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The Ramones
Ramones
Location of Origin New York City, NY
Genre(s) classic punk
Years active 1974-1996
Record Label(s) Sire Records
Radioactive Records
Chrysallis Records
Associated Bands The Murder Junkies (Dee Dee)
Richard Hell and the Voidoids (Marky)
Marky Ramone and the Speedkings (Marky)
Los Gusanos (CJ)
Website Ramones.com
Current Members Last Lineup
Joey Ramone - lead vocals (1974-1996)
Johnny Ramone - guitar (1974-1996)
CJ Ramone - bass guitar, vocals (1989-1996)
Marky Ramone - drums (1978–1983, 1987–1996)
Past Members Dee Dee Ramone - bass guitar, vocals (1974-1989)
Tommy Ramone - drums (1974-1978)
Richie Ramone - drums, vocals (1983-1987)
Elvis Ramone - drums (1987)


The Ramones are often regarded as the first punk rock group. After forming in Forest Hills, Queens, New York in 1974, they performed and played 2,263 concerts, touring virtually nonstop for 22 years. In 1996, after a tour with the Lollapalooza music festival, the band went on a brief club tour and then disbanded. Three of the band's four founding members - Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee - died within eight years of the break up.

The Ramones never achieved much commercial success during their years of recording and performing. Their only album to reach certified gold status in the U.S. was their compilation album Ramones Mania. Appreciation of the band has grown since the 1980s, and they now regularly appear on "all-time greatest" lists, such as Rolling Stone’s list of Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock, and Mojo's 100 Greatest Albums. In 2002, the Ramones were voted the second greatest rock and roll band ever in Spin Magazine, trailing only The Beatles.

On March 2, 2002, The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

HistoryEdit

1974–1979Edit

The pre-history of the band is centered in and around the middle-class neighborhood of Forest Hills in the New York City borough of Queens. The band members were drawn together by a mutual love of the New York Dolls, The Stooges, MC5 and '60s garage rock. Most of the members had been in various bands since the late 1960s. Johnny and Tommy had both been in a high school garage band circa 1966-67 known as the Tangerine Puppets, and Joey was in a brief, early 1970s glam rock outfit called Sniper.

The initial version of the Ramones included Jeffry Hyman on drums, John Cummings on guitar, and Douglas Colvin on bass and lead vocals. Colvin was the first to use the name Ramone, calling himself Dee Dee Ramone. He was inspired by the fact that Paul McCartney used the pseudonym Paul Ramone — although some accounts say Paul Ramon — when he checked into hotels. The other members followed suit and adopted new stage names; Hyman became Joey Ramone, reportedly after bubblegum pop music vocalist Joey Levine, Cummings became Johnny Ramone, and the group itself became known as the Ramones.

The band held their rehearsals at Performance Studios on East 20th Street in NYC built and co-managed by Thomas Erdelyi and Monte A. Melnick. Impressed by the group, Erdelyi became the band's manager, and Melnick their tour manager.

Soon after the band was formed, Dee Dee realized that he couldn't sing and play bass at the same time, so Joey became the band's lead vocalist (Dee would continue, however, to count off each song's tempo with his trademark rapid-fire shout of "1-2-3-4!"). Joey would also realize that he could not sing and play drums at the same time, and left the position of drummer. While auditioning new drummers, manager Thomas Erdelyi would often take the drums and demonstrate to auditioners how to play the songs. It became apparent that he was able to play the group's songs better than anyone else, and he joined the band as drummer Tommy Ramone.

The band held their first show on March 30, 1974 at Performance Studios in New York. The songs they played were very fast and very short; most clocked in at under two minutes.

In the early 1970s, a new music scene emerged in New York when many bands started to play in clubs on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, such as Max's Kansas City, and most famously CBGB's.

The Ramones concerts at CBGB's became legendary, due in part to their brevity: most concerts were twenty to thirty minutes long, much shorter than their contemporaries', and are often described by their witnesses as extremely fast, crude, energetic, and desperate. The Ramones' live set was so short they sometimes needed to repeat it twice a show. A few super–8 movies of these shows have survived, and are present in a couple of the band's later videos.

After garnering considerable attention for their performances at CBGB's, the group was signed to a recording contract by Seymour Stein of Sire Records in Autumn 1975. They soon recorded their debut album, Ramones, on an extremely low budget: about $6,400.

