"I never wanted the Ramones to be about politics", Johnny Ramone says in his book "Commando". But in 1985 they were. The song Bonzo Goes to Bitburg is about the former U.S. president Ronald Reagan and his trip to West Germany the same year. Reagan was criticized at home because he planned to visit a military cemetery in Bitburg where also 49 members of the Waffen-SS was buried. Criticism before the visit came from several directions, Jewish groups, war veterans and the Congress.
But Reagan did the trip – and Joey Ramone wrote the song along with Dee Dee and producer Jean Beavoir:
"What Reagan did was fucked up. Everybody told him not to go, all his people told him not to go, and he went anyway. How can you fuckin' forgive the Holocaust? How can you say, 'Oh well, it's OK now'. That's crazy", Joey told the East Coast Rocker magazine.
Bonzo was the name of the chimpanzee in the 1951 movie comedy "Bedtime for Bonzo" starring Ronald Reagan. To compare Johnny Ramones favorite president with a chimp made guitarist mad. Strangely, he still agreed to put the song on the album Animal Boy.
"I wouldn't let them put it out with the original title. It appears as My brain is hanging upside down. They couldn't talk about my favorite president like that", he tells in "Commando".
The single was only released in the UK but sold quite well as an import in the U.S. and was played frequently on many American college radio stations. Bonzo goes to Bitburg was ranked fifth best single of 1985 by The Village Voice in New York.
According to Sire records the decision not to release the record in the U.S. was "both financial and political". Too bad, I think Bonzo Goes to Bitburg is one of the best songs the Ramones made after the 70's. And in 1986 the song actually came out in the U.S. but only as the B-side on a DJ-only promo 12".
The song was released by Beggars Banquet in UK as 7" and a 12" and reached number 81 on the charts. There are three versions of the 12" with different labels. The sleeve is the same.
Songs: Bonzo goes to Bitburg/Daytime dilemma (Dangers of love)
Number: Beggars Banquet BEG 140
Songs: Bonzo goes to Bitburg//Go home Ann/Daytime dilemma (Dangers of love)
Number: Beggars Banquet BEG 140T
Notes: First press
Notes: second press
Notes: Third press, from the box "End of the decade".