Record Review: Ramones – It’s Alive

Sire ‎| US | CD | 1995 | 9 46045-2

Ramones: It’s Alive US CD [1995]

  1. Rockaway Beach
  2. Teenage Lobotomy
  3. Blitzkrieg Bop
  4. I Wanna Be Well
  5. Glad To See You Go
  6. Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment
  7. You’re Gonna Kill That Girl
  8. I Don’t Care
  9. Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
  10. Havana Affair
  11. Commando
  12. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
  13. Surfin’ Bird
  14. Cretin Hop
  15. Listen To My Heart
  16. California Sun
  17. I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You
  18. Pinhead
  19. Do You Wanna Dance?
  20. Chainsaw
  21. Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World
  22. Now I Wanna Be A Good Boy
  23. Judy Is A Punk
  24. Suzy Is A Headbanger
  25. Let’s Dance
  26. Oh Oh I Love Her So
  27. Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
  28. We’re A Happy Family

I remember when I first heard Ramones’ “It’s Alive.” I was aware that the album was available only as an import; I had seen it in the import bins at the time. An import double album of Ramones was not on my radar in 1979 since I had only just begun buying import albums and a live set by Ramones was not a draw for me. Besides, I only had one Ramones studio album at the time; I still needed more of those! It was a few months later, in early 1980, when I was listening to WUSF-FM on their Friday late night New Wave programming, which I could barely receive a signal on 90 miles away, but if I held my antenna just right for those three hours…

“1-2-3-4!” – Dee Dee Ramone

The DJ played a suite of songs from side one of “It’s Alive” and the tunes were so short and fast, that it would have been impossible to play just one without screwing up the cueing somehow. The pacing was so breakneck that the DJ ended up playing the first three songs all in a 6:24 clump of Ramones… but no clump ever moved that swiftly!

“1-2-3-4!” – Dee Dee Ramone

I still didn’t buy “It’s Alive” for years, even after I had most of the Ramones’ albums in the Record Cell. The album was one of Sire’s double live New Wave albums [like “The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads”] that seemed to have gotten lost in the digital shuffle. It finally surfaced on CD in 1990, and I may have seen a copy in the bins at Wax ’N Facts in the early 90s as part of that first Japanese wave of Ramones on CD which predated the silvery discs on our own shores, but I was too smitten with the copies there that day of “Rocket To Russia” and “End Of The Century” to pay any attention! I still didn’t buy “It’s Alive!”

“1-2-3-4!” – Dee Dee Ramone

Eventually, the CD got a release in 1995 as part of the Warner Archives series, correcting a cosmic wrong. That the most American of bands could not have their first live album released in their home country for 16 years was a head scratcher. But I, as ever, lagged behind. After all, I was still building a Ramones album collection, having come to the conclusion in the mid-90s that ignoring large swaths of their canon was somewhat short sighted of me. The live album, however iconic, would have to wait until later. There were studio albums to get first. Fact: I still need “Animal Boy!”

“1-2-3-4!” – Dee Dee Ramone

<insert nine year gap – here> Finally, when I was a member of the late, lamented LaLa CD trading community, I put “It’s Alive” on my want list and got myself a copy in…2006. Better late than never, but you can’t beat a $1.00 price! There have been almost too many live Ramones albums over the years. Some I even bought years before this one, like “We’re Outta Here” in a CD/VHS combo pack in 1997, but that was just for the amazing two and a half hour video tape of Ramones history and performance included. The actual live album was nothing special… apart from being the final Ramones performance. At the end of the day, when it comes down to just the music, “It’s Alive” is the one that your home needs.

“1-2-3-4!” – Dee Dee Ramone

That first trilogy of tunes that opened the album was so conceptually perfect, it served as a succinct précis on everything that made Ramones a great band. Bubblegum pop leanings cheek by jowl with self-deprecating black humor and more hooks than a tackle box. All washed down with the thrills that only sheer, manic velocity could impart! It still makes me weep to consider that a song as perfect a “Blitzkreig Bop” somehow failed to be a massive top 40 hit in this fallen world.

“1-2-3-4!” – Dee Dee Ramone

This album was the only, real Ramones live album because it’s the one with the original lineup playing on it. While I honor all members of Ramones [with the exception of the ill-considered Elvis Ramone – who only lasted for a couple of gigs], there’s a lot to be said for all of the guidance that Tommy Ramone brought to the project. Not only did he manage the fledgling band, but after showing auditioning drummers what they needed to do to make it in the group enough times, they bowed to inevitable and made him the drummer.

“1-2-3-4!” – Dee Dee Ramone

This is also a perfect Ramones album. The last one, actually. Why? Because it sports seven songs per side! Think about it. All of the best Ramones albums have 14 songs per disc! The other ones can be good, but they just don’t stand as seminal Ramones albums in the way “Ramones,” “Leave Home,” Rocket To Russia,” and yes…“It’s Alive” manage to do. This album is great because it captured, for the first time for those of us with ears outside of the punk bars of NYC, just what it was like to stand under the shower of sparks that were Ramones in concert. 28 song in 58 minutes; spread across four sides. It’s not even groove crammed!

“1-2-3-4!” – Dee Dee Ramone

And if that weren’t reason enough to love this album, let’s not forget that Ramones were trash culture mavens of a rare stripe back in the day. Not only did Ramones have an earlier song based on Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” that got played here [see: “Chainsaw”], but the band were trash culturally wise enough to have cribbed the very title of this album from the tasteless Larry Cohen B-movie of five years earlier. That the band themselves constitute a whole wing of the Museum of Trash Culture® goes without saying. Even 20 years after their final tour [and we were there], it’s hard to believe that the junk culture* machine that was Ramones is still not touring the world to thunderous acclaim, if not record sales. Play this album and relive the thrills and promise of punk rock providing a group of misfits with a way out of their predicament.

literally, in the case of Dee Dee

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in Core Collection and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Record Review: Ramones – It’s Alive

  1. The Swede says:

    The greatest live album of all time, without question. I would part with huge swathes of my collection rather than lose ‘It’s Alive’.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      The Swede – I’ve been listening to it for two days straight now and once it’s over there’s a 4-count from Dee Dee and it just keeps repeating! I can’t stop it and…why would I? Once I think of maybe listening to something else, it’s over and has already begun playing again.

      Like

  2. Echorich says:

    I own just a handful of live albums….it comes partly from growing up in NYC and having live music always available. But It’s Alive is among those scant live albums because it manages to capture just was it was like to see Ramones live and more importantly to hear them live.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Aha! Even with your live album antipathy, I was confident you would have this one!

      Like

      • Echorich says:

        And The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads is among that small grouping as well. Of course. In fact, NYC bands have quite a hold on my live recorded music collection as it is lead off by LIve At CBGB’s – The Home Of Underground Rock. Now that is essential if for nothing else it contains 3 tracks each by Tuff Darts and Mink DeVille!

        Like

  3. diskojoe says:

    I think that if this album was released in the States back in the day that it would have been a career booster for them like Live in Budokan was for Cheap Trick. As it is, it’s the Bizarro Frampton Comes Alive

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      diskojoe – Welcome to the comments! You’re so right! The late 70s was all about the live album career flash points. Not just Cheap Trick but also (ugh) Peter Frampton. I thought your “Bizarro Frampton Comes Alive” reference was spot on!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s