Danny Says by The Ramones: A list by Ben Kopel
It’s a couple of days away from Christmas and it’s a balmy 66 degrees in the city of New Orleans in which I am currently located. A winter wonderland, it’s not.
Which brings me to my song of the week for Flying Object: ‘Danny Says’ by The Ramones.
‘Danny Says’ is the third track from the first side of The Ramones’ Phil Spector produced album, End of the Century, released in early 1980, twenty years before the actual end of the century and only four years since the release of their self-titled first record.
‘Danny’ is Danny Fields, The Ramones’ discoverer and manager.
The song itself is three minutes and five seconds long and it is my absolute most-favorite almost-holiday song and yeah, probably my favorite Ramones tune.
The lyrics were written by Joey and he was proud of it always.
Joey was always my favorite Ramone. He was brave and ugly and goofy and a true believer in the rock n’ roll dream and for this I believed in him and I still do.
Joey Ramone died in 2001, my senior year of high school.
Today (12/22) is actually the anniversary of Joe Strummer’s death nine years ago.
On that note, let’s take a moment.
The song itself was recorded in Los Angeles at Gold Star Studios, where Phil Spector perfected his ‘Wall Of Sound’ approach to pop production.
Re:Spector: “We were both pioneers” –Joey
This is also the birthplace of the Beach Boys’ ungodly teenage symphony to god, ‘Good Vibrations.’
The band was staying at the Tropicana Hotel, also on Santa Monica Boulevard, less than 3 miles from Gold Star Studios.
From there, it’s about 2,800 miles to (the former site of) CBGB’s on Bowery in Manhattan.
From there, it’s roughly 2,300 miles to Idaho.
Geography is a pinhead.
The Ramones only wrote one song and it was the best song.
‘Danny Says’ is a song about absence and surfing and hotels and girlfriends and bad television and obligation and you and me and you and me.
It gets me in its specifics. The Ramones promoted minimalism in aesthetic in order to better project the maximalism of their rhetoric.
Or something like that.
gobble gobble / we accept you / one of us
That’s more like it.
But ‘Danny’ is downright ornate compared to ‘Beat On The Brat.’ It’s delicate. It’s arranged. It’s lush. It progresses. It swells. It remembers. It regrets. It hopes. And that’s just the chord progression, people.
Where he is: Room 100B
When he is: Christmastime
What’s the weather like: there ain’t no snow
What’s on the radio: ‘Sheena Is a Punk Rocker’
What’s on the tv: Get Smart reruns
What he’s thinking about: her and him
It’s a song filled to the brim with what’s missing. What is there only serves to remind us of what isn’t.
It’s her slash you.
Joey’s with the band, recording with his hero, and his girl, Linda, is in NYC, maybe missing him, but definitely less than one year away from leaving singer Joey for guitarist Johnny, but he doesn’t know that at this moment and so he just wants her here in his spaghetti strand arms all nestled up in his best slash worst black leather and maybe if she were right here then this palm tree and santa-in-shorts west coast joke Xmas junk wouldn’t seem so damn sad.
‘Danny Says’ is also a great example of one of my personal favorite rock song sub-genres: The “baby, the road is hard and the road is tough but I love you and I miss you and we’ll be together again soon I promise I promise” song. I love that song.
I love the moment where he hears his own song on the radio singing about Sheena and surfboards and discotheque a-go-gos and all he can do is go “whoa-oh / whoa-oh-oh.”
It’s about being stuck but having to leave.
It’s about the distance between what you love and who you love.
It’s about weather and geography and blue jeans and white t-shirts and bad haircuts and good boys and gone girls and it’s simple and it’s funny but it’s true.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Ben Kopel currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana where he teaches English Lit and Creative Writing to high school students and curates the monthly Left Of The Dial Reading Series. His first collection of poems, VICTORY, will be released by H_NGM_N Books in the Spring of 2012, and recent poems have appeared in La Petite Zine, inter|rupture, and Everyday Genius.