Years: 1974 - 1996
Styles: Alternative rock, Bubblegum Rock, Hard Rock, New Wave, Power Pop, Punk Rock, Rock and Roll
Dee Dee Ramone - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Lead vocal, Vocals (in band: 1974 – 1989)
Johnny Ramone - Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Rhythm guitar (in band: 1974 – 1996)
Joey Ramone - Drums, Lead vocal (in band: 1974 – 1996)
Tommy Ramone - Drums (in band: 1974–1978)
Marky Ramone - Backing vocals, Drums (in band: 1978 – 1983; 1987 – 1996)
Richie Ramone - Backing vocals, Drums (in band: 1983–1987)
C. J. Ramone - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Lead vocal (in band: 1989 – 1996)
The Ramones were an American punk rock band that formed in the New York City neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens, in 1974. They are often cited as the first band to define the punk-rock sound. Despite achieving only limited commercial success, the band was a major influence on the 1970s punk movement in both the United States and United Kingdom.
All of the band members adopted pseudonyms ending with the surname "Ramone", although none of them were related. They performed 2,263 concerts, touring virtually nonstop for 22 years. In 1996, after a tour with the Lollapalooza music festival, the band played a farewell concert and disbanded. By 2014, all four of the band's original members, lead singer Joey Ramone (1951–2001), bass guitarist Dee Dee Ramone (1951–2002), lead guitarist Johnny Ramone (1948–2004) and drummer Tommy Ramone (1949–2014), had died.
Recognition of the band's importance built over the years, and they are now mentioned in many assessments of all-time great rock music, such as number 26 in the Rolling Stone magazine list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" and number 17 in VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock".In 2002, the Ramones were ranked the second-greatest band of all time by Spin magazine, trailing only the Beatles. On March 18, 2002, the original four members and Tommy's replacement on drums, Marky Ramone, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2011, the group was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Ramones were the first punk rock band. Other bands, such as the Stooges and the New York Dolls, came before them and set the stage and aesthetic for punk, and bands that immediately followed, such as the Sex Pistols, made the latent violence of the music more explicit, but the Ramones crystallized the musical ideals of the genre. By cutting rock & roll down to its bare essentials -- four chords; a simple, catchy melody; and irresistibly inane lyrics -- and speeding up the tempo considerably, the Ramones created something that was rooted in early '60s, pre-Beatles rock & roll and pop but sounded revolutionary. Since their breakthrough was theoretical as well as musical, they comfortably became the leaders of the emerging New York punk rock scene.
While their peers such as Patti Smith, Television, Talking Heads, and Richard Hell all were more intellectual and self-consciously artistic than the Ramones, they nevertheless appealed to the same mentality because of the way they turned rock conventions inside out and celebrated kitschy pop culture with stylized stupidity. The band's first four albums set the blueprint for punk, especially American punk and hardcore, for the next two decades. And the Ramones themselves were major figures for the next two decades, playing essentially the same music without changing their style much at all. Although some punk diehards -- including several of their peers -- would have claimed the band's long career wound up undercutting the ideals the band originally stood for, the Ramones always celebrated not just the punk aesthetic, but the music itself.
With the three-chord assault of "Blitzkrieg Bop," The Ramones begins at a blinding speed and never once over the course of its 14 songs does it let up. The Ramones is all about speed, hooks, stupidity, and simplicity. The songs are imaginative reductions of early rock & roll, girl group pop, and surf rock. Not only is the music boiled down to its essentials, but the Ramones offer a twisted, comical take on pop culture with their lyrics, whether it's the horror schlock of "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement," the gleeful violence of "Beat on the Brat," or the maniacal stupidity of "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue." And the cover of Chris Montez's "Let's Dance" isn't a throwaway -- with its single-minded beat and lyrics, it encapsulates everything the group loves about pre-Beatles rock & roll.
Of course the Ramones' second album, "Leave Home", is simply more of the same -- 14 songs, including one oldie ("California Sun"), delivered at breakneck speed and concluding in under a half-hour. The Ramones have gotten slightly poppier, occasionally delivering songs like "I Remember You" that are cloaked neither in irony nor seedy rock & roll chic. Still, the biggest impressions are made by the cuts that strongly recall the debut, whether it's the ersatz Beach Boys of "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," the singalong of "Pinhead," or the warped anthems "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment" and "Commando." Song for song, it's slightly weaker than its predecessor, but the handful of mediocre cuts speed by so fast that you don't really notice its weaknesses until after it's all over.
