If you pay any attention to the world around you, you’ve inevitably seen some celebrity or another sporting a t-shirt with the Ramones logo. You’ve probably asked yourself on more than one occasion, who are the Ramones? And why were the Ramones so important?
Here’s what I know from being a life-long fan:
The Ramones were one of the most underrated and influential bands of modern times. They are considered the founders of punk rock music, and their sound and influence show up in modern rock and pop songs even to this day. And bands such as Green Day wouldn’t exist without The Ramones.
They epitomized down-to-earth street music in an age of glam rock and endless studio overdubs. And they transcended every traditional label that existed at the time.
If you don’t pay much attention to celebrities, maybe you’ve seen the shirt on that punk-looking kid at the coffee shop, or maybe your fifteen-year-old bought one off Amazon.
Chances are, you’ve seen this shirt at some point in your life.
And if you haven’t, surely you’ve heard some famous musician or another mention the Ramones as one of their primary influences. I’ve owned at least 7 Ramones shirts over the years. But hey; I actually saw them in concert twice, so I’m not just a poser.
There’s something about the raw and unfiltered sound that you simply have to hear for yourself. It’s gritty, it’s fast, and it’s got a way of getting into your head.
Let’s get into ALL the reasons people everywhere love The Ramones.
The Ramones pic.twitter.com/aVlYWvivLs
— Schnitzel (@Schnitzel63) April 7, 2021
What Were the Ramones Known For?
The Ramones were known for playing 2-3 minute pop songs at breakneck speed and at top volume. And for their 1st 3 albums, they eschewed fancy production, overdubs, and guitar solos and focused on pure raw energy.
You’ve probably heard the Ramones, whether you know it or not. Their songs have made their way into every facet of pop culture.
On a commercial level, they were most known for their hit song “I Wanna be Sedated”. This song was released towards the end of 1978 on their album Road to Ruin. It was re-released in 1980 on the soundtrack album to the movie Times Square.
Thanks to the birth of music videos and MTV, it reappeared in 1988.
Since then, it has become part of the American soundtrack. This Ramones classic can be heard time and again in movies like Scary Movie, on popular TV shows such as Beavis and Butthead, and on video games such as Guitar Hero and Jam Sessions.
It has also been endlessly covered, most famously by the band Offspring and by notable acts New Found Glory and The Go-Gos.
Aside from this ubiquitous anthem, the Ramones are best known for their popular songs:
- Blitzkrieg Bop
- The KKK Took My Baby Away
- Teenage Lobotomy
- Pet Semetary (written for the film at the request of author Stephen King)
And many others.
But let’s face it. The Ramones didn’t become so iconic because of their music alone. Not everyone likes punk music. The Ramones were cool. The Ramones were the anti glam of the late ’70s and ’80s.
They were understated in their simple jeans and leather jackets. Their hair and sunglasses obscured their faces. They represented a real, authentic, and gritty version of reality in a time of excess, glitter, and disco.
The Ramones all spectored. There are some great songs on this album, some a bit buried pic.twitter.com/jIwab7kDQc
— The Vinyl Frontier (@frontier_vinyl) April 10, 2021
What Bands Did the Ramones Influence?
Members of different bands such as Nirvana, Green Day, The Foo Fighters, The Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Social Distortion, Bad Religion, and Pearl Jam all cite the Ramones as being hugely influential in their development as musicians.
The Ramones’ popularity was hard-earned through constant touring over 22 years. During this time, they developed an enormous cult following, and countless musicians were inspired to pick up an instrument.
Some of these musicians formed bands that went on to become extremely successful and revolutionary in their own right.
In fact, whole sub-genres of music, such as the thrash style fusion between punk and metal, can be directly attributed to having been born of the influence of the Ramones.
The Ramones were so important to so many musicians. The list is nearly endless but includes such greats as:
- The Misfits
- The Strokes
- The Lemonheads
- Arcade Fire
- The Clash
- The Hives
- The Beastie Boys
- Billy Idol
It’s hard to believe that a band that enjoyed extremely limited commercial success was able to so profoundly influence modern music.
The Ramones never had a number one hit.
Their song Rockaway Beach from their Rocket to Russia album only reached #66 on the charts and was their biggest commercial success. And it’s a great song.
But it’s ironic (and sad) that the original members didn’t live to see the full scope of their popularity.
— The Hard Times (@REALpunknews) April 11, 2021
Who Influenced the Ramones?
The Ramones were influenced directly by bands such as The Stooges, The New York Dolls, and The MC5, but also 60s pop music and early-70s glam bands such as The Sweet and T-Rex.
So this hugely influential band just seemingly came out of nowhere and revolutionized the music industry? Right?
Basically, yes, though, that is a gross oversimplification.
The thing is, no one had ever quite sounded like the Ramones. They had a driven, fast-paced, non-stop, high-energy sound that ripped through their music and contagiously infected those who experienced their live shows.
But obviously, the original Ramones, Joey, Dee Dee, Tommy, and Johnny were all influenced by what was going on around them when they first started writing songs.
With a quick listen through the Ramones’ early releases, you can easily hear that the Ramones were heavily influenced by the Beatles and other pop musicians of the ’50s and ’60s.
The Beach Boys, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones all played a role in how the distinctive Ramones sound came into being.
And as I mentioned above, other bands such as Black Sabbath, the New York Dolls, and MC5 influenced the development of the distinctive heavy sound that distinguished the Ramones and loaned their sound to the evolution of punk music as a separate genre.
Most importantly, to understand what most influenced the Ramones, you have to understand what they did NOT want to sound like.
Joey Ramone was once quoted as saying, ¨In 1974, everything was tenth-generation Elton John or overproduced, or just junk. Everything was long jams, long guitar solos… We missed music like it used to be.¨
And by that, he meant simple 2-3 minute pop songs that could get recorded in a few hours at a studio in just 1 or 2 takes;
Songs that didn’t require syncing up multiple 24-track recorders the way The Eagles and Journey were doing.
Saturday May 15th
9pm (U.K.) // 4pm (New York)@MarkyRamone will be our host for a @LlSTENlNG_PARTY featuring Road To Ruin by the Ramones #OneTwoThreeFour 🤘
Your name is on the guest list. Do join us! pic.twitter.com/LYvJ2p2GxN
— Tim’s Listening Party (@LlSTENlNG_PARTY) April 9, 2021
Are the Ramones All Dead?
The original Ramones were Joey, Tommy, Dee Dee, and Johnny. And yes, they have all passed away. But long-time drummer Marky Ramone, who joined in 1978, is still very much alive and musically active. Other later Ramones members CJ, Richie, and Elvis Ramone, are also alive.
Let’s examine all of the main members and learn more about them and when each of the original Ramones passed away. Listed in the order of their passing.
His real name was Jeffry Hyman, and he died in 2001 at the age of 49 following a years-long battle with lymphoma. He was originally the drummer of the band but eventually became the lead singer of the group. He was known for his impressive live performances.
Dee Dee Ramone
His real name was Douglas Colvin, and he passed away shortly after in 2002 of a heroin overdose. While he performed as the bassist, he was actually the principal composer of the Ramones and wrote most of their songs.
Ironically, I had tickets to see him perform on the Saturday of the week he died, and will forever regret not getting to see that show.
Johnny was the next of the original Ramones to pass away, losing a multi-year battle with prostate cancer just before his 56th birthday in 2004. Originally known as John Cummings, he was the guitarist of the band and is considered one of the greatest electric guitar players of all time.
His real name was Thomas Erdeyi, and he was the last surviving member of the original Ramones. He passed away in 2014 from bile duct cancer at the age of 64. Tommy was originally the manager of the band but ended up as the drummer after Joey decided to dedicate himself exclusively to vocals.
And even though Tommy only played drums on their 1st 3 albums, he did produce some of their later albums (under his real name of T. Erdeyi) including my personal favorite “Road to Ruin”.
Here are the other members that have come and gone through the Ramones:
It’s important to understand that Ramones’ history is a little bit of a soap opera. There are other members of the Ramones who played in the band throughout their long touring history.
- Marky Ramone (Mark Bell) became the drummer in 1978. He left the band in 1983 but returned in 1987 and played with the band until their retirement in 1996.
- Richie Ramone (Richard Reinhardt) replaced Marky Ramone on drums during Marky’s hiatus. He also took on a role singing back up.
- Elvis Ramone was the stage name used by Clem Burke (drummer for Blondie) who very briefly played drums after Richie left the band. He only played two concerts before getting the boot for not being up to par (ironic given he always sounded great in Blondie).
- CJ Ramone (Christopher Ward) replaced Dee Dee on bass in 1989 and played with the band until they disbanded.
All of the ¨replacement¨ Ramones are alive and continue to work in the music industry.
The Ramones performing at the Paradiso, Amsterdam in September 1978. 📷 Lex Van Rossen. pic.twitter.com/i7BrdXGmdW
— Rock N Roll Pictures (@RockNRollPics) April 10, 2021
Did the Ramones Invent Punk?
The Ramones did not really invent punk as many consider The Stooges, The MC5, and The New York Dolls, who were already performing, to be the true originators. But The Ramones were able to popularize it on a more worldwide scale.
But many people think that the Ramones are so important because they invented punk music as we know it.
While there is some truth to that statement, it is more accurate to say that they formed a fundamental part of a musical movement that became ¨punk¨.
It is well beyond this article’s scope to give a more nuanced explanation of how punk music came to be, but it is safe to say that by the time the Ramones made their public debut, there was an audience ready to hear them.
In the early 70’s groups such as the New York Dolls, MC5, and The Stooges, were already taking the stage at CBGB – a club that became the epicenter of the punk movement and birthplace of the punk genre and subculture.
What the Ramones did was synthesize everything together into a cohesive universal sound that had never been heard before.
The Ramones were so important because they inspired countless fans to pick up an instrument and start expressing themselves through music.
Their message was their essence: get out there, play music, and be loud. They made music accessible, stripping away complexity and creating a model for making music that continues to be inspiring long after the demise of the band.
Thanks to their fiery influence, the modern music soundscape is what it is today.
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