Back on track with the Ramones. This is a great one. I mentioned a long time ago that I bought Subterranean Jungle (1983) at the same time I got U2’s War. The counter jockey was all about U2 and in my hostile teenage punk rock I mind I took that as slap on the Ramones. Because the Ramones were never going to be huge, but they were special to me, then and now. I’ve outgrown my punk rock defensiveness and the Ramones continued to get respect. Too bad the core three members are not around to see it.
The record opens with a cover, totally manly move, of “Little Bit O’ Soul.” It’s a perfect choice for them and they rock it proper. There’s even another cover, “Time Has Come Today,” on side two. But the originals are even better! My favorites are “Psycho Therapy” and “In the Park.” And then there are some ’60s style pop ditties like “My-My Kind of a Girl” that are both incongruous and killer at the same time. But wait! There goes “Highest Trails Above” playing on my turn table now. Another favorite; it makes me want to grab my guitar. And I’ll mention the album closer “Everytime (sic) I Eat Vegetables It Makes Me think of You” just for the title.
Oh man was that a pathetically long period of non-posting. I’m pretty sure that’s a record, one that I hope will stand for a long time.
Back to our regularly scheduled program… Ramones, Road to Ruin (1978) was a big artistic leap forward for these guys. Some people like to think all their music is the same, but this record alone is proof against that. Overall it’s a more “melodic” album, with even a strummed pretty ditty called “Questioningly,” which is 100% power-chord-free. And oh yeah, there’s also a cover of the ’60s pop hit co-wrote by Sonny Bono, “Needles and Pins.” My favorite though is “Bad Brain.” That song eventually became the namesake of my all-time favorite band, Bad Brains. It’s true, they named themselves after a Ramones song.
One not-so-pleasant memory about Road to Ruin goes back to my teenage years. My friend John (last name removed to protect the guilty) and I went through a brief, and ultimately painful period of spray painting graffiti at places like our high school. John, being a huge Ramones fan at the time, chose to spray the words “Road to Ruin” on one of our outings.
To make a long story short, we were eventually ratted out, interrogated individually, we confessed, and then got suspended for a week I believe. To minimize the cost of removing the paint and just pay some dues, John and I spent some days over the winter break on our hand and knees with wire brushes and paint stripper trying to clean the bricks and concrete we had vandalized. It sucked. The whole thing sucked. I don’t even know why we did it. We were generally trouble-free kids. It’s one of the few things that I’m embarrassed about, and completely regret it. But there is this that makes me smile… John said that when he was getting grilled about it that the vice principal said in a deadpan way, “Looks like this was your road to ruin, John.” As John put it later, it was like something from a closing scene of Dragnet.
I’ve probably played the Ramones’ Leave Home (1977) 20 times in the last week, which isn’t that hard to do since all of the 14 songs are under three minutes and many are less than two minutes. And the sound is perfect! I’m sure that is due in large part to Ed Stasium‘s work as “engineer.” I didn’t realize he had anything to do with the Ramones until just now, but I did know he has worked on a long list of killer records.
There are many great tunes on here and I think my favorites are “Glad to See You Go” and brilliantly retro-sounding (even for ’77) “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.” It’s as if the Ramones were channeling the Beach Boys.
Ramones - Leave Home back cover
More greatness from genius graphic artist Arturo Vega. I’m sure his contributions have had a lot to do with the continued popularity of the Ramones. This Ramones “seal” is as much a rock and roll icon as the band itself. “Look Out Below.”
Ramones - Leave Home seal detail
(Due to dicog disorganization I originally posted the next picture with the first Ramones record; it belongs to Leave Home.)
Because they’re so good looking someone decided to add another punk rock portrait on the album liner. Nerds? Tough guys? Gang? I wonder what people thought back in the ’70s.
Ramones - Leave Home liner notes
This copy of Leave Home is apparently the third release, and included the song “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.”
Pretty cool picture. This image was from an issue of Punk magazine. I like the minimalist layout and typography, sort of a prototype for some of the album art that Sub-Pop records would have years later. And speaking of minimalist, and cool, 14 songs in less than 30 minutes, and a solid hook in every number? That’s the brilliant self-titled record Ramones (1976). I was never that deep into the band back then, despite buying all the records and seeing them a dozen times, but lately I can’t stop playing the early stuff.
More great, great minimalist art on the back. This one is from Arturo Vega. He eventually did a lot of the Ramones’ artwork. Recognize the eagle? This is perfect.
All the ingredients, and the players, Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker, McKnight, Shider, and more are here, but R&B Skeletons in the Closet (1986) is not the most vital piece of George Clinton’s body of work. Some of songs are perfect and some are down right grating. The two I like the most are “Hey Good Lookin” and the semi-hit “Do Fries Go With That Shake!?”
The album cover art alone is worth the price. I wish you could see it better, but I’m feeling too lazy for detail shots. In a nutshell the whole thing is a commentary on black artists that sell out to “cross over.”
Check out his “ObamaNation” at MySpace. It reminds of that blast from the past: “Paint the White House Black.” Look how many celebs are in this video!
I got to see Mr. Clinton, George that is, live somewhere between this album and that video. Maybe I’ll dig out the t-shirt I got and post that later.
