Only five chords — in fact, the same I-IV-V chords played in two different keys (E and F#). Two and a half minutes. In sum, classic Ramones.
I chose the song because it combines boredom and urgency: “Nothing to do, nowhere to go” and “Hurry, hurry, hurry before I go insane.” I think many of us have experienced this mixture of emotions during the pandemic. Speaking for myself, I’ve never felt at a loss of something to do. But, since air travel is risky and many countries (understandably) won’t admit travelers from the plague-ridden U.S., I have felt the sense of “nowhere to go.”
Indeed, at over four months of the quarantine life now, this is the longest period of time that I have remained in one place since… at least ten years ago and very likely more than that. I expect I would have to go back to my grad school days (a quarter of a century ago) to find a period when I traveled so little.
I also chose the song because, of course, I like the Ramones. They are among a few bands that I have seen more than once. I first saw them in Rochester, New York, in 1988, when they were Joey, Johnny, Marky, and Dee Dee — the same Ramones who play on Road to Ruin (1978), the album where “I Wanna Be Sedated” first appears. By the time I saw them next, in 1990, C.J. had replaced Dee Dee. (Incidentally, that second time, they were part of the “Escape from New York” tour, featuring Debbie Harry and 3/4ths of Talking Heads — Tom Tom Club [Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz] and Jerry Harrison.)
As you may have heard, their sets were loud, and with very little audience banter. The intro to each song was typically “1-2-3-4!” And that’s it. Frontman Joey Ramone, sunglasses covering his eyes, long hair covering most of his face, leaned his lanky frame into microphone stand, held the microphone in both hands, and sang. He always faed the audience, and though he moved, eschewed typical rock front-man antics. He was there to deliver the lyrics at full volume and intensity. So he did.
Here’s a clip of the Ramones performing “I Wanna Be Sedated” in December 1978. At the end, you’ll hear Dee Dee count off “1-2-3-4,” launching the next song immediately after finishing this one. That was typical.
And here’s the music video for the song.
I think that director Bill Fishman was at least partially inspired by the stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera (1935).
Is it a stretch to say that the mosh pit at the front of a Ramones show translates the anarchic comedy of the Marx Brothers into an anarchic dance?
OK, yes, it is a bit of a stretch. But I need to conclude this post, and that’s what I’ve got.
Hey! Ho! Why not sing a #PlagueSong? Need ideas? Try this playlist. And should you have a song in mind that I don’t know, that would be welcome!
- Plague Songs
- Sing. Sing a Song. #PlagueSongs, no. 1 (17 Mar. 2020). Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
- Do Not Touch Your Face. #PlagueSongs, no. 2 (24 Mar. 2020). The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face.”
- The Bright Side. #PlagueSongs, no. 3 (31 Mar. 2020). Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Also the first post where I began my practice of using a lyric as the title.
- It’s later than you think. #PlagueSongs, no. 4 (7 Apr. 2020). Prince Buster’s “Enjoy Yourself.”
- There doesn’t seem to be anyone around. #PlagueSongs, no. 5 (14 Apr. 2020). Tommy James and the Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now.”
- Be an optimist instead. #PlagueSongs, no. 6 (21 Apr. 2020). The Kinks’ “Better Things.”
- Kick at the darkness. #PlagueSongs, no. 7 (28 Apr. 2020). Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.”
- So far away, but still so near. #PlagueSongs, no. 8 (5 May 2020). Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.”
- If you just call me. #PlagueSongs, no. 9 (12 May 2020). Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.”
- In the end, they’ll be the only ones there. #PlagueSongs, no. 10 (19 May 2020). Hanson’s “MMMBop,” and a few chords from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
- No matter how I struggle and strive. #PlagueSongs, no. 11 (25 May 2020). Hank Williams’ “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.”
- Love. #PlagueSongs, no. 12 (1 June 2020). Medley of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love, and Understanding” and the O’Jays’ “Love Train,” with brief snippets of the Staple Singers’ “This Train” and the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.”
- This is the time. #PlagueSongs, no. 13 (9 June 2020). Lou Reed’s “There Is No Time.”
- My neighbor and my friend. #PlagueSongs, no. 14 (16 June 2020). Fred Rogers’ “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”
- If you’re lost, I’m right behind. #PlagueSongs, no. 15 (23 June 2020). Everything But the Girl’s “We Walk the Same Line.”
- Live to see another day. #PlagueSongs, no. 16 (30 June 2020). The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.”
- Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline. #PlagueSongs, no. 17 (7 July 2020). R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine).”
- Someday we’ll find it. #PlagueSongs, no. 18 (14 July 2020). Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection.”
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine?