It seems like since the founding members of the Ramones started dying, everyone started to recognize just how important the Ramones were. They are more popular than ever. But for those not in the know, why are the Ramones so popular?
Here’s what I know from being a fan for decades:
The Ramones became and remain popular due to their simply catchy songs that are high energy and fun, with an often childlike view of the world reflected in their lyrics. They combined pop song stylings from the 1960s with hard rock stylings of the early 1970s.
I recently heard Hey, Ho Let’s Go on a Peloton commercial.
When a band’s music is being used to sell retirement plans and stationary bikes, you know things have reached a new low. Or new heights.
In purely practical terms, despite having broken up in 1996, the Ramones are still top of mind due to the fact that Linda Cummings-Ramone (Johnny’s widow) and Mickey Leigh (Joey’s brother) have done a really good job of managing the Ramones’ legacy.
They have strategically licensed the most iconic songs in the Ramones catalog and have made sure that their logo has stayed plastered on t-shirts the whole world over.
But let’s examine their style, their legacy, and their popularity in greater detail!
Sheena is a punk rocker
Sheena is a punk rocker
Sheena is a punk rocker now.
44 years ago this week #TheRAMONES released the single “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” pic.twitter.com/J9LDHjdiXv
— PuNk and Stuff (@PunKandStuff) May 29, 2021
Are The Ramones good?
The Ramones were a great punk band and played thousands of shows over their career and put out 14 studio albums selling millions of copies. However, their live performances did decline in quality in the final years of their existence.
But I’m biased having seen them in their heyday in 1980 and 1982. Their live shows in the 1990s just weren’t nearly as good.
The songs were played way too fast, and Joey’s vocals started to sound more like McGruff the Crime Dog, almost a caricature of his classic vocal style.
So ‘good’ is such a subjective term. To me and millions of Ramones fans out there, these guys were the best.
But if we stop and think about it and give an honest listen to the music, it is easy to see how a critic of the band could come to the conclusion that Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy Ramone were not actually that good.
I guess it could be argued that these guys reinvented music precisely because they weren’t virtuosos at what they did. To start, pretty much everyone in the band ended up playing their instruments because someone else couldn’t.
Joey Ramone was originally slated to be the drummer.
He switched to singing because Dee Dee couldn’t hold out for more than three songs on top of playing the bass. Tommy stepped in as drummer because, well, somebody had to.
These guys basically decided to form a band and then figured out who was going to do what as they went along.
Their songs are also incredibly simple.
Johnny Ramone was revered for his ability to play the E, A, and B chords hard and fast and in a variety of combinations that had never been heard before.
I was really surprised when I learned that Johnny Ramone didn’t actually play the guitar solos that were heard on later recordings.
But I figured that out a long time ago. Don’t believe me? Check out my recent article where I reveal who played their solos and why it wasn’t Johnny.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
I guess it’s safe to say that on a technical level, these guys weren’t exceptional. If you ask any fan, however, they’ll tell you that what made the Ramones amazing was everything they were.
- They were accessible – everything they played was imitated by garage band musicians everywhere.
- They were raw and real – There was no overproduction in the recording studio.
- They were intense – these guys earned their fame through raging rapid-fire live shows that became legendary.
The Ramones were the working-class heroes of the rock world. They proved that anybody could be a musician.
And that is why they were so good.
“The Ramones are sell-outs!”
That’s what some said when “Road To Ruin” was released 40 years ago today. The @RamonesOfficial‘s 4th album was the first to feature guitar solos and ballads.
Not selling-out. Just growing. (Although, “I Wanna Be Sedated” was pretty dang popular. pic.twitter.com/SqXk4z848B
— 91.3 WYEP (@WYEP) September 21, 2018
How much money did The Ramones make?
Collectively, the combined net worth of the Ramones is more than $33 million. Joey Ramone had a net worth of $6 million. Johnny Ramone had a net worth of $10 million, Tommy Ramone had a net worth of $5 million, Marky Ramone has a net worth of $12 million, and Dee Dee Ramone only had $500,000.
Of course, of those, Marky is the only one still around.
And I didn’t mention CJ Ramone or Ritchie Ramone as I just don’t think of them when I think of The Ramones. But it’s well known that the band never enjoyed that kind of wealth while they were touring around the globe. Despite being legends on the tour circuit, it wasn’t until the end of their career that the Ramones really saw substantial money coming in.
This is what Johnny Ramone had to say in his autobiography about how much money the Ramones made,
¨The band trusted me to get them as much money as I could, and we did fine… We made money over the long run while we were still together. …when we really got going we paid ourselves $150 a week salary. When we came back from a tour, we each would get $1000. … we weren’t getting rich, any of us.¨
He later said,
¨I made more money after we stopped than I ever did while the Ramones were active. We made a lot of money from merchandising, and the records sold better than ever. Maybe everyone really does love you when you’re dead.¨
Kind of prophetic, huh?
If you’re curious to learn about what happened to the original Ramones and how they all died, check out my recent article to see who died, when, how, and why.
It’s well-known that all 4 of the original members are dead. But was it all-natural causes? Or did all the stress and infighting contribute to an early grave?
Just click that link to read it on my site.
It’s only been 42 years🎸🎶
“Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” is the 11th single by the RAMONES. It was released on June 1, 1979. pic.twitter.com/xWILP9UHSJ
— Orietta (@oriettamusic) June 1, 2021
When did The Ramones become popular?
The Ramones began to get popular after the release of their 4th album Road to Ruin in 1978, which was quickly followed by them starring in the film Rock n’ Roll High School in 1979. The song I Wanna Be Sedated from Road to Ruin remains one of the band’s most popular songs.
But really, this is a tough question to answer because ¨popular¨ is such a subjective term. It might be better to ask When did the Ramones first achieve commercial success? It could also be asked, When did the Ramones sell out?
Can popularity be measured by how many licensing agreements a band has for merchandise and commercials?
If we look at the commercial success of the Ramones, it would be tempting to say that they never got popular.
In 1980, their 5th album, End of The Century, produced by Phil Spector, peaked at #44 on the Billboard charts. Rocket to Russia previously held the top-selling position in their discography, having peaked at #49 in 1978.
Personally, while there are some great songs on that album, I hate Phil Spector’s (over) production on that album. There are a LOT of overdubs and Spector used a number of extra musicians to flesh out the sound. The live and demo versions of most of those songs are much better.
Their debut album, The Ramones, never made it higher than #111.
I was curious to see how they rank these days with different online services available for easy streaming and was quite surprised to see that Nielsen’s ranks them 42nd on the list of the most popular streamed classic rock artists.
If popularity can be measured by how many advertisements use a band’s songs, the Ramones have been amazingly popular since the early 2000s.
Aside from the ads I mentioned at the beginning of this article, their songs have also been used by Pepsi, Taco Bell, Coppertone, and The Cartoon Network.
I think it’s safe to say that their popularity has been growing slowly over time, kind of like compound interest.
The Ramones , NYC 1976 pic.twitter.com/A2YIu7gXeh
— Schnitzel (@Schnitzel63) May 27, 2021
What was The Ramones’ biggest hit?
The Ramones’ biggest hit is I Wanna Be Sedated, which is their only RIAA Certified Platinum Single. Ironically, it did not chart whatsoever in any country at the time of its release, as it wasn’t released as a single initially; it was the B-side to She’s the One.
Blitzkrieg Bop is their other really well-known song. It is the only other Ramones song certified by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America®), coming in behind I Wanna Be Sedated with Gold status.
These songs are, by far, the most well-known songs they play.
They have been covered by more famous bands, used in commercials, and have appeared in many movie soundtracks since their initial releases.
Blitzkrieg Bop has been ranked 92nd in a list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone and the 25th greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.
I Wanna be Sedated turned into an iconic music video back in the day when MTV actually showed music videos.
It had previously been released 10 years earlier but became a true hit after the video came out. It ranks 145th on Rolling Stones’ list of greatest songs.
Day 100 of 100 albums
RAMONES = RAMONES
THEE MOST INFLUENTIAL BAND EVER WHICH SPLIT THE HISTORY OF ROCK N’ ROLL IN HALF UPON THEIR DEBUT❤
THE RAMONES INFLUENCED POPULAR MUSIC GENRES: HEAVY METAL, THRASH, INDIE, GRUNGE, POST-PUNK & PUNK ROCK.
💪🤘METAL MELISHA🤘✊ pic.twitter.com/iaQ53k32Jq
— 💪🤘METAL MELISHA🤘✊ (@MelishaMetal) July 21, 2020
Why do all The Ramones songs sound the same?
The Ramones intentionally avoid complicated song structures and lavish production techniques, preferring raw, fast, and simple pop songs. The result is that to the casual listener, many of their songs do sound similar.
Many critics say that all of the Ramones’ songs sound the same, but if you listen to Blitzkrieg Bop, I Wanna be Sedated, or any of their best-known songs, you won’t have any problem telling one song from the other.
But there is some truth to this accusation.
If you put on a whole album and give it a quick listen, you probably won’t be able to tell one song from the other. The reason for this has more to do with the driving, hardcore, penetrating sound that defines the Ramones style. Their recorded music, much like their legendary live shows, is a fast and furious experience, over before you know it.
If you have an untrained ear, it can be hard to tell where one song ends, and the other begins.
I still remember as a teen, I went to a traveling summer camp called Meyer’s Mountain Men. And we traveling across the southwest and west coast in a school bus. This would be the summer of 1980 and 1981.
We got to take turns playing our cassettes in the bus’s music system, and I often chose the Ramones’ live album “It’s Alive”.
You can bet most of my bus-mates had a hard time telling the songs apart and didn’t quite get the appeal. But then shocking people was part of the fun of listening to punk in the first place.
When we think about why the Ramones are so popular, it’s easy to credit a focused post-retirement and posthumous licensing bonanza.
Their music has shown up everywhere. You would least expect it for one of the most respected punk bands in history.
But the real truth of the matter is that their music is good. Despite not being the best musicians, this band broke every barrier in terms of genre, sound, and style.
They also avoided controversial or political topics despite Johnny and Dee Dee being conservative punk rockers. And even the touchy subjects like sniffing glue or Dee Dee turning tricks at 53rd and 3rd were done in a funny (not serious) way.
And this is why they continue to be more popular than ever decades after they retired and years after the last living original member passed away.
Photo which requires attribution:
ramones by masao nakagami is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added