Friday, February 22, 2013

Favorite Song Friday: I Wanna Be Sedated

"There are six of 'em. That's why they're called the Sex Pistols. And they all sleep in the same bed." 

I was an unusually gullible kid, but even at 11 years old, this didn't sound right to me. For one thing, I saw how "six" and "sex" were related, kinda sorta, but...yeah, no, I was pretty sure, with all the wisdom of a Catholic school sixth-grader, that the "sex" in their name was all about, well, sex.

But they sounded pretty shocking and gross, all the same—I may not have bought the pseudo-homonym thing but everyone in one bed? Sure, could be—as did the entire punk scene. In 1979, punks weren't really much of a presence in suburban verging on rural Connecticut—I mean, we were still finding the notion of hippies hiding in the woods a terrifying thought. (True story.) So the few photos I'd seen of punks, combined with the whispered tales, were powerful juju. (Never mind that the final Sex Pistols show was already a year in the past at that point.) And not in the way it was for others I've known, who heard similar stories and were immediately dying to listen to the stuff. No, what I heard about punk simply scared me the hell away.

I was a hardcore Beatles/Stones/Who fan back then, with lots of Bowie, Clapton, Springsteen, Floyd, Zep as well. Punk? Thank you, no. Not for the likes of me, that stuff. My tastes were more refined. (Well...I did like Aerosmith and the Doors. Back then.) None of that barbaric punk fare.

And that's how it went for the next many years. Not a note of punk defiled my pristine ears. Until the day my brother came home from college and played a song that...

"What...what is this?" I asked.

"The Ramones," he said casually.

But...but...but...I thought. The Ramones are...punk

This was punk? This couldn't be punk. Punk was nasty and scary and stupid and gross and this...this was awesome.


And that was that. I mean, it wasn't, not really. It was still years before I investigated the likes of the Dead Kennedys, for instance—and, oddly, quite a bit longer before I acquired Nevermind the Bollocks, an album I was literally a bit scared to put on and which preceded to rip my ears off the first time I heard it and which I still think is maybe the most underrated classic masterpiece ever from the most underrated major band ever. And although I took 20 years off from listening to almost all the artists of my youth, I never really turned my back on (most of) them.

But it was those four misfits from Queens that not only started me down that wider, far more varied and interesting path, but in the meantime prepared me for the likes of R.E.M. and the Replacements, which to a kid from suburban verging on rural Connecticut in the mid-80s had some stuff that pretty damn punk. Which is why, despite later finding other Ramones songs I may prefer in many ways ("Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," I do so love you), "I Wanna Be Sedated" will always have a very special place in my heart. The insanely goofily fun lyrics, the catchy melody, the ringing non-guitar-solo-guitar-solo? Punk or no—and punk it is—it had me at hello. And then they hit first the key change and then the "bam-bam-bam-bam" section, the clouds part and a mighty hand emerges holding the third tablet which reads only "LET IT ROCK." And it's clear how these guys are simply part of a line that stretches forward to Nirvana and Green Day and back to the Beatles and Elvis and Hank Williams and Robert Johnson and it is good.


  1. For me it was the same year, but it was London Calling. I didn't get around to the Ramones for a couple of years, when we were trying to put together a dorm band and the drummer wanted to do "I Wanna Be Sedated" I actually couldn't play the song, not because it exceeded my skills but because it didn't! I couldn't wrap my head around an actual song that was easy enough for my bad guitar hands to play.

  2. Nowadays, when Bollocks comes up on the playlist, I am astonished at how... ordinary it sounds. This was supposed to wreck civilization, wasn't it?

  3. The first time I heard Bollocks, I thought, WOW, what great pop! If the sugar in the normal pop song was replaced by battery acid.