Ramones (1974-1996): a Punk band from Forest Hills, New York, USA.
ormed in August 1974 originally as a trio by Johnny (Real Name: John Cummings; guitar/vocals), Joey (Real Name: Jeffrey Hyman; vocals (originally drums as well) and Dee Dee (Real Name: Douglas Colvin; bass/vocals), who all took the working name of "Ramone" (but were actually not related), the Ramones would prove to be one of the prime movers and earliest examples of US punk rock music. They started out at the legendary N.Y. CBGB's, almost taking it up as a postal address from being there so often. