Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Certain Songs #1806: Ramones – “We Want The Airwaves” | Medialoper

Album: Pleasant Dreams
Year: 1981

. . .

And so the Ramones soldiered on into the 1980s, following the Phil Spector-produced End of The Century with the far less bombastic Pleasant Dreams, their sixth album, and the first that didn’t feature a full-band shot on the cover. It was also the first Ramones album where the credits listed who actually wrote the song, as opposed to the Joey-Johnny-Dee Dee-Tommy credits of the first four albums and the Joey-Johnny-Dee Dee credits on End of the Century.

All of this reflected internal tensions that we will discuss more fully tomorrow, but in a weird way, it meant that Joey could now take full credit for his songs that posited the Ramones as the saviors of rock ‘n’ roll, like the opening track, “We Want The Airwaves.”

Where is your guts
And will to survive
And do not you want to
Keep rock n’ roll music alive
Mr. Programmer
I got my hammer
And I am going to
Smash my
Smash my

We want the airwaves (that’s right, that’s right)
We want the airwaves (that’s right, that’s right)
We want the airwaves, baby
If rock is going to stay alive

Opening with cool, phased-guitar lick that also doubled as a hook, and featuring a weird whispered “that’s right, that’s right” on the chorus and some nice drumming from Marky, “We Want The Airwaves” wasn’t quite as successful as an anthem as “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?” And it sure as shit wasn’t as catchy — or fun — as “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.”

So even with a video, “We Want The Airwaves” wasn’t going to get play on the traditional rock radio stations Joey was railing against, even with the harder-edged rock sound that producer Graham Gouldman give them on this record. That said, there were other types of radio station beginning to pop up for whom the Ramones were heroes. College radio stations.

Why is this song different from all other Ramones songs?
It was raining at noon on Saturday October 30, 1982 when KFSR 90.7 officially went on the air, changing not just my life, but the lives of many of the people who are reading this. And the first song played on KFSR: “We Want The Airwaves.”

Whether we actually ended up with the airwaves is a matter for eternal debate, but I was glad that at 19, I was fulfilling a life-long dream of becoming a DJ who got to play music for people (an impulse that this column you are currently reading continues to mine), and I know that I played shittons of Ramones songs over the years. And not just me, but people like me all over the country. The Ramones started too early for college radio to break them, but it’s entirely possible that college radio — and their relentless touring, of course — helped them with their gradual arc from punk upstarts to rock icons.

“We Want The Airwaves”

“We Want The Airwaves” official music video

“We Want The Airwaves” live on the Tomorrow Show, 1981

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