The band was plagued by hostile audience reactions outside of New York City. It wasn’t until they made a small tour of England that they began to see the fruits of their labor: a performance at The Roundhouse in London on July 4, 1976 (second-billed to the Flamin' Groovies) was a huge success. Their appearance galvanized the burgeoning UK punk rock scene, inspiring future punk stars, including members of The Clash and The Damned. The Flamin' Groovie/Ramones double-bill was successfully reprised at The Roxy in Los Angeles the following month, which also inspired local Los Angeles musicians.

On December 31, 1977, the Ramones recorded It's Alive, a double live concert album, at the Rainbow Theatre, London, which was released in April 1979. The title is a reference to the 1974 horror movie of the same name.

Upon returning from England, they found themselves prophets without honor in their own country: their subsequent two albums, Leave Home and Rocket to Russia (both released in 1977), failed to become the hits the band desired. Tommy, tired of touring, left the band at this time but continued to produce. He was replaced on drums by Marc Bell, who became Marky Ramone.

The first three Ramones albums mainly contained songs written during their pre-contract years. Their fourth album, Road to Ruin, was fully packed with brand new songs, including some stylistic flourishes — acoustic guitar, several ballads, songs over three minutes — that might have been concessions to mainstream tastes, but the album still failed to chart highly. Despite excellent reviews for both their albums ("Rocket to Russia is the best American rock & roll of the year and possibly the funniest rock album ever made," Dave Marsh wrote in Rolling Stone magazine) and their live performances, the Ramones remained a cult band. The highly publicized dissolution of the Sex Pistols in 1978 seemed to signal the end of punk as a viable commercial force and branded the Ramones as forever outsiders.

1980–1989Edit

After the band's movie debut in Roger Corman's Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979), the legendary producer Phil Spector became interested in the Ramones and produced their 1980 album End of the Century. Dee Dee wrote in his book Lobotomy that, during the recording sessions, Spector pulled a gun on Dee Dee, and forced Johnny to play the opening chord to "Rock 'n' Roll High School" hundreds of times. The band would later consider this one of the "not-so-great" albums they had released, crediting tensions between the producer and the artists. Johnny recalls that he was disappointed with the outcome of End of the Century and the album failed to capture the public's attention.

In 1981 the Ramones released Pleasant Dreams. On August 1 of that year, while promoting the album, they became the first band to be interviewed on the newly formed station MTV. After the release of 1983's Subterranean Jungle, Marky Ramone was fired from the band because of his alcoholism and eventually replaced by Richard Reinhardt, who named himself Richie Ramone. The first album the Ramones recorded with Richie was Too Tough to Die in 1984. In 1986, the Ramones were invited to record the soundtrack to the Sid and Nancy movie. During their work, some management problems developed, and the deal was canceled. However, a handful of songs created for this movie were included in their 1986 album Animal Boy. In 1987, the band recorded their last album with Richie Halfway to Sanity. 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. He was replaced by Clem Burke (Elvis Ramone) from Blondie. According to Johnny, the shows with Burke were a disaster. He was fired after two shows because his drumming couldn't keep up with the rest of the band. Marky, now clean and sober, returned.

Dee Dee Ramone left after 1989's Brain Drain and was replaced by Christopher Joseph Ward (C.J. Ramone), who performed and recorded with the band until their break-up. However, Dee Dee did continue contributing to the music of the Ramones by lending his lyrics for use in later songs. Dee Dee left to pursue a brief solo career as a rapper, adopting the name Dee Dee King (based on B.B. King).

1990–1996Edit

After 16 years at Sire records, the band moved to new label Radioactive Records with their 1992 album Mondo Bizarro, which also reunited them with producer Ed Stasium. Mondo Bizzaro was followed the next year with Acid Eaters, an album made entirely of cover songs.

The band performed live at the VMA Awards in 1995, playing a short and fast medley with recent hits from Urge Overkill, Madonna, and Stone Temple Pilots.

In 1995 they released what would be their last studio album, ¡Adios Amigos!. After a spot in the 1996 Lollapalooza festival, the Ramones went on a short club tour, and disbanded, reportedly due to ongoing personality clashes and frustration at not achieving success commensurate with their influence.

