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‘Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?’ by The Ramones is a nostalgic tune, conjuring the memories we all have – of being euphorically alone in bed with our radios. Now that we are older, we realize that radios have always been our best bed partners!
This song appears on The Ramones 1980 album End of the Century, produced by Phil Spector – who heaped on multiple strings and horns, in effort to be more radio-friendly. This tune is a remembrance of the great music of the 1950s – 1970s.
The lyrics presciently predicted the downfall of rock music, especially its presentation as we knew it, moving from the airwaves to television with the advent of MTV the very next year, 1981. Our beloved rock music was now sadly “part of the past.” Even Mick Rock’s color photo of the band signaled a change. Things had been much more simple in black and white. It’s so funny that Dee Dee is in bed with a boom-box in the video!
This song simultaneously evokes tears of joy and of sadness. Almost every Ramones song (despite the sometimes disturbing or sick subject matter) has an uplifting quality, especially this one. The realization that our beloved rock ‘n’ roll is no longer as genuine and is fading in popularity is saddening. Yet, the Ramones bring us hope that they (and we) can save it!
Photo: The Ramones by Shag
The song begins with a DJ (Sean Donahue) announcing, “Come on, let’s rock and roll with the Ramones!” in the style of bubbly radio announcer Alan Freed, who is also named in the song.
Freed’s popular Moondog radio program, was named after his show’s theme song – a 1949 R&B track called ‘Moondog’s Symphony,’ an avant-garde piece which features a dog howling. Freed began promoting R&B music to a mass audience on WJW in Cleveland in 1951, and later in New York City at 1010 WINS). Freed also popularized the phrase “Rock and Roll.” He also promoted dances and live concerts, and appeared in many early rock ‘n’ roll films. Freed also worked at WABC AM radio in 1958. He was fired after a year when the FCC asked him sign a statement saying that he never accepted payola. He refused to sign, but it was true. This led to his downfall. He died an alcoholic at age 43 in 1965.
The blind composer of ‘Moondog’ was a busker in New York City, also known as Moondog – Louis Hardin. Hardin was a serious composer who released several records in the 1950s. He was championed by jazz great Benny Goodman, composer Toscanini and even modern composer Steve Reich. Hardin sued Alan Freed for using his song and namesake in 1954. He won the case.
Andy Warhol designed The Story of Moondog album cover. Andy’s mother Julia Warhola did the lettering.
In ‘Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?’ Joey Ramone also sings about the old Cleveland music TV shows Hullaballo, Shindig and Upbeat. He refers to The Ed Sullivan Show which most notably debuted the Beatles in America. The lyrics also sound-checks Alan Freed and Murray the K. Other icons are mentioned; Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lennon, T. Rex and “Ol’ Moulty.”
Moulty whom the Ramones mention in their song is Victor Moulton, drummer of The Barbarians from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Due to an accident when he tried making a pipe bomb, he lost his left hand. Moulty wore a prosthetic hook. He speaks and sings on the autobiographical 1966 Barbarians track, the title of which bears his name. ‘Moulty.’ is a great song. He speaks about his unfortunate accident “when I lost my hand” during slower interludes. Despite feeling so alone and without help, and losing all his hopes and dreams, something inspired Moulty to carry on, despite all obstacles. He encourages all others in despair to carry on. As the tempo builds, his band-mates (actually session musicians who would later become members of The Band) gloriously chant his name. Moulty’s request in the last verse is to have a girl who really loves him. The song appears on Lenny Kaye’s compilation album Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 1972.
‘Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?’ was covered by KISS on the 2003 Ramones tribute album We’re a Happy Family, co-produced by Joey Ramone and Rob Zombie.
Watch – The Ramones : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi9a7IdRiBI
Watch – KISS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qjb-syCx1Y
Listen – Moondog’s Symphony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0bxoxtalGU
Listen – ‘Moulty’ – The Barbarians: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb9Qg65GQWI
‘We Want the Airwaves’ is another Ramones song in which they demand that rock and roll be played on the radio again. It was a single from their sixth album Pleasant Dreams, released in 1981 and produced by Graham Gouldman of 10cc. The track is more hard-rock than the usual Ramones sound.
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See more in my Playlist category:
About A Song
Eat to the Beat