Ramones – Bonzo Goes To Bitburg

With the fascinating lyrical image of a brain hanging upside down, the Ramones took a break from dreaming of sedation and sniffing glue, to criticize a visit by U.S. President Ronald Reagan to (West) Germany, way back in 1985.

The President was in Bitburg, paying respect to victims of the Nazis. But the cemetery he laid a wreath at was also the final resting home of some SS officers (the extermination camp overseers). Of course, Bonzo was also a put down nickname for Reagan, referencing his acting days with a chimp of the same name.

The rushing, anthemic tune, with many Phil Spector-like flourishes, could make a listener miss the political criticism. This message song was a departure for the Ramones and not a hit (to the extent the band ever had a hit), but was popular on college radio at the time.

The image of Reagan having a cup of tea, meaning taking the Holocaust too lightly and forgiving too soon, is an effective metaphor and highlighted the perils of international photo ops. Surely Reagan did not want to be seen taking Nazism lightly, but this proved a difficult thing to do while also trying to demonstrate strong, friendly  relations with West Germany.

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