Blitzkrieg Bop Music
Unlock the melody, harmony, and rhythm
The Ramones musical style was an attempt to prove once and for all that the music and culture of the 1960s were long gone. By the 1970s, much of the idealism and hope for the future that had marked the heyday of the hippie era had dissipated, and yet many musicians were still holding onto something that simply was no longer there. In their attempt to counter the dominant music style of their time, the Ramones succeeded in creating a sound and a musical vision that was distinct and unique to the 1970s. It should also be noted that the Ramones musical sound was deeply rooted in the urban experience of the 1970s, a time when many inner cities were hollowing out as white flight and suburbanization were in full effect. New York was a much different place in the 1970s than it was in the 1960s. And the Ramones' music reflected this change. The Ramones music was deconstructed rock and roll - take out all the unnecessary embellishments that had become so common in rock music at the time. In this respect, the Ramones were looking backwards, while still looking forward. They were paying respect to the early, stripped down sounds of rock music, while also creating something that was entirely new and fresh.
This fresh, raw energy can be felt on the very first note of "Blitzkrieg Bop," as Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy kick in together on guitar, bass, and drums. This is a high-energy, thrashing style of rock and roll. Then the guitar and bass stop playing, allowing Joey to take center stage. It's just him and Tommy on drums, and together they create a sound that will define their music forever. "Hey ho! Let's go!" This chant pretty much defines what Ramones music was all about - rocking out and simply having fun, reveling in the simplicity of it all.
Following the chant, the Ramones go into attack mode. This is a quick, full-scale assault on your eardrums - a musical blitzkrieg. And the song is over before you can figure out what just happened to you. The sound that the vocals, guitar, bass, and drums create comes together so seamlessly, almost creating one instrument. Sure the guitar part is simple, but that doesn't really matter. The Ramones created a sound that is so raw and so fresh that their lack of technical musical ability can be entirely forgotten. If the Ramones had been incredible musicians, they wouldn't have been the Ramones. Together, they created a music that was greater than the sum of its component parts.
One thing that sets the Ramones apart from the other punk rockers they inspired and who succeeded them, are the vocals. Joey Ramone's vocal melodies sound very different from other punk groups. For one thing, they were much more melodious, at times even sweet. This is in large part a product of the music that Joey loved, which was the bubblegum pop of the late 1960s. In some respects, the Ramones constructed music that was bubblegum pop with a very rough edge. With the exception of "Hey ho! Let's go!" Joey is singing and not yelling throughout "Blitzkrieg Bop" - quite a departure from many of the screaming punk acts that followed later. And in what could be one of the most surprising aspects of "Blitzkrieg Bop," there is even a nice, sweet harmony. As Joey sings "Hey-ho! Let's go! Shoot 'em in the back now," there is a beautiful backup vocal melody that sounds absolutely nothing like what we associate with punk rock. Just listen in at the 54-second mark - it really is pretty remarkable. The backup vocals sound more like something from Motown or bubblegum pop, but not punk rock. But then again, it's just this sort of thing that makes the Ramones so hard to pigeonhole.
And then after Johnny's guitar has said all it's wanted to say, Joey and Tommy finish the song with one last exclamation mark, as Joey yells "Hey-ho! Let's go!" And just like that, it's over. The Ramones - proof that brevity is the soul of wit, or at least the soul of punk... even if they once described themselves as "intellectual twelve-year olds."
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