Through A Note Darkly: Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle, The Ramones' Rocket to Russia, T. Rex's Electric Warrior

Through A Note Darkly is a weekly feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Chris Villalta ranks and reflects on three albums he's heard a lot about, but has never heard in full before.

3. Snoop Dogg: Doggystyle

Personal Favorite: “Lodi Dodi”

Summarizing Lyric: “my mind on my money/And my money on my mind” (“Gin and Juice”)


It was tradition for pre-sixteen me to spend Sundays lounging around doing nothing but playing video games and watching episodes of Spongebob or iCarly or Full House that I had seen at least fifteen hundred times. Some would look at this image and think “lazy kid,” but the truth is I wouldn’t have been able to get up from the sofa if I wanted to. In my stomach was a two ton boulder of dread for the weekend ending and having to go back to school, back to homework, subjects, football practices I wasn’t interested in. I would stress myself about leaving the weekend bliss and being stressed again, a stress so intense I couldn’t move. This extreme reaction is the danger of tasting pleasure, of “having all [you] want/having all [you] need” (“Murder Was The Case”)–it’s just a taste. As Snoop says, it may seem like I have all the gin and juice I could ever want or need, “but I still want ‘mo.” The combination of needing more and the anxiety of losing the easy going, smoke and party L.A. life seen in “Gin and Juice” led to being locked up in “Murder Was The Case” and turning violent in “Serial Killa,” a song in which chronic is not mentioned, but we see Snoop and his group defend their right to a ganga-filled lifestyle. Pleasure turns people mellow when it’s possessed, but once pleasure’s gone, those who thought they were the owner turn into monsters. It’s no mistake that Snoop let the middle of his debut record, the parts that come after “Murder Was The Case” where he learned his gin and juice could leave him, be taken over by the much more aggressive Kurupt, Daz, and Rage and a much more abrasive, perhaps annoyed and sober Snoop take over verses on songs like “Ain’t No Fun (If The Homies Can’t Have None)” where he and all the other rappers on the song sound like they’re trying to bury the possibility of love proposed by Nate Dogg at the end of his verse: “Cause I have never met a girl/That I love in the whole wide world.” Why reject love? Well, Kurupt puts it quite bluntly, “if Kurupt gave a fuck about a bitch I'd always be broke/I'd never have no motherfucking endo to smoke.” Love costs money and time away from blunts, it requires a sharing of pleasure and if there’s anything this record is trying to make clear it’s that these guys are not sharers. “Mind on my money/Money on my mind.” In other words, in this Doggy Dogg World, one should only care about their own pleasure, their own survival. People pose a threat to your high, just like Monday poses a threat to the weekend. So reject it and lay on a couch, safe and sound from grubby hands trying to take what you have.

2. T. Rex: Electric Warrior

Personal Favorite: “Cosmic Dancer”

Summarizing Lyric: “The world’s the same/I am to blame” (“Planet Queen”)

It’s been one of those days where every riff sounds like something that’s been done and every lyric sounds like something that’s been said. When this happens, I usually drop my guitar much more violently than a guitar outside of a live setting should ever be dropped, and rip the scrap of cliche-packed paper into the bits and pieces it deserves to be. I would then bury my head in food and bed sheets, wallowing over the impossibility of innovation, thinking this wallowing would lead to the innovation I’m so desperate to produce, but Electric Warrior suggests another mehtod. Instead of running from cliches, the record plays into them. I have to admit, I did not expect “girls are like cars” songs or something so blatantly rooted in the earliest of blues as “Lean Woman Blues” to be on a record that I’ve heard time and time again is the origin of genres as innovative as glam and punk, but that just goes to show how unoriginal the most seemingly innovative things really are. Every great modern movie or pop song sprouted from a seed left behind by some aging person who used to be in the movies, used to write songs. Acceptance of this, at least for me, is very difficult. My need to feel like I’m making something that’s never been seen, heard, read before often leaves me not making anything at all because as soon as it sound like something that’s been done, I drop the guitar. T. Rex had a better relationship with the past. They do have their moments where the inability to escape the past turns into a tune as haunting as “Monolith” in which you will find Marc Bolan moaning over a realization that could easily drive someone to nihilism: “Shallow all the actions/Of the children of men/Fogged was their vision/Since the ages began,” but instead of succumbing to history’s daunting shadow, Bolan decided to contribute to it, make the shadow taller. He does so by relentlessly burying his moans under playful wahs until the cliches he can’t seem to escape become his own. Yes, making something your own is a cliche lesson to learn, but it seems only natural that a record riddled with cliches is teaching a cliche. Marc Bolan looked at the past and made it his backing band. Maybe I shouldn’t shy away from doing the same every now and then.

1. The Ramones: Rocket to Russia

Personal Favorite: “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”

Summarizing Lyric: “I just don't know/Why I can't let her go” (Why Is It Always This Way”)

Ten twenty somethings and supposedly twenty somethings in a six seater. Singing, smoking, hiding drinks in between their already squished thighs, this merry band of potential going to waste is proudly living up to this description by ditching class to spend a sunny day out on Rockaway Beach.

They arrive. All the cracks on the street are filled with litter; the windows across the road show a mother jamming chewed peas into her crying child’s mouth while her husband and a friend from work sneak kisses behind her back; across the street is a boy clad in leather clinging onto his patched jacket and wailing like the baby in the apartment, “She left me! She left me!”

“This city’s kind of shitty,” thinks Ramona, but the other nine are still really excited to party. “Wait, where’s the beach?”

The nine laugh. Doug comes over, puts his arm around her shoulder as he soothes, “There’s no beach honey. Our waves are concrete, at least they will be once we drop the stuff. Pull it out Tommy, Ramona’s in dire need of it.”

The concrete didn't turn into waves. Instead, all the crumpled litter became bared teeth, every crack a mouth trying to eat her up. As her feet were gnawed at she saw out of the corner of her eye the equally high Sheela and Johnny making out physically, but their spirits, floating out of their body, were brawling like her square parents. The radio blasting “Rockaway Beach” has become a stage for a Ken Doll white boy on a surfboard. And the six seater they came in, a crash landed rocket. Dee Dee blew into her neck. Suddenly very cold. Suddenly, she was in Russia.

All this to say, Rocket to Russia celebrates youth and its determination to never stop hopping, but recognizes that the cretin hop will eventually stop. Young love will end in a flash (“Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”). Attempts to be original end up sounding like stuff that’s been done (“Rockaway Beach” and the covers). The desire to stop caring about Little Ramonas and the self to avoid getting hurt–it’s unsatisfiable. You will care about people and your future just like your parents eventually realized they had to. “Why Is It Always This Way” ask The Ramones. Because it's easier to follow a blueprint than to start over. Punk tried to start over, but the innovators died quickly, and the remaining people relied on the blueprints.