran, Ian P. (2010) “Punk: The Do-It-Yourself Subculture,” Social Sciences Journal: Vol. 10 : Iss. 1 , Article 13. Available at: https://repository.wcsu.edu/ssj/vol10/iss1/13
- Morgan, Chris. “How The Ramones Changed The Face Of Rock Music With Their Debut Album.” UPROXX, UPROXX, 23 Apr. 2016, uproxx.com/music/ramones-debut album-punk-rock/.
- The Ramones. 2021, www.britannica.com/topic/The-Ramones.
- “Relive The Ramones’ First-Ever Filmed Performance at CBGB’s in 1974.” Far Out Magazine Relive The Ramones First ever Filmed Performance at CBGBs in 1974 Comments, faroutmagazine.co.uk/ramones-joey-dee-dee-johnny-tommy-first-gig-vid eo-1974/.
- Thekinolibrary. 1977 Ramones Interview, Why Do You Play So Loud? YouTube, You Tube, 27 July 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHNdJoh99xA.