Tuesday 19 November 2019

Blondie versus Ramones

More specifically, 'Parallel Lines' vs 'Road To Ruin'

Both CBGBs alumni, both recorded in New York in early spring/Summer, and both released (within a few days of each other) in September 1978.
For one group it was to be the commercial breakthrough (certainly in the UK), for the other it was to be a consolidation of their (relatively) cult success.

Musically, both of these fall into the "Punk-Pop" bracket - Blondie being heavier on the "Pop", Ramones ploughing the "Punk" furrow

Both have new members in their line-ups for 1978.
Frank Infante, who had been on a hired-hand on Bass duties for "Plastic Letters" is now a full-time member (switching to Rhythm Guitar) and Nigel Harrison joining on Bass.
For the Ramones, Tommy retreated from the drum stool to be full-time producer, and was replaced by Marky (late of Richard Hell & The Voidoids - another band graduating from CBGBs).

'Parallel Lines' is the point where the world changed for Blondie - they managed to hit the top 10 is most regions (including number 1 in the UK) and spawned 3 Top 10 Singles (including 2 number ones"Sunday Girl" and "Heart Of Glass").  The Ramones manged to creep into the Top 40 albums, and only one of the three singles extracted ("Don't Come Close") managed to crawl into the lower reaches of the chart.

If I'm honest, 'Parallel Lines' is the best thing Blondie ever did, and 'Road To Ruin' is not the strongest of Ramones albums - a one-sided contest with an obvious winner?  We shall see ...

There are 12 tracks on each album, so no re-jigging or adding singles, demos, outtakes etc required (all I've done is switch a couple of tracks to line-up the cover versions)

"Hanging on the Telephone" vs "I Just Want to Have Something to Do"
Both great opening tracks - no "easing in", it's "Bang!" and we're off.
The point has to go to Blondie because of the added urgency in their track
Blondie 1 Ramones 0

"One Way or Another" vs "I Wanted Everything"
"One Way Or Another" is massively repetitive, but will stick in your ears for a good while.  Hardly surpirsing that latterly it was used on TV adverts, and boy band cover version.
Ramones may have wanted everything, and it comes roaring out of traps, but this is another point for Blondie
Blondie 2 Ramones 0

"Picture This" vs "Don't Come Close"
The first single to be released from 'Parallel Lines' and nestled into the Top 10 - a sign of things to come.
But this is one the finest songs in the Ramones catalogue, and no matter how sultry Debbie Harry looks in the video, it's one back for the Ramones
Blondie 2 Ramones 1

"Fade Away and Radiate" vs "I Don't Want You"
"Fade Away ..." slows things down.  "I Don't Want You" doesn't - it's not quite as breakneck as other tracks, and does have a massive chorus.  Unfortunately, it never really lifts to another level.
Despite that, on the strength of the (very simple) chorus, it's the equaliser
Blondie 2 Ramones 2

"Pretty Baby" vs  "Bad Brain"
("Bad Brain" is really the penultimate track, but I have re-jigged it here to line up the two cover versions)
"Pretty Baby" is no slouch, but "Bad Brain" is classic Ramones - full on 100MPH and no let-up.
Ramones sneak the lead
Blondie 2 Ramones 3

"I Know But I Don't Know" vs "I'm Against It"
"I Know But I Don't Know" is Frank Infante's first (and only) solo composition for Blondie.  In some ways, it doesn't truly fit on the album.
"I'm Against It" is a list of stuff Joey doesn't like bolted to an archetypal Ramones thrash.  It also includes a common lyrical trope, mixing childlike references, politics and American culture
"I don't like playing ping pong,
I don't like the Viet Cong,
I don't like Burger King,
I don't like anything"
But despite all that, I think (and this is going to sound perverse as I said it doesn't feel like it fits), "I Know ..." takes the point.  It's case is also helped by having a whiff of The Pixies about it - I wonder if Black Francis had a copy of this album?
Blondie 3 Ramones 3

