Classic Reading Records is a simply concept, our writers will be looking back over the great line ups of the past and celebrate the singles and albums that helped to create enduring Reading legends and unforgettable festival moments.
Nothing is too new or too old to be considered classic, but today we start with a band who were at the heart of a revolution that would change the face of the Reading Festival permanently.
The Ramones – Rocket To Russia
In 1976 The Ramones planted the seeds for a cultural revolution based on the underappreciated garage rock bands of the 1960s that would blossom, a year later, when Malcolm McLaren, Viviane Westwood, and their punk rock protégés The Sex Pistols exploded into the British mainstream. Punk’s minimalist, beyond back to basics aesthetic may not have been as new and revolutionary as it professed to be, but by changing what it meant to be in a band and opening the door for a generation of post-punk innovators, Punk and The Ramones changed everything.
In 1978, Reading Festival was coming to grips with this new revolution. Punk and traditional rock stood side by side, the fans clashed, the atmosphere was bleak (despite clear stage separation) and Reading was officially a battleground. By 1979 tempers had cooled, Punk was established, and Reading was ready for The Ramones.
They smashed it naturally, and today The Ramones seem like the proto-typical Reading band; not only dictating style, but inspiring mainstage headliners The Strokes and pretty much everyone who has ever stepped foot on the Lock Up.
Rocket To Russia, the band’s third album, while very much a typical Ramones record, saw the band settling into the role of a true pop group. Punk, at heart, is pop at its purest; immediate, emotional, sharp, to the point, and incredibly democratic. RTR cleaned up the fuzzy production of the band’s self titled debut and unleashed a relentless assault of undeniably addictive hooks.
Not only is every inch of Rocket To Russia imminently hummable, it’s delivered with the sense of detached irony that only The Ramones could muster. Joey Ramones possessed this remarkably calm delivery that allows him to maintain a straight face will simultaneously struggling his shoulders. This effortless style helped the band create not only some of the greatest pop songs of all time, but it gave birth to some punk’s greatest one-liners:
No rhyme was too shallow or too forced, The Ramones made each syllable sardonic and every line deliciously cool. As a result The Ramones created a brilliantly direct statement that was rich in depth despite its inherent veneer of shallowness. From the carefree brilliance of “Cretin Hop” and “Rockaway Beach” to the ludicrious cries of “Teenage Lobotomy” The Ramones were universal with their scorn, the joke was on everyone, including the band themselves.
Rocket To Russia is a satirical masterstroke, mocking fans, ripping trends, parodying the entire notion of an alternative rock and roll band, while celebrating the contradictions and joy of youth. Ramones will always be the band’s ground breaking and definitive statement, but Rocket To Russia is the best album the band ever released. An undisputed Reading classic. David Hayter