The sound of a crowd cheering. An open-chord strum on an electric guitar. Somebody says «good evening, we’re The Ramones, and this one’s called Rockaway Beach
!» Another someone immediately goes «1, 2, 3, 4!» and the song starts. Thus gets underway one of the most famous live albums of all time, The Ramones’ It’s Alive!
. I once saw an article describing this album as the only defining, career-changing live album ever released. While this statement is more than a little inflated, the importance of this record remains untouched.
captures The Ramones at the peak of their form. Tommy Ramone was still on board, Rocket To Russia
was selling like hotcakes, and the band had managed to make it big overseas. No wonder, therefore, that the band should decide to record this live album in London, England, on New Year’s Day 1978. They perform a lightning-fast set of 28 songs in under an hour, in front of an enthusiastic crowd. The time/number of songs ratio may seem incredible, but we must not forget that The Ramones belted out two or three songs in the time it took other bands to play one! In fact, the vast majority of these songs are under three minutes long, and (much in the punk spirit) take only as long as they need to.
However, being so d*mn fast can be a double-edged blade. On the one hand, the band nearly bring the house down with their ripping, tearing performance; on the other, some of the less interesting songs are drowned in the mass of repetitive riffing. This happens, for example, with Now I Wanna Be A Good Boy
or Suzy Is A Headbanger
(with the latter sounding much better on the Leave Home
album than it does here). Upon further hearings of the album, one will instinctively start to skip these tracks, urging to get to the highlights.
And what highlights! Rockaway Beach
gets our blood pumping, Blitzkrieg Bop
, although slightly accelerated, is its usual glorious self, Glad To See You Go
rips through our speakers, Commando
has never sounded better, Cretin Hop
is irresistible…and of course, they all lead to the cherry on top of the cake. D’You Wanna Dance?
is absolutely the best track on here, one minute and thirty-nine seconds of pure punkabilly bliss. But the album does not end here, and there are still a few good songs left to go : Today Your Love Tomorrow The World
, Let’s Dance
and Oh Oh I Love Her So
are particular standouts.
But all the songwriting genius is marred by one huge downside: in the long run, the album becomes haplessly tiredsome. The Ramones’ songs all sound so similar that my first reaction upon hearing this album was «gee, what a long opening track!» When I checked the CD’s timer, it was already track 3… This, of course, will cause a bit of boredom after a while. Plus, if you listen to this CD too many times over a short period of time (like I once did), you will never want to pick it up again.
Personally, this is my least favourite of all my Ramones albums (I own self-titled, Leave Home
, Brain Drain
, End Of The Century
and this one). I believe this album has been more than a bit overhyped over the past few decades, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad album. Let’s say it’s a perfect way to get into punk, or into The Ramones, but once you’ve been introduced, you will overlook this one for other stuff. At least I did…
Glad To See You Go
D’You Wanna Dance?
Oh Oh I Love Her So