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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