Their final show was on August 6, 1996 at the Palace in Hollywood. The show was recorded, and later released on video and CD as We're Outta Here!. The show featured several special guests such as Lemmy from Motörhead, Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen of Rancid, and Chris Cornell (then in Soundgarden).

Break-upEdit

The Ramones always had a certain amount of tension, mainly between Joey and Johnny. The pair were highly politically antagonistic, Joey being a liberal, Johnny a conservative. There was also tension caused by their very different personalities. Johnny was a military brat who lived by a code of self-discipline, while Joey struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The relationship between the two got considerably worse when Johnny "stole" Joey's girlfriend Linda, whom he later married. Joey and Johnny didn't speak to each other for years afterwards. It is believed the song "The KKK Took My Baby Away", written by Joey, alludes to this enmity. Johnny did not call Joey before his death in 2001, but said in the documentary End of the Century that he was depressed for "the whole week" after the singer's death.

Joey was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1995. In his later years, he became an avid follower of yoga and health food. During the late 1990s, he started day trading NYSE stocks. Joey actually wrote a song about CNBC financial news reporter Maria "Money Honey" Bartiromo, entitled "Maria Bartiromo", which is included on his 2002 solo album Don't Worry About Me.

On July 20, 1999, all of the former members of the group except for Richie appeared together at Tower Records in New York City for an autograph signing. This was the last occasion on which the ex-members of the group appeared together before Joey's death. Johnny attempted to make peace with his longtime bandmate and rival Joey, but Joey would have none of it and simply ignored him. Joey's last partially finished works were compiled as a posthumous solo album, Don't Worry About Me.

In 2002, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the ceremony, Johnny, Tommy, Marky, and Dee Dee spoke on behalf of the band. Johnny blessed George W. Bush and his presidency. Dee Dee congratulated and thanked himself. This would be one of his last public appearances, as he died two months later of a heroin overdose. Also at the ceremony, Green Day played "Teenage Lobotomy" and "Blitzkrieg Bop" as a tribute to the Ramones, showing the influence that the Ramones have had on later rock bands.

In the summer of 2004, the Ramones documentary End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones was released in theaters. Its release was treated as an event by Ramones fans and former members, and it received rave reviews. Johnny Ramone, who had been privately battling prostate cancer, died almost exactly as the film was released, on September 15, 2004.

On the same day as Johnny's death, the world's first and only Ramones Museum opened its doors for the public. Located in Berlin, Germany, the Ramones Museum Berlin features more than 300 original memorabilia items from the Ramones, including a stage-worn jeans from Johnny Ramone, a stage-worn glove from Joey Ramone, Marky Ramone's sneakers, and CJ Ramone's stage-worn bass strap.

The Ramones are scheduled to be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007.


The Ramones 'Uniform'Edit

Johnny Ramone enforced a very strict dress code for the band consisting of Keds or Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers, torn jeans, t-shirt (often sleeveless), and a rocker jacket - the Ramones 'uniform'. In the early days, they often wore white Sperry Top-Sider shoes; later on, they wore everything from Converse Chuck Taylors to Reeboks. Their jackets didn't vary much: they mainly wore Schott Perfectos. According to the documentaries End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, and Hey! is Dee Dee home?, Dee Dee wasn't too happy about the 'uniform' and wanted to look more "punk rock." The band wore the 'uniform' until the very end in 1996.

Musical styleEdit

The Ramones' musical style was influenced by various parts of rock and pop music of the 1950s and 1960s; bands such as The Beach Boys, The Who, The Kinks, The Troggs, the Yardbirds, and primarily The Beatles, on whom they based their image (bowl haircuts, four members). The Ramones recorded cover songs of such "garage" classics as "Surfin' Bird" and "California Sun". Joey often cited Ronnie Spector as one of his favorite singers. The various love songs he sang for the band are reminiscent of the 1960s girl group sound. This type of material alternated with harder rock songs in the vein of proto punk bands The Stooges, MC5, and The New York Dolls.

The Ramones pioneered a straightforward, stripped-down sound that was a far cry from the virtuosic musicianship and complex instrumentation that 1970s rock music had become known for. Joey Ramone has stated the Ramones were rather taken with the Bay City Rollers' hit song "Saturday Night", and set out to imitate its catchy, singalong quality, inspiring the "Hey-ho, let's go" chant from their first single, "Blitzkrieg Bop". Johnny disliked guitar solos, and played only a handful of them in his more than two decades with the group. His simple, direct playing, consisting almost exclusively of distorted barred major chords (often confused with power chords) with downstrokes, set the standard for many subsequent punk guitarists.

On stage, the band adopted a focused approach directly intended to increase the audience's concert experience. Johnny's instructions to C.J. when preparing for his first live performances with the group were to look and play at the audience, stand with the bass slung low between spread legs, and to walk forward to the front of stage at the same time as he did. Johnny Ramone was not a fan of guitarists who performed facing their drummer, amplifier or other band members.

Due to a similar musical style, many bands were claimed "an answer to the Ramones" by critics in the late 1970s. There were the "English answer" (The Lurkers), the "Irish answer" (The Undertones), the "Canadian answer" (Teenage Head), and the "Mexican answer" (The Zeros).

Tom Verlaine of Television described the Ramones as the first band in the world to play a white urban form of rock'n'roll, removing the solos and blues patterns associated with earlier forms of rock music.

Sphere of InfluenceEdit

The Ramones' first British concerts on July 4-5, 1976, are widely credited with inspiring many of the first wave of English punk groups: Buzzcocks (first concert July 20, 1976), The Damned (first concert July 6, 1976), The Clash (first concert July 4, 1976), and others.

Likewise, early shows in California and Washington, D.C. inspired hardcore punk groups like the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, and Bad Brains.

Some pop punk bands became so taken by the Ramones that a whole subgenre now dubbed "Ramones-core" has appeared. Bands in this subgenre Screeching Weasel, The Vindictives, The Queers, The Mr. T Experience, and the Beatnik Termites, have all recorded covers of entire Ramones albums with Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket to Russia, Road to Ruin, and Pleasant Dreams, respectively. Others like The Riverdales and The Hanson Brothers based their entire sound on Ramones-inspired rock.

The first Ramones tribute album by multiple bands was released in 1991 under the title Gabba Gabba Hey, featuring tracks recorded by such notable bands as L7, Mojo Nixon, and Bad Religion. Many more tribute albums followed, such as Blitzkrieg Over You (with Motörhead and Die Toten Hosen performances), and all-star tribute We're a Happy Family with artists such as Green Day, U2, Kiss, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Offspring, and Rob Zombie, who also did the album's cover artwork. The liner notes were written by noted Ramones fan Stephen King. Around that time Metallica recorded five Ramones' songs, scattered among St Anger-era singles, one of which is found on We're a Happy Family. A Russian 29-track tribute album called Ramoneskidz was released in 2005.

Additionally, the group Bad Brains took its name from a Ramones song. Members of Green Day have gone as far as naming their children in honor of the band. Billie Joe Armstrong named his son Joey as tribute to Joey Ramone, and Tre Cool's daughter was named Ramona after the famous pseudonym.

In Popular CultureEdit

  • The Ramones appeared in the 1979 movie Rock 'n' Roll High School. Though the Ramones only actually appear in one scene, they are mentioned throughout the movie due to the main character's, Riff Randell, love for them. The Ramones wrote a song exclusively for the movie, also titled "Rock 'n' Roll High School."
  • In 1993, the Ramones appeared on an episode of The Simpsons ("Rosebud"). They were booked to sing "Happy Birthday" at Mr. Burns' birthday party, where they showed their distaste for the gig, shouting, "I'd just like to say this gig sucks!", "Hey, up yours, Springfield!", and "Go to hell, you old bastard!", though Marky Ramone quipped, "Hey, I think they liked us!" Afterwards, Mr. Burns mistakenly ordered Smithers to have "The Rolling Stones" killed.

DiscographyEdit

Title Release US Albums Chart UK Albums Chart
Ramones April 23, 1976 111 -
Leave Home January 10, 1977 148 -
Rocket to Russia November 4, 1977 49 -
Road to Ruin September 22, 1978 103 32
End of the Century February 4, 1980 44 14
Pleasant Dreams July 29, 1981 58 -
Subterranean Jungle February, 1983 83 -
Too Tough to Die October, 1984 172 -
Animal Boy May, 1986 143 38
Halfway to Sanity September 15, 1987 172 -
Brain Drain May 18, 1989 122 -
Mondo Bizarro September 1, 1992 190 -
Acid Eaters December, 1993 179 -
¡Adios Amigos! July 18, 1995 148 62

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