A little over a year ago, the blog Aquarium Drunkard released a record called Ram On LA, a “Los Angeles Music Sampler” that featured bands like Earlimart, the Parson Redheads, and Le Switch covering tracks from Paul and Linda McCartney’s 1971 album Ram. I originally heard about the record from my neighbor Scott, and I appreciate the concept for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that Paul is my favorite member of the Beatles, but I don’t think he normally gets the respect he deserves. Thus, I’m glad to see him get a tribute. The other reason I’m down with record is that Ram (at least side A) is one of my favorite albums. It’s cool to realize that I, in my taste at least, keep such illustrious company!
Yet, while Ram is one of my favorite albums, I absolutely never listen to the record as originally intended. I got the mp3s of it once, and I tried to jam to them in the car. I hated them, though – they seemed so listless and lacking in energy.
See, my Ram isn’t like that.
I bought the record in the mid 2000s at Amoeba for a dollar. It was during a phase in my life wherein I bought a whole lot of records at Amoeba for a dollar and didn’t necessarily listen to them until months after the purchase. Ram was one of those records that I bought and shelved for some potential later date.
At the time I was living in a very full house with Pizza!, and we shared vinyl. While I apparently was only nominally interested in Ram, Alex found it on the shelf and decided to give it a spin. The turntable was on 45 when he did, and for some reason he didn’t notice. He accidentally played the record at the faster speed – and loved it!
After falling in love with the fast version of Ram, Alex played it for us. We all agreed that it was incredible. I, personally, was hooked.
I’ve listened to Ram on 45 a whole lot, but I’ve barely listened to it on 33. And while my initial love affair with it was a few years ago, I’ve gotten back into it pretty hard lately. Coincidentally, the other day it was the topic of conversation at a party; fortunately it was a party with a turntable and a copy of Ram. My friend Kyle S said that he had a natural aversion to things that sounded “chipmunky” because of some bad experiences with Christmas records when he was a kid. My buddy Dan C proposed that people in the era of Ram were so drugged-out that slow music appealed to them more, and he used Paul’s own “Helter Skelter” as an example. Both of them really dug Ram when it was played fast. Kyle even said that he wasn’t that interested in listening to the record at 33. I nodded my head to that. Ram on 33 sucks compared to Ram on 45!
Increasing the speed on Ram does, I must admit, “chipmunk” it. But what’s lost in low-end is more than compensated for by the gain in sheer passion, danceability, and drive. Paul and Linda made the record while on vacation on a farm in Scotland, and unsurprisingly it’s a bit sluggish in execution. Perhaps because of that, speeding it up by a few revolutions per minute really doesn’t make it that fast – especially not for me, as a listener almost forty years later with new context and ears for punk rock. The extra kick makes the songs more compelling, I think. There’s an added element of joy in songs like “Dear Boy” (which isn’t particularly happy at all when played at its original speed) and “Smile Away” (a song that is totally, completely, painfully, appallingly, and miserably boring on 33 but has a peculiar and jovial spring in its step on 45).
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is truly and delightfully weird in any incarnation, and it’s even more delightful and weird on 45.
Anyway – after talking about Fast Ram at that party, I decided that I wanted to digitize it. I didn’t want to just listen to it at home, because I love it so much. And after digitizing it, I figured it was a good idea to share it – so here it is.
This is just Side A. I didn’t have time to do Side B, but I’ll do it in a few days if people are interested (NOTE: Side B was uploaded on May 14 and is available here). Honestly, I haven’t listened to Side B that much. But Side A is pretty much my favorite Beatles record… so there you go.