The Ramones provided the blueprint and "Leave Home" duplicated it with lesser results, but the Ramones' third album, "Rocket to Russia", perfected it. "Rocket to Russia" boasts a cleaner production than its predecessors, which only gives the Ramones' music more force. It helps that the group wrote its finest set of songs for the album. From the mindless, bopping opening of "Cretin Hop" and "Rockaway Beach" to the urban surf rock of "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" and the ridiculous anthem "Teenage Lobotomy," the songs are teeming with irresistibly catchy hooks; even their choice of covers, "Do You Want to Dance?" and "Surfin' Bird," provide more hooks than usual. The Ramones also branch out slightly, adding ballads to the mix. Even with these (relatively) slower songs, the speed of the album never decreases. However, the abundance of hooks and slight variety in tempos makes "Rocket to Russia" the Ramones' most listenable and enjoyable album -- it doesn't have the revolutionary impact of The Ramones, but it's a better album and one of the finest records of the late '70s.
The loud-and-fast, campy-and-catchy formula began to wear a little thin by the time of the Ramones' fourth album, "Road to Ruin". Following the exact same blueprint as its three predecessors, "Road to Ruin" simply doesn't yield the same results as the other records. In part, it's because the band sounds a little forced on the harder numbers, but the main problem lies with the undistinguished material. "I Wanna Be Sedated" is a classic, and "Questioningly" proves that the Ramones are just as effective when they slow the tempo down, yet much of the record sounds like the Ramones trying to give the people what they want. Since they were still in their prime, such nondescript material sounds good, but the record has neither the exuberant energy or abundant hooks of Ramones and "Rocket to Russia", and it's the first suggestion that the Ramones may have painted themselves into a corner.
"Road to Ruin" found the Ramones stretching their signature sound to its limits; even though there were several fine moments, nearly all of them arrived when the group broke free from the suddenly restrictive loud-fast-hard formula of their first records. Considering that the Ramones did desire mainstream success and that they had a deep love for early-'60s pop/rock, it's not surprising that they decided to shake loose the constrictions of their style by making an unabashed pop album, yet it was odd that Phil Spector produced "End of the Century", because his painstaking working methods seemingly clashed with the Ramones' instinctual approach. However, the Ramones were always more clever than they appeared, so the matching actually worked better than it could have. Spector's detailed production helped bring "Rock 'n' Roll High School" and "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" to life, yet it also kept some of the punkier numbers in check. Even so, "End of the Century" is more enjoyable than its predecessor, since the record has stronger material, and in retrospect, it's one of their better records of the '80s.
"Pleasant Dreams", the band's sixth album, was released in 1981. It continued the trend established by "End of the Century", taking the band further from the raw punk sound of its early records. As described by Trouser Press, the album, produced by Graham Gouldman of UK pop act 10cc, moved the Ramones "away from their pioneering minimalism into heavy metal territory". Johnny would contend in retrospect that this direction was a record company decision, a continued futile attempt to get airplay on American radio. While "Pleasant Dreams" reached number 58 on the U.S. chart, its two singles failed to register at all.
"Subterranean Jungle", produced by Ritchie Cordell and Glen Kolotkin, was released in 1983. According to Trouser Press, it brought the band "back to where they once belonged: junky '60s pop adjusted for current tastes", which among other things meant "easing off the breakneck rhythm that was once Ramones dogma." Billy Rogers, who had performed with Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, played drums on the album's second single, a cover of the Chambers Brothers' "Time Has Come Today", becoming the only song showing three different drumers: Rogers on recording, Marky on album credits and Richie on video clip. "Subterranean Jungle" peaked at number 83 in the United States—it would be the last album by the band to crack the Billboard Top 100. In 2002, Rhino Records released a new version of it with seven bonus tracks.
