12 O'Clock Track: The Ramones, "Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)"

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I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about the phenomenon where you find yourself seemingly pursued by a song—you hear it so regularly on coffeeshop stereos and bar jukeboxes and from passing cars that you start to wonder if it's part of some kind of coded message that the universe is trying to send you. I can't remember which song my friend said was following him, but I think it was something lame and soft-rock. My current pursuer is a bit cooler: the Ramones' "Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)," a lesser-known single from the group's 1984 album Too Tough to Die, which also shows up on the 1988 Ramones Mania compilation as the 23rd track (past the point at which Ramones fatigue starts setting in for the average listener).

I don't mind being stalked by "Howling at the Moon." It's a lovably oddball entry in the Ramones catalog, written by future rap nonstar Dee Dee Ramone—odd because its best hook comes not in the chorus (as in most Ramones songs) but in the prechorus (the chromatic "I wanna steal from the rich and give to the poor" bit), and also because most of the instrumentation isn't guitars but synthesizers, including the weird little eight-bit-sounding ones at the beginning and the cheap mid-80s digital approximation of a harpsichord in the bridge. Maybe it's a touch of Stockholm syndrome, but after hearing it randomly in the wild a bunch of times I've begun listening to it on purpose at least four or five times a day.

Check out "Howling at the Moon" and its accompanying video, featuring the Ramones performing from inside a wooden moving crate being trucked around New York City, after the jump.

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