There was a meme around new years eve. 2020 24 Hours To Go! The old punks having a last laugh before it all finally fell into the sea. It’s coming. You know it. I know it.
‘I Wanna’ is a Ramones trope. Some say it marked difference between ‘Up Strike Ramones’: Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue, I Wanna Be Well, I Wanna Live, I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend and ‘Down Strike Ramones’. The ‘I Don’t Wanna’s’ include such bobby sox boppers as: I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement, I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You, Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight).
We’re on the up strike today kids. I Wanna Be Sedated is one of the bands most loved most streamlined and most infectious tunes. It’s influential beyond all reasonable expectations for a mid period punk band single that chugs along for two and a half minutes and it’s utterly brilliant in every single way.
I Wanna Be Sedated didn’t put the Ramones at the top of the hit parade. It was a B-Side to the She’s The One single from their fourth album (OK maybe mid-period was stretching things a bit…) Road To Ruin in 1978. Ten years later when a break water compilation Ramones Mania was released in 1988 the song suddenly got released as a single in its own right (Aha! Mid-period) and issued with an iconic video. One of the bands most defining moments. A decade late. The one shot wonder shows the band in a long single (or so it would have the viewer believe) static frame sat at a dinner table. They’re there to eat cereal and watch TV. They are however joined by a cavalcade of extras who wander into frame, bang into them, twirl around, squeeze up to the fish eye lens and generally make chaos around the static cereal munchers. A very young Courtney Love is one of the dancers clambering all over the band in the video if you’re interested in that kind of Rock and Roll Archaeology.
It’s a brilliant video. For a ten year old song. That should have been a huge hit single. And never got it’s chance. Guns N’ Roses liked the video so much they practically remade it for their Use Your Illusion single Garden Of Eden barely 5 years later. Of course they missed the whole point of the bands ennui being the source of the cool. The breakfast nook was replaced with an expensive looking microphone and Axl wriggled and jived as much as the extras where Da Bruddas had just sat there, ignoring the chaos around them.
The riff is a right of passage and as such, the first song many a punk has had a crack at when they finally get their first guitar. That’s why there are so many cover versions of it. Even without the subject matter of boredom and drugs it’s an instant ‘I’m so cool the world bores me’ anthem.
So after Road To Ruin, The Adicts had a go at it first as far as I can tell (1982). It’s also been covered by The Offspring in the movie Idle Hands when they play the movies high school prom. British singer and part time Pogue, Kirsty MacColl covered it on her album Titanic Days. Green Day in one of their many other guises (in this case The CoverUps) did a version. So has Bruce Springsteen, The Go Go’s, Shonen Knife, The Dollyrots and Nouvelle Vague (well, you could have guessed that one).
UK indie darlings Idles have covered it. Tim (Timebomb) Armstrong from Rancid is on record doing a version. Lily Black, Motley Crue, Red Hot Chili Peppers and U2 have all played their own version of the two and half minute ode to boredom.
Ska legends Operation Ivy, The Mr T Experience, New Found Glory, All Time Low, Justine Electra, Rob Zombie. Honestly, so many artists have covered this tune it’s the punk rock Stairway To Heaven. Not bad for a B-Side is it?