Hear The Ramones’ Raw Demo Recordings For Their Debut Album (1975)

Try to imag­ine a world with­out The Ramones. Just close your eyes and try…. Okay, maybe you can do it, but I can’t. Poof! Sev­er­al dozen scuzzy punk bands that played the sound­track to my ado­les­cence sud­den­ly van­ish. The Queens, NY band’s brat­ty take on 50s girl group pop and doo wop—played at dou­ble and triple speeds, har­monies chant­ed more than sung—saved rock and roll from its bloat­ed, delu­sion­al self. They made dumb music for smart peo­ple, and if they tend­ed toward self-par­o­dy in their lat­er years, includ­ing the sad spec­ta­cle of Dee Dee’s abortive rap career, they can and should be for­giv­en.

In a dis­dain­ful swipe at sev­en­ties pro­gres­sive rock, crit­ic Robert Christ­gau once attrib­uted to Chuck Berry the words “beware of mid­dle­brows bear­ing elec­tric gui­tars.” Cat­ty, but it’s true that when bud­gets swelled and the music busi­ness boomed, rock went full-on MOR; The Ramones pro­vid­ed the per­fect anti­dote. With songs like “Now I Wan­na Sniff Some Glue” and “I Don’t Wan­na Be Learned/I Don’t Wan­na Be Tamed” they pro­claimed them­selves defi­ant low­brows and proud of it. Both tunes show up on their first demo record, above (at 10:40 and 18:22), a glo­ri­ous­ly fuzzy, lo-fi affair fea­tur­ing a few cuts that didn’t appear on their self-titled 1976 debut.

Record­ed in 1975—and some per­haps as ear­ly as ’74—these record­ings cap­ture the band at their most raw and unmedi­at­ed. The blog Ramones: Hum­ming a Sick­en­ing Tune has an excel­lent break­down of each demo song, and sums up this pre­cious arti­fact nice­ly: “[The ear­ly demo record­ings] offer a fas­ci­nat­ing alter­na­tive insight into how the even­tu­al debut album might have oth­er­wise sound­ed. Their dense, pri­mal sound reveals the sur­pris­ing amount of dilu­tion that the first record’s some­what con­cep­tu­al mix wrought upon the quar­tet’s fun­da­men­tal pow­er.”

The increas­ing pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion of the Ramones, and their grad­ual tran­si­tion to almost-pop, has served to obscure the tru­ly hyp­not­ic, pound­ing, buz­z­saw drone they made as com­plete ama­teur unknowns. Dare I say I like their ear­ly work bet­ter? If only because they made a sound every lo-fi DIY band from my youth, includ­ing my own high school garage out­fit, strove might­i­ly to emu­late, whether they could actu­al­ly play their instru­ments or not. None of this praise is meant to dimin­ish the bril­liance of Ramones, which can­not be called a tra­di­tion­al stu­dio rock record by any stretch. Record­ed for Sire Records in sev­en days on a $6,400 bud­get, the band’s first album is as lean and scrap­py as major label prod­uct gets. But the demos above show us that they could do just as well, maybe bet­ter, with almost noth­ing but their instru­ments and sui gener­is genius. Or as blog­ger Bun­combeShi­no­la puts it: “crunchy and charged, these record­ings make the six grand spent on The Ramones seem like a dubi­ous extrav­a­gance.” Indeed.

Songs you can hear above include:

1. 53rd & 3rd Demo
2. I Wan­na Be Your Boyfriend Demo
3. Judy Is A Punk Demo
4. Now I Wan­na Sniff Some Glue Demo
5. I Can’t Be Demo
6. I Don’t Wan­na Be Learned I Don’t Wan­na Be Tamed Demo
7. You Should Nev­er Open That Door Demo

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Ramones, a New Punk Band, Play One of Their Very First Shows at CBGB (1974)

The Ramones in Their Hey­day, Filmed “Live at CBGB,” 1977

The Ramones Play New Year’s Eve Con­cert in Lon­don, 1977

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (9)
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  • Road Cat says:

    Learn all about the Ramones in the book;
    Through­out the remark­able twen­ty-two-year career of the Ramones the sem­i­nal punk rock band, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers, Record­ing Acad­e­my Gram­my Life­time Achieve­ment Award win­ners and inductees into The Library of Con­gress’ Nation­al Record­ing Reg­istry, Monte A. Mel­nick saw it all. He was the band’s tour man­ag­er from their 1974 CBGB debut to their final show in 1996. Now, in this NEW UPDATED EDITION he tells his sto­ry. Full of insid­er per­spec­tives and exclu­sive inter­views and packed with over 250 per­son­al col­or pho­tos and images; this is a must-have for all fans of the Ramones.

  • Craig Leon says:

    Since time immemo­r­i­al in the music press biz there’s always some idiot who tries to make his or her name as a crit­ic by declar­ing that the demo is bet­ter than the album. I’m quite chuffed to see that there’s one at Open Culture…Josh Jones

  • Josh Jones says:

    Wow, you’re an unpleas­ant per­son, aren’t you? In no way is this site the “music press biz,” but I hap­pi­ly restate: I like the demos bet­ter. Shrug.

  • Craig Leon says:

    Josh Jones..Sorry I offend­ed your del­i­cate sen­si­bilites. Excuse me.. please read “pop­u­lar cul­ture press” for “music biz press” above. In any case you don’t have a clue as to what you’re talk­ing about. I record­ed a num­ber of those demos as well as the first album.

  • Mark Prindle says:

    If that real­ly is Craig Leon post­ing above me, it’s very dis­ap­point­ing to see that the pro­duc­er of one of the world’s great­est albums has the men­tal­i­ty of a three-year-old. Why on earth did he feel com­pelled to respond to this opin­ion piece in such an infan­tile man­ner? Why respond at all?

  • John Reeves says:

    There might be a sur­vey ques­tion here. Most off the wall post by a leg­end? I’ll nom­i­nate Shel Talmy for a usenet post many years ago.

  • Russ says:

    The Ramones said in lat­er inter­views that they loved the ear­ly Stooges albums and lis­tened to them repeat­ed­ly while stoned. You can hear the influ­ence clear­ly here. It is sim­ple but also tight and dri­ving, like ear­ly Stooges.

  • Tom Trusnovic says:

    Greet­ings, i write HUMMING A SICKENING TUNE and BUNCOMBE SHINOLA, i appre­ci­ate the kind words and links! I was won­der­ing where all the new hits were com­ing from. hah

    I fear i also drew CRAIG LEON’s ire through my scrib­blings, but even though i have grown to pre­fer the dense, raw tone of the demos, i will NEVER under­es­ti­mate how instru­men­tal Mr. LEON was in get­ting the band rolling. And for THAT alone, he will ALWAYS be super­cool in my book.

    Thanks again Josh Jones. I’ll be back on pace soon­ly at HUMMING A SICKENING TUNE with the next sequen­tial entry: TEENAGE LOBOTOMY!


  • Tom Trusnovic says:

    Here’s a quick jump to my orig­i­nal blog about these record­ings THE RAMONES’ OTHER DEBUT ALBUM. There are a few tracks not appear­ing in the above clip and i have fixed up the dead links.

    Thanks again!


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