The Ramones were one of the founders of punk rock. 3 chords, 2 minutes, and catchy chorus' is what made this band different. They kept everything simple and fast, leaving you no chance to get bored. Formed in New York in 1974, they kept their strong fan base and loud, fast music going until 2,263 shows later in Los Angeles, August 6th 1996. They released 21 studio and live albums between '76 and '96.
They suffered line-up changes all through their career but kept going strong. They got their first shows by persistence of Tommy Ramone. He would ring up venues and promoters, trying to get his band out there. He rang up the Soho Weekly News several times asking them to come to their show and to write about them. They were getting annoyed with all these phone calls so they decided to go and check them out, as everyone around that time and place seemed to be talking about them. They loved the Ramones too. Their simplicity and energetic live shows, featuring songs of 14 seconds long! The Weekly News teams became more and more interested and went to see them live again. After their first few shows a manager approached them. They were very excited about this and Johnny told him that they needed new equipment. He bought them new drums and got them several more shows all over the place. They then went for a rehearsal at a local recording studio and were signed straight away. They loved all this attention and made their first recording for just over $6000, at Radio City Music Hall.
The Ramones were now looking for bigger opportunities for shows, outside of their hometown of Manhattan. They then played at a run-down club in Boston, which the fans their also loved. The media were growing increasingly interested in them and they were booked for radio interviews and even to appear on a local TV show.
They were booked to play a show in New York a few weeks later. During the sound check, they noticed some guys hanging around and went to talk to them. They were in an English band called The Clash. The Ramones wanted them to play but they said they weren't confident enough. Johnny then said to them that they suck but they have so much fun playing that they shouldn't worry about it. Word soon spread back to England's tabloids and a headline appeared: 'Glue Sniff Shocker'. This was referring to the lower class drug streets from New York where the bands had been playing.
The radio stations loved their songs and were playing them on a regular basis. This was with the original line-up of Johnny (guitar), Tommy (drums), Dee-Dee (bass) and Joey (vocals). After a time, Tommy left the band and was replaced by good friend Marky. He played in the band for 15 years. When Dee-Dee left to do other things he was replaced by C.J. who stepped out of the Marine Corps to play bass for the Ramones in 1989. Marky as in and out of the band a lot between '83 and '87 so Richie filled in for him when he was away. Johnny didn't like Marky's drinking problem and later kicked him out the band. They were extremely popular in these years. They had the image, with the jeans, leather jackets, bowl haircuts and faded denim which all gave a great contrast to the 50's bikers and 60's garage mods also around at the time, the talent as fully evolved songwriters and musicians and they even had the surname!
They had a unique style, different to other punk bands in this era. Johnny, who hated solos and breaks, insisted on using regulation barre and power chords and fast down strums on most songs. The band loved volume too. Everything had to be very loud and it fitted their music very well! When people asked Johnny about his guitar, he would tell them he uses no effects, and is famously quoted for saying, Just turn all the knobs to 11! They loved putting on a memorable live show, full of energy and passion. Johnny and C.J. always hated it when bands played to their amps or their drummer, We play to our people.
Their songs revolutionised song writing and the way people write even to this day. 'Pinhead' was about people insulting them for the way they look and how they act. Whilst on tour, they went to the cinema because of a rained out show and saw a screening of Tod Browning's 1932 gothic-horror film 'Freaks'. This inspired them and Dee-Dee soon came up with the line D-U-M-B, everyone's accusing me! They covered many topics in their song writing, such as cheap highs and physical degradation (Chinese Rock and Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue), bad relationships and need (Glad To See You Go and I Want You Around) the lack of hope (I Don't Care) and the will to live, (Too Tough To Die and I'm Not Afraid Of Life). They also included parts about Dee-Dee's past, and his time in New York. Things like drug-use in 53rd And 3rd which is a popular hustling corner in Manhattan. Some people didn't realize the depth of some of these songs, as they didn't think the Ramones were capable of this. One of their benchmark songs, Teenage Lobotomy sums up all the elements of the band, said producer and engineer Ed Stasium. The big drum intro, the 'lobotomy' chant, the background harmonies, and the subject matter. The also liked to mess around with modulations which most bands weren't doing around that time. Changing the key in their songs and writing great chord progressions.
The Ramones always knew they had a place in rock 'n' roll history. By 1978 they had released 3 of the biggest punk albums of the time, 'Ramones', 'Leave Home', and 'Rocket To Russia'. All of these were made in the span of 18 months but each album has a more refined sound. They liked using chants in their songs, something for the fans to sing along to. They got the idea for the most famous 'Hey Ho, Lets Go!' in Blitzkrieg Bop from the Bay City Rollers. The song 'Saturday Night' inspired them so they made chants a regular thing in their songs. They shared the song writing and it was very effective.
They did experiment with different sounds. For example, on 'Surfin' Bird' where they were messing around with the 'Gabba Gabba Hey!' chant on a vari-speed control on their tape recorder. They thought it sounded funny so they put it on a song! They did some acoustic recordings ('Road To Ruin' album), which Johnny hated. It went down well with the fans and people liked it because it was different to the normal Ramones. They later did a song for 'Sid And Nancy' but because of a falling out between Dee-Dee and the director it never made it on. They then used it as a b-side for the single Crummy Stuff.
Many years later, and The Ramones are a massive influence on many, many bands old and new. Joey remembers the time when Guns 'n' Roses and Pearl Jam were all wearing their shirts and even newer bands like the Offspring, Green Day and Rancid. You could hear the influence in their music and this amazed Joey. In the 90's, Seattle grungers Nirvana released 'In Utero' and the single 'Heart Shaped Box'. The chorus line 'Hey! Wait!' was influenced by the 'Wait! Now!' chant in the Ramones 'I Just Want To Have Something To Do'.
Many bands were also doing tributes to the Ramones, especially their close friends. Joey first heard 'R.A.M.O.N.E.S' on a Walkman at a college radio convention in New York. Lemmy, the front man of Motorhead came up to Joey and got him to listen to the song they had recorded. Joey was amazed at the song. It was all about the Ramones and their history. Including names, Ramones speed and power, chainsaw guitars, and even some 'Gabba Gabba Hey!' Soon after that The Ramones out the song into their own set and began playing it live.
After nearly 30 years at the top of punk rock, The Ramones are still one of the most influential American bands of all time. They were in the same punk era as the Sex Pistols and The Clash, who were all big bands. No one has ever tried to copy The Ramones because they no they can't. It's an original and unique sound, which will never be replaced.
Long live The Ramones!