Album: Rocket to Russia
That’s how side two of Rocket to Russia started: Joey shouting “LOBOTOMY!” over Tommy weird-ass snare/tom pattern, joined after the third one by Dee Dee’s throbbing bass and after the fourth one by Johnny’s snarling guitar, the whole band crashing and bashing for a bit until Joey starts singing.
D.D.T. did a job on me
Now I am a real sickie
Guess I’ll have to break the news
That I got no mind to lose
All the girls are in love with me
I’m a teenage lobotomy, yeah
In some of of the books I’ve read about the Ramones and this period — most notably Everett True’s loving Hey Ho Let’s Go: The Story of the Ramones and Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s dishy Please Kill Me: The Oral History of Punk (emphasis on “oral”), Rocket to Russia was positioned to be the album that would break them once and for all.
Instead, the Sex Pistols killed them. That’s of course, an overstatement, but their trainwreck of a U.S. tour — a pretty huge news story for a band that nobody had really heard here — and subsequent break-up somehow cast a pall over both the U.S. and U.K. punk scenes at the same time. And so Rocket to Russia stalled out at #49 on the Billboard charts, and even curious folk like me were turned off enough to wait nearly a full year to try it. (And even longer for Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, which I didn’t get until some point in 1979, and near-instantly became one of my all-time favorite records. Foreshadowing!)
40+ years later, of course, this seems as ludicrous as every other rock controversy of the time, but even now, it’s impossible for me to think that Johnny Rotten would ever conceive of, much less sing lyrics like:
Slugs and snails are after me
D.D.T. keeps me happy
Now I guess I’ll have to tell ’em
That I got no cerebellum
Gonna get my Ph.D
I’m a teenage lobotomy
What makes this Ramones song different from all other Ramones songs?
It’s probably the greatest of their mental health songs, it’s certainly the craziest. Also check out the structure of each verse: the first two lines set up the situation; the next two make a joke about it, the fifth is an even better joke, and the final line is “I’m a teenage lobotomy.”
Also: you might remember that yesterday (or whenever) I pointed out how great it was that “We’re a Happy Family” rhymed “magazines” with “Thorazines” and yet that’s topped with perhaps the funniest rhyme in any rock ‘n’ roll song ever: “Now I guess I’ll have to tell ’em / That I got no cerebellum.”. I mean, that’s just sheer fucking genius on every level.
“Teenage Lobotomy” live in Germany, 1978
“Teenage Lobotomy” live at the US Festival (!), 1982
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