Album Review: Ramones Rocket to Russia 40 Years Later

1977 Ramones Live Concert. L to R: Johnny Ramone, Tommy Ramone and Joey Ramone. Not pictured: Dee Dee Ramone. Photo credit: Howard Barlow

Rocket to Russia album cover art

Ramones: Rocket to Russia

Rocket to Russia was released November 4th 1977 by the legendary punk-rock band The Ramones. Rocket to Russia is a bit more of what some would call “surf music” or “bubblegum pop” influenced. A similarity to their previous releases, the lyrics integrated humor, black humor if I had to point it out, circling mental disorders and psychiatry. Fourteen songs all under three minutes, fast, hoppy and raw. The Ramones where about simplicity, hooks, speed and originality.

‘Rockaway Beach’ written by bassist DeeDee Ramone in the style of the beach boys is a bit more catchy and it fits perfectly with the Californian Surfer scene, altho the song was written about Rockaway Beach, Queens, where Dee Dee liked to spend his time. ‘Rockaway Beach’ was the Ramones highest charting single in their career, number 66 on the Billboard Hot 100.

One of my personal favorites in this album is ‘Sheena’ is a Punk Rocker, its about being different and breaking free from the “normal” being yourself and not caring what people think or say. “They got their surfboards and they’re going to the discotheque Au Go Go but she just couldn’t stay she had to break away” “Sheena is a punk rocker Sheena is a punk rocker now”. ‘We’re A Happy Family’ is a bit more of a “joke” song describing a dysfunctional family from Queens that pretends to be happy, “No Christmas cards to send, Daddy likes men, Daddy’s telling lies, baby’s eating flies, mommy’s on pills” again very catchy, jumpy instrumental but the lyrics are a bit dark and cynically humorous. ‘Teenage Lobotomy’ another classic, I remember listening to this in high school not really understanding what this song was about. I was in high school right when they had introduced the Internet! It was very new and I had no interest, but I was not going to go into a library and research Lobotomy, I hated school and I hated science. Through out the years I started to understand that this song is super dark and genius, lyrics are about a teenager who had a lobotomy done because of the brain damage cause by overexposure to DDT.

Rocket to Russia – Back Cover

In Rocket to Russia the Ramones cover the song ‘Surfing Bird’. ‘Surfing Bird’ originally performed by The Trashmen 1963. I think that the Ramones added this cover track to their album because of the similar concepts of the beach and surfing, it’s a bit more faster than the original and more aggressive but it works, listening to it now makes me want to get up and pogo. The last song on Rocket to Russia ‘Why is it Always This Way’ is about a female who has committed suicide “Last time I saw her alive she was wavin,’ wavin’ bye bye, she was contemplating suicide now she’s lying in a bottle of formaldehyde” once again dark and taboo. As a teenage kid listening to the Ramones you probably didn’t catch much of these dark lyrics, maybe what did it for you was the instrumentals, even a punk-rock band like the Ramones keeping it simple and fast beats with clean vocals made them a cult classic punk-rock band that is immortal.

– Gloria Skulls

Rocket to Russia Tracklist
1. Cretin Hop
2. Rockaway Beach
3. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
4. Locket Love
5. I Don’t Care
6. Sheena Is a Punk Rocker
7. We’re a Happy Family
8. Teenage Lobotomy
9. Do You Wanna Dance
10. I Wanna Be Well
11. I Can’t Give You Anything
12. Ramona
13. Surfin’ Bird
14. Why Is It Always This Way?