"11:59" vs "I Wanna Be Sedated"
Whilst "11:59" is a really strong (if relatively un-hrealded) Blondie track, "Sedated" is in the top 5 essential Ramones tracks (alongisde "Blitzkrieg Bop", "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker", "Rockaway Beach" and "Something To Believe In").  No question where the point goes this time round
Blondie 3 Ramones 4

"Will Anything Happen?" vs "Go Mental"
"Will Anything Happen" is another Jack Lee song (the writer of "Hanging On The Telephone"), and is almost as pummeling and relentless as a fair few Ramones tracks - prime Power-Pop.
"Go Mental" is an apt title for the musical pallette on offer, but - and it pains me to say this - if your looking for light and shade on the Ramones album you won't find it, and "Go Mental" just doesn't do enough to lift itslef above "standard"
Blondie 4 Ramones 4

"Sunday Girl" vs "Questioningly"
"Sunday Girl" is pure pop, and one track that never seems to fade by over-familiarity.
"Questioningly" is the hoped for light and shade spoken of previously.
But against "Sunday Girl" it's not going to cut it
Blondie 5 Ramones 4

"Heart of Glass" vs "She's the One"
You have to admire the sheer balls to bung a disco track into the middle of a Power-Pop album, and extra points for the "build from the bottom up" technical exercise involved.
"She's The One" is an exceedingly competent track, and one that is even better live, but "Heart Of Glass " takes it, and creates a bit of daylight in the scores.
Blondie 6 Ramones 4

"I'm Gonna Love You Too" vs "Needles and Pins"
And so the battle of the cover versions (in this case Buddy Holly versus The Searchers).
The Blondie cover is faithful to the original, if revved up (and all the better for it).
A cover of a Searchers track may seem an odd choice for the Ramones, but I'm guessing they were probably more conversant with the Jackie De Shannon version.  The arrangement and delivery wins it for the Ramones - they've never sounded so jangly.
Blondie 6 Ramones 5

"Just Go Away" vs "It's a Long Way Back"
The best the Ramones can hope for now is a draw.  Unfortunately "It's A Long Way Back" does not sound like an album closer - it's just a bit laboured.  Proper fodder for the middle of the album, but not the final track.  In truth, it's not a million miles away from a Flamin' Groovies track (the distinctive Joey Ramone vocal has never sounded so close to the Groovies).
"Just Go Away" on the other hand rounds off 'Parallel Lines' in fine style.  And the backing vocals always raise a smile.  It also has a proper ending courtesy of Clem Burke's drum roll.  "It's A Long Way Back" just sort of crawls to and ending and then stops.

Blondie 7 Ramones 5

Closer than I thought ...

In my ears, the toughest match-up (unfortunately for Blondie) on the albums


I Wanna Be Sedated


  1. I would probably agree with your scoring
    Parallel Lines v the Ramones debut would certainly be tighter and may well go the other way

  2. Yes, I agree with it too - interesting to see how it turned out song by song and thanks for going with the loose suggestion, I didn't know how it would turn out!
    It struck me yesterday after reading this too that I've seen both bands but approx. 30 years apart! Who'd have thought that was possible back in '78?!

    1. The song vs Song is an interesting exercise. Whole albums can achieve 5 Star reviews and classic status with a duffer tucked away. It's about the "whole".
      This is a one-hit affair, and adds a slice of jeopardy.

  3. Maybe there is an audience for my insane witterings.
    I've got 2 or 3 more lined up ... coming soon to a Blogger Reading List near you

  4. Need more time on this one.

  5. On the surface, I would have said the Ramones would walk this one for me. But having gone through the individual heata, I do agree. Blondie just edged the victory.

  6. Doing my monthly (not often enough, I know) sweep of my blogging buddies, and this, my friend, is a genius idea. Looking forward to more Vs; I'll be back. (PS. Blondie is the correct result)