Fans of the Ramones know that Johnny Ramone was the king of the barre-chord, playing downstroke chords at breakneck speed. But starting with their 4th album, guitar solos began appearing. Did Johnny Ramone play the guitar solos?
Here’s what I know from being a fan for more than 40 years:
Johnny Ramone did not play the guitar solos on Road to Ruin or the records that followed. Most of the solos were played by producer Ed Stasium and possibly Tommy Ramone (who produced some of the albums after he stopped being their drummer). Later records featured solos by Walter Lure or Daniel Rey.
But why didn’t he play them?
Was he technically not capable? Did they have solos live? And since Johnny Ramone was in charge of the band, was it his choice to have someone add guitar solos?
Let’s get into it!
— Tony Tutino (@tony_tutino) October 15, 2020
Was Johnny Ramone a good guitar player?
Johnny Ramone was a great rhythm guitar player who had the stamina to play for hours at a fast speed. His style was typically strumming down only, which requires great hand strength, as opposed to down and up.
But a guitar soloist, he was not.
In fact, the only real solo heard on a Ramones record that for sure Johnny played are the solo lines on their cover of “California Sun”, which is basically a riff that does a call and response with Joey’s vocals.
But one of the things that drove The Ramones, and Johnny in particular, during their whole career, was a desire to “make it” in the music business.
That’s especially evident in the lyrics of songs such as “We Want the Airwaves” which appeared on their 6th album “Pleasant Dreams”.
Starting with their 4th album, “Road to Ruin”, the changes designed to hopefully elicit airplay on the radio were evident.
Not only did they switch drummers to Marky Ramone, who could play much better than Tommy, but they started using uncredited people to add guitar solos.
And they started incorporating acoustic guitar parts as well (which were played by both Johnny and Ed Stasium).
Two men very dear to me, Ed Stasium and Nate Goyer. Nate has a podcast, “The Vinyl Guide”. He interviewed Ed recently. It’s a great, in-depth interview about Ed’s work with the Ramones and more.
Ed produced The Sugar Ponies’ album “It’s A Sign”. https://t.co/sl0RTPHjdl pic.twitter.com/vFKYtH5cFA
— sugarponies (@sugarponies) February 12, 2018
Who got Ed Stasium to play the guitar solos for The Ramones?
Johnny decided to have producer Ed Stasium add solos in conjunction with Ed and co-producer Tommy Ramone starting with the album Road to Ruin. Johnny Ramone ran The Ramones and made most of the band’s decisions.
But it’s rumored that Tommy himself may have played some of the solos as well.
And Stasium himself has admitted in interviews that he contributed small parts on the previous albums “Leave Home” and “Rocket to Russia”.
Ed was the producer and/or engineer on many of the Ramones records and likely contributed solos to all of the following albums:
- Road to Ruin
- Too Tough to Die
- Mondo Bizzaro
But even though Ed wasn’t the producer or engineer on “End of the Century”, Johnny still insisted on Stasium’s presence on the album.
And Ed was in the studio for much of the recording playing guitar on many of the songs.
— PuNk and Stuff (@PunKandStuff) April 1, 2021
Did The Ramones use backing tracks live?
Starting with the tours beginning in 1982, The Ramones did have additional guitar parts played during their live sets, most likely from an additional guitarist backstage rather than from pre-recorded backing tracks.
I know first-hand, as I saw them (my 2nd time) on the Pleasant Dreams tour.
And it was evident on a song like “We Want the Airwaves” that the single-note melody wasn’t being played by Johnny.
Johnny kept to his buzzsaw chords.
But that guitar melody was obviously being played. Don’t believe me? Check out the live recording of that song I have down below in the article where it’s obvious.
But there’s no official report of how that was handled.
But I know from seeing them live on that tour, with Dee Dee just counting off every song in rapid-fire, there would be almost no way to do that with a pre-recorded backing track.
So most likely, a roadie or guitar tech was playing the part off-stage.
As for how many songs this was done on, it’s hard to say. “We Want the Airwaves” was the only one that stood out to me at the time.
They also stopped playing that song live quite a while before their breakup. So most likely, the hidden guitarist was not an idea they used much past 1982.
And even though they played that song live starting in 1981, it’s evident from this live recording that they had not yet added that 2nd guitarist. https://youtu.be/4fD7GEtyalY
Album #592 of collection A to Z …
The Ramones – Subterranean Jungle pic.twitter.com/scZDjQw2JN
— Marc Meierkort (@MarcMeierkort) August 10, 2020
Who played the guitar solos on Subterranean Jungle?
As with a number of the albums that follow, Subterranean Jungle featured guitar solos by Walter Lure, a former member of Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers.
Interestingly enough, many of The Ramones’ later albums actually did credit the additional musicians used.
By comparison, Road to Ruin and Pleasant Dreams do not credit any additional guitarists.
Walter Lure, who passed away in 2020, started his career as a member of the Heartbreakers (not Tom Petty’s band) and played all the same clubs as The Ramones did in the early days, such as CBGB.
After kicking his heroin habit from the Johnny Thunders’ days, he actually worked on Wall Street for a time before getting back into music.
One of his last musical efforts was promoting the 40th anniversary of the Heartbreakers’ album L.A.M.F. playing a series of shows with Blondie’s Clem Burke, Mike Ness from Social Distortion, and Glen Matlock, the original bassist for The Sex Pistols.
— RamonesFans (@FansRamones) April 13, 2016
When did Daniel Rey start playing the guitar solos for The Ramones?
Daniel Rey likely only contributed guitar solos on The Ramones’ final album Adios Amigos. Rey joined The Ramones as a producer on the 10th album Halfway to Sanity but only contributed bass guitar to that album.
Daniel Rey produced 3 albums for The Ramones.
But he also produced the solo work for Joey Ramone and Dee Dee Ramone and played several parts on all of their recorded solo work, guitars, and otherwise.
Rey even produced and played on Dee Dee’s ill-fated attempt at rap under the name Dee Dee King.
One of the best post-Ramones songs to come out appears on Dee Dee’s album “Zonked”.
That song, which Rey wrote with Dee Dee, was “I Am Seeing UFO’s”. It is the closest thing to a Ramones reunion following the band’s breakup in 1996.
Recorded in 1997, the song features Marky on drums, Joey on vocals, and Dee Dee on rhythm guitar with Dee Dee’s wife Barbara Ramone on bass.
And it’s a great song!
Here’s that video I promised where you can clearly hear a 2nd guitar player playing that is not on stage with the band.
There’s no denying the power and legacy of The Ramones.
And their lasting influence on so many bands that followed can’t be underscored. So it’s interesting to think that The Ramones didn’t play everything you hear on their records.
The worst example of that is probably the Phil Spector-produced “End of the Century”, which features 2 other guitarists and another drummer, in addition to a sax player and piano player.
But Johnny Ramone’s desire to be played on the radio was greater than his ego.
So yes, it’s true. Starting with the band’s 4th album, “Road to Ruin”, they indeed used both uncredited and credited guitar players to add occasional solos to several of their songs.
And, at least for a time, they had an extra guitar player offstage to flesh out their sound live.
Photos that require attribution: