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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Ramones Songs

Picks include ‘Beat on the Brat,’ ‘Rockaway Beach’ and ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’

Johnny Ramone, Tommy Ramone and Joey Ramone of the Ramones

Howard Barlow/Redferns

To the untrained ear, every Ramones song sounds exactly the same. They're all fast, short, wickedly funny and deceptively simple. But the hardcores know the truth: no two songs are the same. "Wart Hog" sounds nothing like "Judy Is a Punk," and "I Remember You" is about as far away from "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" as one can imagine. The Ramones worked like maniacs for 22 years, and spent the vast majority of that time toiling in obscurity. Nobody was paying attention to them in the Eighties and early Nineties, but they were out every night putting on amazing shows. Sadly, it wasn't until they started dying off that they suddenly became cool agian. We asked our readers to vote for their favorite songs, and the response was huge. Click through to see the results. 

By Andy Greene

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9. ‘Pet Sematary’

Things got rough for the Ramones in the Eighties. The decade began with the commercially disappointing Phil Spector-produced End of the Century and ended with Dee Dee Ramone leaving the band. Shortly before he left, longtime Ramones fans Stephen King asked if they'd write a new song for the film adaptation of his bestselling horror novel Pet Sematary. It's poppier and less abrasive than many of their songs, and the hook is very strong. It rose high on the Modern Rock chart, but failed to cross over to pop radio and didn't crack the Hot 100. Still, it was their most successful single in years. 

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8. ‘Judy Is a Punk’

A key part of their live show from the band's earliest days, "Judy Is a Punk" is 93 seconds of absolute minimalist brilliance. Joey wrote the song after seeing a bunch of kids hanging around an apartment building in New York. It's about a "punk" and a "runt" who go to Berlin to join the Ice Capades and then to San Francisco to join the SLA. In homage to the 1965 Herman's Hermits classic "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am," Joey yells out "second verse, same as the first" before singing the second verse a second time. He was raised on simple pop songs like that, and had little use for the bloated rock songs that were all over radio when the Ramones formed. 

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7. ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’

According to Ramones lore, Joey wrote this biting song after Johnny stole away his girlfriend and married her. Joey was a committed liberal and Johnny was a pretty far-right Republican, and Joey supposedly equated him with the KKK. It's a great story, but the song was largely written years before it appeared on 1981's Pleasant Dreams. Joey's brother Mickey Leigh says that Joey wrote the song about his parents disapproving of him dating a black woman. Whatever the truth, it's an amazing song, and it deserved to be a hit. Oddly, radio programmers weren't thrilled about playing a song with the term "KKK" in the title. 

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6. ‘Rockaway Beach’

How many people who have never spent a day in New York learned all about the geography of the city from Ramones songs? Rockaway Beach is deep into Queens (take the A Train to Broad Channel and then transfer to the S to Rockaway Beach) and it's where Dee Dee Ramone liked to spend time as a child. He wrote it like a Beach Boys song, and it's clearly the lightest song on Rocket to Russia. The single hit number 66 in America. For most bands as famous as the Ramones, that would be a failure. Sadly,  "Rockaway Beach" is the most successful song in their entire catalog. They thought it was just the start of a real career as hitmakers. Little did they know it would be their peak. 

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5. ‘Beat on the Brat’

"Beat on the Brat" was taken right out of Joey's childhood in the Sixties. "I was living in Forest Hills, walking around the neighborhood," he said. "Annoyed by all these rich ladies with their bratty kids." He wrote down a simple song about beating them with a baseball bat, took the chord changes from the 1968 bubblegum hit "Yummy Yummy Yummy," and a Ramones classic was born. 

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4. ‘Bonzo Goes to Bitburg’

On May 5th, 1985 a political firestorm erupted when President Ronald Reagan laid a wreath at a West German cemetery where 49 Nazis were buried. "What Reagan did was fucked up," said Joey. "Everybody told him not to go, all his people told him not to go, and he went anyway. How can you fuckin' forgive the Holocaust?" Joey and Dee Dee wrote the scathing "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg" about the incident, though Johnny was none too pleased with his band bashing the Republican icon. They compromised by calling the song "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg.)" Critics loved the song, but it failed to make much of an impact in the States. 

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3. ‘Sheena Is a Punk Rocker’

Everyone around the Ramones thought "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" was finally going to be their breakthrough hit. "I played it for Seymour Stein," said Joey. "He flipped out and said, 'We gotta record this song now.' It was like back in the Fifties – you'd rush into the studio because you thought you had a hit, then put it right out. To me, 'Sheena' was the first surf-punk rock-teenage rebellion song. I combined Sheena, the Queen of the Jungle, with the primalness of punk rock." Despite Seymour's confidence, the song stalled at number 81. It came out at a time when the media was obsessed with the Sex Pistols, and to many people punk was a British phenomenon. They didn't realize it those bands were just copying New York rock bands.  

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2. ‘Blitzkreig Bop’

The first song on the first Ramones album is arguably their single most famous work. Although it didn't make much of an impact at the time, "Blitzkreig Bop" is everywhere these days, from video games to commercials to baseball stadiums. Oddly enough, Dee Dee drew inspiration from the Bay City Rollers' mega-hit "Saturday Night." They chanted "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y," and Dee Dee turned that into "Hey, ho, let's go!" He got help on the track from Tommy Ramone. "I wanted a rallying song," the drummer said. It was played at basically every Ramones concert for 22 straight years, and today its many uses across advertising and movies has generated quite a bit of income, though only Tommy is alive to enjoy it. 

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1. ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’

When Joey Ramone wrote the lyrics for "I Wanna Be Sedated," he was not joking. The band was on tour in New Jersey in 1977 when the singer badly burned his face and chest with scalding water from a vaporizer he was using soothe his throat. He somehow finished the show, then went to the hospital with second and third degree burns. They pulled a bunch of shows while he recovered, and when they returned to the road in Europe he was still in constant pain. "I Wanna Be Sedated" was scribbled down in London around Christmas, and the band cut it for their 1978 LP Road to Ruin. Needless to say, it didn't make any sort of impact on the charts, but today it's one of their most played songs on the radio. Joey often cited it as his single favorite Ramones song, and many fans feel the same way. 

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