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Boppin'

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HIT (B-Side Appreciation): Babysitter

THE RAMONES: “Babysitter”
Sire, 1978; A-SIDE: “Do You Wanna Dance”

It may be a tiny bit disingenuous to refer to a B-side by The Ramones as being “the other side of the hit.” The Ramoneswere a pop band, but they were a pop band without any hit records. They never broke into the Top 40, nor did they receive much airplay to speak of. The Ramones somehow pummeled their way into the lower half of Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart with three consecutive singles in 1977 and ’78. “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” made it to # 81. “Rockaway Beach” was the relative breakout, peaking at # 66. “Do You Wanna Dance” was The Ramones’ third and final shot at the top of the pops, and its shot stalled at # 86. The Ramones would never again darken the singles chart with their uncouth presence. Somewhere, Casey Kasem breathed a sigh of relief. And up one from last week, swapping spots with Swedish supergroup ABBA, we have those Forest Hills punk rockers The Ramones with “Teenage Lobotomy.”

Nonetheless: They were all hits to me.

My road to The Ramones wasn’t exactly circuitous, but nor was it necessarily as direct as one might expect. I read about The Ramones in magazines, primarily in the tabloid Phonograph Record Magazine. I had never heard them–as noted, they weren’t quite tearin’ up the airwaves on AM or FM in Syracuse in 1977–but I was intrigued by what I read. Frankly, they scared me, but they didn’t scare me enough to kill my growing sense of curiosity about this elusive, unheard…noise. Noise, perhaps, but potentially transcendent noise. I ached to hear its secret sound.

If you’re a younger music fan in this fantastic world of the 21st century, the very idea of any kind of music, or any conceivable sort of pop commodity, being elusive or unheard is as alien and archaic as stone tablets or immobile, wired entertainment. In the fall of ’77, I heard my first Ramones record–“Blitzkrieg Bop”–by requesting RAMONES!!!! at my college campus radio station. I bought the “Sheena” 45 before I’d even heard the damned thing, and my transformation into a fully-invested Ramones fan was complete. It might not have been as convenient as YouTube or Spotify, but I got there.

By the spring of ’78, I’d added the “Rockaway Beach” single and the Ramones LP to my vinyl library, and I saw a live Ramones show over Easter break. In Bomp! magazine, writers Greg Shaw and Gary Sperrazza! had waxed rhapsodic about The Ramones as a power pop band, listing “Sheena” and “Rockaway Beach” among the all-time great power pop tracks. Shaw was further knocked out by a ballad–a ballad!–called “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” on the Rocket To Russia album, and The Ramones’ then-unreleased cover of The Searchers‘ “Needles And Pins.” I heard “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” played live, pined to hear da brudders warble about needles and pins-za, and reveled in the giddy euphoria of falling in love with a pop band.

None of which really prepared me for “Babysitter.”

As a cash-strapped college lad, I preferred to buy Rocket To Russia on the installment plan, one 45 at a time. Looking back, I’m not 100 % certain whether I purchased the “Do You Wanna Dance” single before or after my introduction to live Ramones. The A-side was just ace, probably my favorite cover track ever, streamlining and energizing the familiar pop classic while remaining essentially faithful to previous templates by Bobby Freeman and The Beach BoysThis is the one, I thought. This is the one that’s gonna get The Ramones on the radio. THIS is the hit!
The B-sides of the “Sheena” and “Rockaway Beach” singles had been Rocket To Russia album tracks (“I Don’t Care” and “Locket Love” respectively). This third single from the album had a non-LP track, “Babysitter.” It was a ballad, The Ramones’ second ballad as far as I was aware. It freakin’ blew me away.

I guess Greg Shaw’s mention of The Ramones covering “Needles And Pins” should have prepped me for “Babysitter.” It did not. When I heard the song for the first time, I wrote My GAWD, The Searchers live on! “Babysitter”certainly shares beaucoup DNA with “Needles And Pins,” its folk-rock riff drawn from the same gene pool that gave us The Byrds and The Beau Brummels, albeit messier, grungier, more exuberant. The scowling countenances of Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy notwithstanding, “Babysitter”‘s tale of late-night kissin’ and canoodlin’ with a babysittin’ chickfriend is inherently more upbeat than The Searchers’ lover’s lament. It’s a more leisurely-paced companion to The Ramones’ earlier “Oh Oh I Love Her So,” a joyous and straight-faced celebration of over-the-top, hormonal teen romance. It signifies The Ramones fully embracing a presumed identity as an unabashed, unashamed pop act, America’s rockin’ response to The Bay City Rollers.

If ever a post-1960s record deserved to be a double A-side chart and radio smash, “Do You Wanna Dance”/”Babysitter” would qualify to join the hallowed ranks of “I Get Around”/”Don’t Worry Baby,” “I’m A Believer”/”(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” and a short stack o’ Beatles 45s. I could not believe it when that pop dream failed to materialize. Stupid real world.

