Time Has Come Today: The Ramones’ Subterranean Jungle at 40

Looking back on the band’s return to their punk roots

The Ramones 1983 (Image: eBay)

The Ramones were punk apostles, birthed in the New York’s subterranean underground as fostered by CBGBs and the ‘70s scene that also bred some influential outfits as Talking Heads, Blondie and Television. 

Nevertheless, the Ramones were decidedly different, four upstarts with an unapologetic attitude who sported leather jackets, ripped jeans and fast and furious songs that mostly clocked in at under two minutes. Signed to the fledgling Sire Records by Seymour Stein, they shared a series of edgy anthems — “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” among them. A guilty pleasure by any measure, they achieved critical acclaim even despite their insurgent stance, setting set a standard for all the renegade rockers that followed. 

Nevertheless, by the time their seventh album, Subterranean Jungle, arrived on February 23, 1983, their sound had slightly shifted. The band’s two previous offerings, End of the Century and Pleasant Dreams, bore more of a prominent pop style, all in a bid for more commercial success. As a result, Subterranean Jungle harkens back to their seminal sound, as tempered by a trio of covers. The Chambers Brothers’ standard, “Time Has Come Today” provided a perfect fit with the band’s antisocial approach, especially given their rocking and raucous read. Likewise, “Little Bit O’ Soul,” the album opener, shares a somewhat playful posture, albeit with a cutting edge. The third non-original offering, “I Need Your Love,” scores a lower in terms of the familiarity factor, although it was also bred in the thriving underground scene, having been recorded by the New York band the Boyfriends in the late ‘70s.

The Ramones Subterranean Jungle, Sire Records 1983

Despite the group’s expressed desire to return to their roots, and the fact that all four original members were still actively involved (notably, it was the last for awhile to feature drummer Marky Ramone, who was fired during the sessions only to return to the fold four years later and subsequently carry on the Ramones legacy) helped ensure some sense of coherence, at least based on outside appearances. In truth, however, internal conflicts were starting to simmer. Aside from guitarist Johnny Ramone, the other band members were dealing with drug and alcoholism issues. Joey Ramone was sidelined from singing to a certain extent, with bassist Dee Dee Ramone taking lead vocals on the song “Time Bomb” and sharing the singing on the aptly-titled “Outsider,” the first time anyone other than Joey had taken over the vocals. To his credit, Dee Dee had written the song, which, not surprisingly, was later covered by Green Day, the Ramones’ heir apparent. 

Joey complained that his contributions were being negated, perhaps due to the fact that he was intent on writing more diverse material. Ultimately though, producer Ritchie Cordell managed to keep everything in sync — or relatively so considering those who were involved. 

In that regard, it ought to be noted that the song “Psycho Therapy,” a cowrite by Dee Dee and Johnny, became one of the album’s most enduring entries, perhaps appropriately considering the fact that Dee Dee was actually undergoing psychotherapeutic treatment at the time.

Despite the fact that Subterranean Jungle could be considered a prototypical Ramones album, other influences permeated the proceedings as well, most notably Joey’s “My-My Kind of Girl,” a song written as a show of affection to the band’s loyal female following, and the closing track “Everytime I Eat Vegetables It Makes Me Think of You”, which one critic described as something of a sing-along. Nevertheless, it was typically self-effacing, angst-infused effort. Despite its mix of hardcore with hints of psychedelia, it remained true to the Ramones’ riveting sound and the edgier intents that characterized these musical miscreants from the very beginning. 

Consider it another heady and hedonistic Ramones rave-up. 





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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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