Blitzkrieg Bop: meaning behind Ramones' debut single
Blitzkrieg Bop single cover
Blitzkrieg Bop, released in 1976 by Ramones as their debut single, remains one of the band's best known tracks and an essential entry in the history of the American punk. Although the track did not chart at the time, major music magazines subsequently recognized its huge impact on pop culture. The Rolling Stone alone has named the record one of The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time and The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, where it was ranked the 18th and 92nd places respectively.
Curiously, some of the Blitzkrieg Bop lyrics are quoted in Pet Sematary—the pop culture defining novel by Stephen King who is an ardent fan of Ramones. For example, the song's refrain appears in the sentence "What is it the Ramones say? Hey-ho, let's go!" The band's catchphrase is also quite popular with sports fans, who are so fond of chanting "Hey! Ho! Let's go!" at the stadiums.
The somewhat abstract lyrics of Blitzkrieg Bop still encourage fans to seek interpretations of its meaning. One common speculation is that the stanza "they're piling in the back seat, they're generating steam heat, pulsating to the backbeat" is an allusion to substance use, while another theory explains that the same quote is an allegory for fast-paced car sex.
As for the song title itself—referring to the German tactic of the blitzkrieg or the "lightning war" in World War II—the band's drummer Tommy Ramone revealed that he originally called the song Animal Hop, but the guitarist Dee Dee Ramone suggested a new title. Tommy also rejected attempts to find any hidden meaning in the lyrics, stating: "that's all nonsense".
Listen to Blitzkrieg Bop (2016 Remaster) by Ramones:
Compositionally, Blitzkrieg Bop follows the Western tonal theory and features chord progressions representing the Ionian mode. In the harmonic analysis of the song's chord chains, the scale degrees (denoted with Roman numerals) show the chord progressions in the key of A major:
- A–D–E or I–IV–V for verses;
- A–D–A–D–Bm–D–E or I–IV–I–IV–ii–IV–V for choruses.
The energetic and concise guitar riff of the verse is built on the looped I–IV–V progression, which is considered one of the strongest cadences in classical music for completing musical phrases. The entirety of the track is accompanied by the three primary major chords of the Ionian mode, with the exception of the Bm supertonic minor chord that appears in the chorus.
The "Hey! Ho! Let's go!" iconic refrain uses the sole D major subdominant chord rooted in the fourth scale degree.
Discover more songs composed in Ionian major mode and check out their harmonic analysis in the following articles:
- I Wanna Be Sedated: pure classical harmony cementing the Ramones' hit in punk rock history
- 6 songs to unpack Ionian mode and the major scale
- 9 Beatles songs that combine harmonic major with Ionian mode
- Wildwood Weed: the cheeky ganja farmers song that got banned
- Sugaree: Jerry Garcia's song referencing his lyricist's criminal past
- D'yer Mak'er: meaning of Led Zeppelin's most controversial song
- Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out: nonsensical song title that reveals Springsteen's band origin story