The Late Movies: The Ramones

Sure, the Stooges came first, and Green Day blew up to the point where they had a Broadway show, but the Ramones will always be, at least to me, the definitive American punk rock band. Growing up, almost every kid I knew with a guitar got one because of the band. Not only did they create the musical blueprint for almost all punk rockers that followed them, but possessed a coolness and swagger that seemed more accessible and attainable than the aura of traditional rockstars. It was something kids pogoing with Stratocaster knockoffs in their suburban bedrooms could emulate and even achieve. They’re American icons right up there with Hank Williams, John Coltrane and Woody Guthrie, only hairier and with more leather. Today, we celebrate some of my favorite Ramones songs and covers. If I left off yours, leave the video link in the comments. Hey. Ho. Let’s Go.


When founding member Dee Dee Ramone left the band, CJ Ramone was brought in to replace him on bass and give frontman Joey Ramone an occasional break from singing. When he joined the band, CJ was younger than the other members by almost a decade, and it’s hard not to hear the energy he put back into the group on this song.

"Bonzo Goes to Bitburg"

The Ramones didn’t write many overtly political songs, but when they did, they were doozies. The titular Bonzo is President Ronald Reagan, referencing the chimp in Reagan’s comedy film, Bedtime for Bonzo. The song was written in reaction to Reagan’s 1985 visit to the Bitburg military cemetery in West Germany, which contains the graves of several Nazi SS members that helped run the concentration camps. Singer Joey Ramone, who was born to a Jewish family with the name Jeffry Ross Hyman, explained in an interview thatwe had watched Reagan going to visit the SS cemetery on TV and were disgusted. We're all good Americans, but Reagan's thing was like forgive and forget. How can you forget six million people being gassed and roasted?”

"Sheena is a Punk Rocker"

Joey once said of this song, “To me ‘Sheena’ was the first surf/punk rock/teenage rebellion song. I combined ‘Sheena, Queen of the Jungle’ with the primalness of punk rock.” I don’t know that there have been many surf/punk rock/teenage rebellion songs since, but I’m glad we have this one.

"Do You Wanna Dance?"

Originally written and recorded by Bobby Freeman in 1958 and made a hit by the Beach Boys in 1965, “Do You Wanna Dance” got turned up to 11 by the Ramones for the movie Rock 'N' Roll High School. Keep an eye out for a young Clint Howard.

"The KKK Took My Baby Away"

More Beach Boys influence noticeable here, with those sweet backing vocals taking the edge off the music.

"I Wanna Be Sedated"

Perhaps the Ramones best known song (or at least tied with “Blitzkrieg Bop”), this was inspired by a less-than-exciting trip to England. As Joey explains in this interview/performance (in his wonderful, honking Queens accent), when the band arrived in London for the first time, it was around Christmas and the city had essentially shut down for the holidays. There was nothing do, nowhere to go, and the band wound up sitting, bored, in their hotel room for much of the trip watching movies.

"Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?"

The recording of End of the Century with famed producer/crazy person Phil Spector marked a change in the structure of the Ramones’ songs. "Rock 'n' Roll Radio,” in particular, is much more complex than many of their older three chord blasters. Piano, trumpet, saxophone and synthesizer all make appearances, with the sax providing the main riff through most of the song. The lyrics are filled with references to musicians and TV and radio shows and personalities that influenced the band members when they were younger, including Hullabaloo, Ed Sullivan, Alan Freed, T. Rex and Jerry Lee Lewis.

"Rockaway Beach"

This tune about getting to Rockaway Beach, the largest urban beach in the U.S., is pretty much an irreplaceable summer anthem for me. It sounds like salty air, hot sun, ice cream and freedom.


The Who’s original version rocked pretty well, but the Ramones really give the song a kick in the pants. The bizarre video also features Motorhead frontman Lemmy and B-movie icon Michael Berryman.

"Happy Birthday"

Arguably the Ramones' finest performance.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

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Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.


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