“Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” I love the Ramones. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy were, arguably, the first punk rock band. But, they were, in fact, my introduction to punk rock music, thanks to my older brother’s well-worn LP’s. Now, they are one of my top 5 favorite bands of all-time. I was truly saddened when Joey Ramone died of lymphoma on April 15, 2001; then, again, when Dee Dee died of an overdose on June 5, 2002; and, again, when Johnny died of cancer on September 15, 2004. The Ramones‘ influence on punk is undeniable. Their loud, fast, yet insanely melodic 3-chord sound, if nothing more, gave birth to pop/punk music. And, I love bands who wear their Ramones influence, proudly, on their sleeves, especially if they’re all-female (Riff Randells, The Eyeliners, etc) or female-fronted (The Go-Sheilas, The Gee Strings, etc). But, I can also appreciate a good Ramones tribute band.
OK, imagine that the Ramones, circa 1976, are sucked into a wormhole and dropped in Tokyo, Japan, circa 2006. But, upon re-entry, their molecules are jumbled and re-assembled, not as 4 New York dudes, but as 3 Japanese chicks. It’s possible, right? Well, that’s the Romanes. Even the letters of their name were jumbled! The Romanes cover Ramones classics, but sing them almost entirely in Japanese. These girls exude charm in their dedication to their favorite band and, as a result, this album, released in 2006, is pure unashamed fun. They rip through 14 classics in under 30 minutes. Classics like “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Rockaway Beach” (whose great line “Chewin’ out a ryhthm on my bubble gum” is lost in translation), “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” “I Wanna Be Sedated” and more (obviously). My favorites are “Pinhead,” which sounds awesome in Japanese, and the Romanes cover of the Ramones cover of The Rivieras‘ 1964 classic “California Sun.”
OK, now imagine that the Ramones, circa 1976, are sucked into a wormhole and dropped in Tacoma, WA, circa 1960. But, this time, upon re-entry, their molecules collide and are re-assembled with those of instrumental rock band The Ventures. It’s possible, right? Well, that’s the Ramonetures. Even their names collided! The Ramonetures cover Ramones classics as Ventures-styled surf instrumentals. The band was formed by guitarist Mel Bergman of the contemporary surf band, The Phantom Surfers (who, by the way, do an awesome cover of Frank Sinatra Jr‘s surf theme “The Beach Girls and The Monster” from the 1965 B-movie of the same name), and featured fuzz guitar legend Davie Allan. This album, released in 2000, is even more fun to listen to than the Romanes release. The Ramonetures rip through 16 classics, surf-style, in under 40 minutes, with the usual suspects accounted for (“Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” “Rock & Roll High School,” etc). In the radio intro to “Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio?” the signal stops on the Ramones version of “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” playing through the speakers, then switches to “Walk, Don’t Run” by The Ventures before the Ramonetures begin their take. Cool. But, my favorites are the whammy-drenched “She’s The One” and “Babsitter.” The Ramonetures followed up with “Johny Walk Don’t Run Paulene” (2001) which was Ventures-styled covers of songs by L.A. punk icons X, but, the fun was missing.
So, let’s go back to Japan. Osaka, this time. Shonen Knife is an influential all-female Japanese punk trio who are one of those bands who, for 30 years(!), have played their love of the Ramones out loud. In 2011, they released “Osaka Ramones – A Tribute to The Ramones.” What took them so long?! Shonen Knife turns in 13 covers in just over 30 minutes, and guitarist-vocalist Naoko Yamano, the only original member still in the band, sings in her trademark heavily-accented English. Now, this is my favorite all-female Ramones tribute, but if Naoko had taken her cue from the Romanes and sung entirely in Japanese, this album would be even better. Sure, there are, at least, two all-female Ramones tribute bands out there who call themselves the Ramonas (one UK-based, the other in L.A.), but they haven’t released any music, officially, so Shonen Knife‘s album stands as the best. “Blitzkrieg Bop,” the first track, is my favorite and on August 21, 2012, at The Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, OH, these doll-sized girls rocked my world with that song and a whole lot more of their own! “Gabba Gabba Hey!”