The Story Behind the Stephen King-Commissioned Ramones Hit “Pet Sematary”

Author Stephen King was a big fan of The Ramones and invited the band to his home in Bangor, Maine prior to making the film adaptation of his best-selling 1983 horror novel Pet Sematary. At one point during their meeting, King handed bassist Dee Dee Ramone a copy of the book. Dee Dee retreated to King’s basement and had the lyrics to “Pet Sematary” ready approximately an hour later.

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“Pet Sematary” was released on the Ramones’ 11th album Brain Drain and was also used in the 1989 film based on King’s iconic book.

Co-written by the band’s longtime producer Daniel Rey, who helped flesh out the song, “Pet Sematary” was also co-produced by Jean Beauvoir of the Plasmatics.

[RELATED: 2 Songs You Didn’t Know Dee Dee Ramone Wrote for Other Artists]

The Meaning

The film (and book) follows the story of the Creed family, who move from Chicago to the rural town of Ludlow, Maine, and have to survive a legion of pets that have returned from the dead.

The Ramones’ “Pet Sematary” is a free-for-all of ghosts, ancient goblins, and warlords. The lyrics also reference King’s Pet Sematary character Victor Pascow, a university student who died in a fatal car crash and visits Louis Creed to warn him of the haunted burial site.

Follow Victor to the sacred place
This ain’t a dream, I can’t escape
Molars and fangs, the clicking of bones
Spirits moaning among the tombstones

And the night, when the moon is bright
Someone cries, something ain’t right

The chorus is a plea against any form of reincarnation—and, of course, a burial at a pet cemetery.

I don’t want to be buried in a pet sematary
I don’t want to live my life again
I don’t want to be buried in a pet sematary
I don’t want to live my life again

The Video

Directed by Bill Fishman, who also helmed the band’s time-lapsed video for “I Wanna Be Sedated,” the visuals around “Pet Sematary” were set at an actual gravesite. Filmed at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York, the video shows the Ramones walking through the grounds in black and white, along with color footage of the band performing while slowly being lowered into their grave.

Blondie‘s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, members of the Dead Boys, and more friends of the band have guest cameos throughout the video. Everyone drove up to the cemetery in the middle of a freezing cold night to shoot the video, which turned into a big party, in a cemetery.

“It was fun,” said Rey, who also has a cameo wearing an Abraham Lincoln hat and white medical trench coat. “It was cold, but it was fun. I think they just decided to have a party and invite all their friends because everyone likes scary monster stuff. It was like Halloween but it wasn’t Halloween.”

The Hit

“Pet Sematary” became the band’s highest-charting hit, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

“Sheena is a Punk Rocker”

Along with “Pet Sematary,” the Ramones’ 1977 song “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” also appears in the film in a scene where a speeding truck driver who is about to hit a small child, is distracted by singing along to it as he drives.

Marky In, Dee Dee Out

“Pet Sematary” and the release of Brain Drain also marked the end of an era and the continuation of another for the band. Former drummer Marky, who was asked to leave the band in 1983 because of his drinking problem, returned to The Ramones and remained with them until they disbanded in 1996.

Shortly after the release of Brain Drain in 1989, Dee Dee also left the band and was replaced by C.J. Ramone. The “Pet Sematary” video was the final one Dee Dee would appear in with the band before his death in 2002.

Photo: YouTube / “Pet Sematary” Video

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