Joey Ramone, Bowzer, and Marky Ramone mugging on TV’s Sha Na Na. Sometimes the stupid real world gets a few little things right here and there.

Throughout the rest of the ’70s and all through the ’80s, I never gave up hope that The Ramones would break big, that they’d start selling records in the gaudily massive quantity I felt was their just due. It was important to me. I wanted the world at large to appreciate The Ramones like I appreciated The Ramones; I wanted them to appear on Solid Gold and Entertainment Tonight, to make a delightful blockbuster sequel to their sole film Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, to be household names, to be respected and idolized. I wanted to hear The Ramones on the goddamned radio. They had to die before that would happen. Stupid, stupid real world.

It should have been different. If nothing else, The Ramones should have scored big with an incredible cover of “Do You Wanna Dance,” a distillation of pure bliss that deserved to rule radio and the planet by divine right. Its B-side was an irresistible confection called “Babysitter:” the other side of the hit that never was.

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Categories
Pop Sunday

New Column By Beverly Paterson!

The Clock Watchers / The Clock Watchers (Gear Fab Records 2020)

Those not familiar with the background of The Clock Watchers will be forgiven thinking they were one of those obscure sixties bands heard on compilation albums like “Pebbles”, “Green Crystal Ties” or “Teenage Shutdown.” But the truth is, these guys existed a few decades after the musical era they mined. 1992 and 1993 saw the Northwest Pacific band cutting a cache of songs, which appeared on a self-titled album in 1999 distributed by the Gear Fab label. The Colorado based imprint  has not only recently revived the collection on compact disc, but attached a slew of previously unreleased material to the package.

Ron Kleim – who has played with notable bands such as The Surf Trio and Marble Orchard – held the role of songwriter, singer and organist of The Clock Watchers. The other members of the band were bassist Don Beckner and Jayson Breeton on drums, vocals, bass and guitar. 

Dining on a diet of jingly jangly chords, squealing Farfisa figures, choppy drum beats and gnawing breaks, The Clock Watchers mainly operated under the dual influences of West Coast folk pop and reedy garage rock. Moody vocals, coupled with aching melodies ringing with expression, add a sense of longing and loneliness to the catchy tunes that call to mind certain aspects of The Rising Storm, The Beau Brummels, The E-Types and The Gestures. 

Providing just the right measure of raw energy and snappy hook lines, “Drop In The Bucket,” “The Girl With Tears In Her Eyes,” “You Can Run,” “This Could Be Love,” “Mad Girl,” “Dirty Shame,” “When I Dream” and “Hey Little Girl” recreate the sound, style and spirit of 1965 to utter perfection. 

A taunting edge marks the aggressive thrust of “I’d Rather Laugh” and the comparably tough and toxic “No Tears For You” is spiked with the crying pitch of a bluesy harp. “Free Soul,” “Gone For Good” and “Shadows” further appropriate a rough and rugged finish, while “Goodbye” crackles with twanging country aspirations.

Powered by a bouncy kick, “Kiss Of Death” races and rolls with surf inspired rhythms before concluding to a round of trippy sitar riffs, and “It’s Your Life” is threaded with zoomy space age guitars reminiscent of the kind of stuff The Byrds were doing during their psychedelic phase. 

Comprised of twenty-two songs, The Clock Watchers makes for a consistently enjoyable listen. Period- piece lyrics, a swinging vibe and vintage equipment are the winning ingredients behind the amazing authenticity of The Clock Watchers. Here’s a band that really knew how to compose and perform the music they adored, and how nice it is their efforts have been rescued from the vaults. Perhaps now that The Clock Watchers has been reissued, the band will be motivated to reunite and record more groovy nuggets.

http://gearfab.swiftsite.com/

https://www.discogs.com/artist/691127-Ron-Kleim

*****

Richard Turgeon / The Journey (2020)

Shortly after his third and most recent album, Go Deep, was released last August, Richard Turgeon wasted nary a second working on new material. Since then, the San Francisco based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has unfolded a series of singles, which are available in digital download mode, and are scheduled to appear on his forthcoming album.

Turgeon’s latest single, “The Journey,” addresses the sensitive subject of supporting and encouraging a loved one grappling with challenging changes and situations in their life. 

Ebbing and flowing with captivating curves, the track is firmly grounded in folk rock soil. Drafts of stinging guitars, fizzing with sweeping melodies, lend “The Journey” a tone modeled on the likes of Neil Young, Tom Petty and Teenage Fanclub. But Turgeon’s smart tunesmith tactics, partnered with his robust vocals that have the ability and inflection to communicate clearly, rise  above the copycat category.

Turgeon is truly one of the finest contemporary artists composing and playing roots styled pop rock. The quality of his output remains amazingly high, with “The Journey” clocking in as yet another stone cold clarification of his worth.

https://richardturgeon.bandcamp.com/track/the-journey

https://www.facebook.com/rturgeonfans/

https://www.richardturgeon.com/