After the release of "Subterranean Jungle", Marky was fired from the band due to his alcoholism. He was replaced by Richard Reinhardt, who adopted the name Richie Ramone. Joey Ramone remarked that "[Richie] saved the band as far as I'm concerned. He's the greatest thing to happen to the Ramones. He put the spirit back in the band." Richie is the only Ramones drummer to sing lead vocals on Ramones songs, including "(You) Can't Say Anything Nice" as well as the unreleased "Elevator Operator". Joey Ramone commented, "Richie's very talented and he's very diverse... He really strengthened the band a hundred percent because he sings backing tracks, he sings lead, and he sings with Dee Dee's stuff. In the past, it was always just me singing for the most part." Richie was also the only drummer to be the sole composer of Ramones songs including their hit "Somebody Put Something in My Drink" as well as "Smash You", "Humankind", "I'm Not Jesus", "I Know Better Now" and "(You) Can't Say Anything Nice". Joey Ramone supported Richie's songwriting contributions: "I encouraged Richie to write songs. I figured it would make him feel more a part of the group, because we never let anybody else write our songs." Richie's composition, "Somebody Put Something in My Drink", remained a staple in the Ramones set list until their last show in 1996 and was included in the album "Loud, Fast Ramones: Their Toughest Hits". 
The first album the Ramones recorded with Richie was "Too Tough to Die" in 1984, with Tommy Erdelyi and Ed Stasium returning as producers. The album marked a shift to something like the band's original sound. 
The band's main release of 1985 was the British single "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg"; though it was available in the United States only as an import, it was played widely on American college radio. The song was written, primarily by Joey, in protest of Ronald Reagan's visit to a German military cemetery, which included graves of Waffen SS soldiers. Retitled "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)", the song appeared on the band's ninth studio album, "Animal Boy" (1986). Produced by Jean Beauvoir, formerly a member of the Plasmatics, the album was characterized by a Rolling Stone reviewer as "nonstop primal fuzz pop".Making it his pick for "album of the week", New York Times critic Jon Pareles wrote that the Ramones "speak up for outcasts and disturbed individuals".
The following year the band recorded their last album with Richie, "Halfway to Sanity", produced and largely written and played by Daniel Rey. Richie left in August 1987, upset that after being in the band for five years, the other members would still not give him a share of the money they made selling T-shirts. Richie was replaced by Clem Burke from Blondie, which was disbanded at the time. According to Johnny, the performances with Burke—who adopted the name Elvis Ramone—were a disaster. He was fired after two performances (August 28 & 29, 1987) because his drumming could not keep up with the rest of the band. In September, Marky, now clean and sober, returned to the band.
In December 1988, the Ramones recorded material for their eleventh studio album, "Brain Drain"; co-produced by Beauvoir, Rey, and Bill Laswell. However, the bass parts were done by Daniel Rey and the Dictators' Andy Shernoff. Dee Dee Ramone would only record the additional vocals on the album citing that the other members of the band (including himself) were going through personal troubles and changes to the point where he didn't want to be in the band anymore. After the band finished their Halfway to Sanity tour in February 1989, Dee Dee became sober and left the band.
He was replaced by Christopher Joseph Ward (C.J. Ramone), who performed with the band until they disbanded. Dee Dee initially pursued a brief career as a rapper under the name Dee Dee King. He quickly returned to punk rock and formed several bands, in much the same vein as the Ramones, for whom he also continued to write songs.
After more than a decade and a half at Sire Records, the Ramones moved to a new label, Radioactive Records. Their first album for the label was 1992's "Mondo Bizarro", which reunited them with producer Ed Stasium. "Acid Eaters", consisting entirely of cover songs, came out the following year. In 1993 the Ramones were featured in the animated television series The Simpsons, providing music and voices for animated versions of themselves in the episode "Rosebud". Executive producer David Mirkin described the Ramones as "gigantic, obsessive Simpsons fans."
In 1995 the Ramones released "¡Adios Amigos!", their fourteenth studio album, and announced that they planned to disband if it was not successful. Its sales were unremarkable, garnering it just two weeks on the lower end of the Billboard chart.The band spent late 1995 on what was promoted as a farewell tour. However, they accepted an offer to appear in the sixth Lollapalooza festival, which toured around the United States during the following summer. After the Lollapalooza tour's conclusion, the Ramones played their final show on August 6, 1996, at the Palace in Hollywood. A recording of the concert was later released on video and CD as "We're Outta Here!" In addition to a reappearance by Dee Dee, the show featured several guests including Motörhead's Lemmy, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Soundgarden's Chris Cornell, and Rancid's Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen.
1. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramones#Discography
2. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 915-916, Stephen Thomas Erlewine
© Boar 2011 - 2017