Thursday, April 9, 2020

Certain Songs #1792: Ramones – “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” | Medialoper

Album: Rocket to Russia
Year: 1977

Recorded and released as a single in between Leave Home and Rocket to Russia and great enough to end up on both albums after the whole “Carbona Not Glue” fiasco, Joey’s tale of the urbanization of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle is a absolutely classic teenage rebellion tale.

Over yet another surf-punk riff, Joey explains:

Well the kids are all hopped up and ready to go
They’re ready to go now
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
Well New York City really has it all
Oh yeah, oh yeah.

That’s basically the only verse of the song. And it pretty much says everything, doesn’t it? (Though I would love to know more about why the other kids are bringing their surfboards to a disco. That also seems kinda fun, too, doesn’t it?). In any event, it’s not like there’s any suspense in what Sheena is going to do after breaking away.

Sheena is a punk rocker
Sheena is a punk rocker
Sheena is a punk rocker now

Because it was intended to be a single — the single that finally broke them — the Ramones pull out all of the stops on “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” especially vocally. Not only are there a lot of great harmonies throughout — especially on the “She’s a punk punk, punk rocker” part — check out the cool buried “oh yeahhhhhhhhhhhs” that lead into the each chorus. Oh, and a quick round of handclaps (!) leading into each verse.

And then there’s Joey, who turns in a hook for the ages ever single time he elongates “now” into “now-oowwwooo-oowwwww”. Of course, this perfect rock and roll gem of a punk-pop song skyrocketed to number one all around the world. Oh wait, no. I guess in 1977, people here were still leery of punk rock and songs with “punk rocker” in the title, so despite the catchiness, it stalled out at #81. It fared a little better in the U.K., where punk was beginning to top the charts, and made it to #22, which still isn’t good enough.

Why is this song different from all other Ramones songs?
I’ll admit, I was one of those people who was leery of songs with “punk rocker” in the title, because it seemed like punk rock was sent to destroy everything I loved. And so “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” is the first song about being a punk rocker that I truly loved. (As a contrast, every song on Marquee Moon seemed to be about being a word-drunk poet, not a street-wise punk. Luckily, I had room in my head and heart for both.). It wouldn’t be the last.

“Sheena is a Punk Rocker”

Cartoon Video for “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”

Official Video for “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”

“Sheena is a Punk Rocker” live at CBGBs, 1977

“Sheena is a Punk Rocker” live in Germany, 1978

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