Cover songs are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. We here at Dying Scene love hearing punk bands do their own take on other band’s songs. Sometimes they pull off amazing interpretations of old classics, sometimes they’re not much more than humble tributes to a fellow artist, and other times they’re just downright laughable renditions of otherwise great songs. Good or bad. Intriguing or mundane. We’ll let you be the judge.
Today’s song is “Chinese Rocks,” which has been performed by both Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers, and the Ramones. The song has a bit of a convoluted history: it was primarily written by Dee Dee Ramone with contributions from Richard Hell (something that both Ramone and Hell agreed upon), but when it was time to record the song the rest of the Ramones vetoed it so Dee Dee gave the song to Hell, who was then still a member of The Heartbreakers. Even after Hell left the group they continued to play it and recorded it for their debut (and only) studio album, 1977’s L.A.M.F., falsely crediting the song to Thunders and Heartbreakers drummer Jerry Nolan in addition to Dee Dee Ramone and Richard Hell (future pressings of the album would go on to credit the song to three of the Ramones, but not Hell).
The Ramones recorded their version for their 1980 album, End of the Century, with the title being changed to “Chinese Rock,” and a slight alteration in lyrics, removing Dee Dee’s name from the opening lines. You can listen to both versions of the song below, and read more about the song’s history here.