This is another record I inherited from my friend Bob Bob(ala). I’ve posted so many of his old records already that I think he needs his own tag. I confess that when I first looked at Ray Charles Live (1973, recorded in ’58 and ’59) I thought it was a decent addition to the collection, but didn’t expect it to rock my world. I was wrong. I’ve played this entire double album many times since I got it a few years back.
Ray Charles can tear the roof off any place and in a variety of styles. There is everything here from some swinging hard bop jazz instrumentals to classic blues soul numbers like “The Right Time.” In fact, there are two recordings of that song on here and it’s still not enough for me. When the Raylette Marjorie Hendricks starts screaming “BAAAY-BAAAYeee” repeatedly I get the goosebumps. The excellent notes inside the gatefold cover describe her singing as “powerful soulfulness-bordering-on-hysteria.” It doesn’t get any better than that for me.
Thanks to KP for picking up my slack. That girl is nuts.
Brother, this Judas Priest record is so “very metal.” British Steel (1980) is not the most consistent record but it contains a couple true classics. “Breaking the Law”? You know it. One of my first garage band covers, with me on drums. “Living After Midnight,” check. And I’ll also throw the lesser-known, but anthemic gem, “United.” The band had really found their groove at this point, with that locked-in driving metal sound that got right to the point.
Check out this “Breaking the Law” video and watch for the moment that caused Beavis and Butthead to call singer Rob Halford a “wild and crazy guy” a la Steve Martin.
Surfer Rosa is a great, great record. It was the Pixies’ first full-length album, but it’s only 32 minutes long. Perfect. Pretty much everyone I knew at the time was digging this. A year or two later when their major label debut Doolittle came out they suddenly became huge. I had a friend at the time, Bill Rogers, who was introduced to the Pixies through Doolittle, and he loved it. Then he decided to pick up Surfer Rosa, because he was, as he put it, a “completist.” In fact, I’m pretty sure I learned that term from him. Bill was not happy with Surfer Rosa. He said it was “too loosey goosey.” Bill’s music taste was broad and deep, and I really respected his opinions on music. But I couldn’t disagree more.
I was recently reminded of this great when re-watched the equally great movie, Donnie Darko. The film ends with my favorite song from the album, “Where Is My Mind?” Double greatness.
This record is at the literal end of the line on the shelf. So, I’m always staring at it, but it’s been a long time since I’ve heard it. That’s too bad because Bird Wood Cage by The Wolfgang Press is a great album. Someone reviewed it on Amazon with the title “Industrial-Strength Bootie Quake.” In addition to being funny that’s also accurate. Sure, it’s late ’80s alt music on 4A.D., the record label synonymous with “gothic” music, and no self-respecting art school student at the time would be without it. But these songs are also a lot of fun, and dance-able! My favorite is probably the last one, “Shut That Door.”
Yes! Today we celebrate. I’m celebrating because Mary and I got a new site up today for Heavy Duty Incorporated at WeAreHeavyDuty.com, our art and home furnishings business. To celebrate I’m finally posting Judas Priest’s Defenders of the Faith.
This album contains a song that has become my heavy metal mantra, “Heavy Duty.” The song contains the lyrics “I’m Heavy Duty” in the first chorus and “We’re Heavy Duty” in the last one. The first line I mentioned is, of course, the namesake of this web site. You can read more about why I chose that name. “We’re Heavy Duty” happens to be the URL for Heavy Duty Incorporated. “Heavy Duty” is simple metal dirge with some silly metal lyrics, but it never fails to give me a boost when I most need it. I play it all the time, and I have two copies, just in case. Just in case.
Another sentimental reason I love this record is that on April 12, 1984, the night before final exams in my senior year of high school, Roger Williams and I went to see Judas Priest live at the Hampton Coliseum. Roger is/was sort of an intellectual metalhead. If I remember correctly, he was valedictorian of his class and went on to Notre Dame. We lost touch after high school, which is unfortunate for him because I’m pretty sure one of those albums in the picture in his. Sorry Roj. Contact me to negotiate visitation rights.
The show was fantastic in a completely over the top heavy metal way. The “Metallian” creature on the cover was the actual stage, with the drums inside the mouth and a huge mechanical arm that lowered to allow Rob Halford to walk out. At least that’s how I remember it. Halford also rode a Harley onto the stage at one point. The whole band played perfectly was locked into the driving grooves that made this middle period Priest music so great.
Some of the other great songs on Defenders are “Freewheel Burning” and “Some Heads are Gonna Roll.” While overall the lyrics are the usual tough guy silliness you would expect there are more than a few corny-but-inspiring metal moments like this from “Rock Hard Ride Free”:
No denying, we’re going against the grain
So defiant they’ll never put us down
Rock Hard Ride Free
All day, all night
Rock Hard Ride Free
All your life
But my favorite, of course, comes from “Heavy Duty.”
We’re Heavy Duty
So come on let’s tell the world
We are defenders of the faith…
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"I'm Heavy Duty!" was my original blog about everything. Now it's about new music, old records, live shows, stories, memorabilia, garage band demos, anything and everything else related to music. Over 500 posts at this Music Blog!
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