The release, in May 1976, of the debut 45 by The Ramones completely passed me by. I was utterly in love with music at the time, but it was very much limited to what I’d hear on Radio 1 in the mornings or weekends, failing which it making an appearance on Top of the Pops. I was far too young to be listening to John Peel or to be spending precious pocket money on a music newspaper, especially not when there’s a set of football stickers to be collected…..
It would be a further year before I became aware of the New Yorkers, all thanks to Sheena Is A Punk Rocker crashing into the UK charts. I wasn’t entirely convinced by them as they sounded almost comedic when listened to alongside The Jam, The Clash, The Stranglers, Buzzcocks, The Damned, Penetration and Sex Pistols. It would actually take until the summer of 79, when a colleague in the shop in which I took my first full-time but temporary job, having learned of my interest in new wave, loaned me a handful of singles that I hadn’t much or any knowledge of.
This was the first time I knowingly listened to Blitzkrieg Bop as I had no idea that was the proper title of the Hey Ho, Let’s Go song. The second it started, I knew what it was as I’d heard it played a few times in record shops over the years but without ever having the courage to ask anyone what it was. The same went for any of my mates who might happen to be browsing with – none of us would ever dare let on we didn’t actually know the name of any particular great sounding record that was played in the shop.
It also just hit me as I was typing this that none of us actually had any older brothers who could introduce us to such music. At least I has the excuse of being the oldest kid in our family, but three other close mates who also liked a bit of new wave (certainly of the type we knew from the charts) all had big brothers who, to a youth, were obsessed by prog-rock. The nearest we had was Tommy’s older sister whose love of T-Rex, Bowie and Roxy Music had brought her into contact with stuff that I would later wholly embrace….but at 14/15 years of age, nobody listened to anything a girl said.
Enough of the reminiscing from a bygone era.
Blitzkreig Bop is an amazing burst of energy that still sounds incredibly vibrant and vital the best part of two generations later. It’s no surprise that young kids are still happy to be seen wandering the streets wearing their ultra-cool and hip t-shirts with a Ramones logo.
It’s a simple song, but that’s the biggest part of its attraction. Tommy Ramone wrote it as his own celebration of being a rock music fan and the excitement that comes with getting to see music up close and in the live setting. As he himself once said, “It is basically about a few kids going to a concert, getting away from it all and having a great time.”
Forget any nonsense you might read about it being linked to the might of the German airforce and military. This was written as a pure bubblegum pop song, partly as a response to what was happening with Scottish boy band, the Bay City Rollers who were tearing up the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and who are one of those acts whose singles I did buy back in the day but have long forgotten about. Tommy had called the song Animal Hop but Dee Dee wanted to make it more punk-sounding and so he changed a line from ‘They’re shouting in the back now’ to ‘Let’s go shoot ‘em in the back now’ and suggested the new title of Blitzkrieg Pop, a move which probably made the managers of radio stations across the USA shy away from giving it some air time.
I looked back at Dirk’s magnificent ICA on The Ramones and was surprised to find that he hadn’t found space for the debut single among his chosen ten tracks. Just shows how many great songs the band came up with over the fullness of time.