53rd & 3rd – Ramones (Ramones, 1976)
Opening with the guitar riff that will hammer its way into your head virtually uninterrupted, 53rd & 3rd is actually one of the slower songs on the groups legendary self-titled debut, and probably one of the darkest in subject matter in a record full of dark subject matter.
The songs title refers to the cross-streets in New York where male prostitution was rife in the mid-70’s. The character in the story is attempting to earn some money the hard way and his layers of angst compound the fact that he’s not only straight, but he’s often a last option for those shopping for a cheap homosexual thrill. Eventually the guy (supposedly autobiographically about Dee Dee Ramone who wrote this little gem) does get picked and is caught by the cops but manages to escape, somehow feeling better because he proved his manhood(?) I don’t exactly get it, but the song is about the music more than the words anyway as I’ve been singing this to myself for years without knowing what any of it means.
The reason I always enjoyed this tune was I could tell it apart from many other songs in the Ramones catalog that sounded samey (admit Ramones fans). Also the repeating of “53rd & 3rd” stuck in my head. The other memorable part in this shorty (2:21 in length, hey it’s an early Ramones song!) comes at the 1:05 mark when Dee Dee comically sings “Then I took out my razor blade, and I did what God forbade, now the cops are after me, but I proved I’m no sissy” has always made me chuckle. I mean the guy sounds constipated!
At any rate the song fades out with them chanting “53rd & 3rd!” and this ear-wormy, troubling tale is done. As a side note, Metallica does a cover of this tune, so there’s that.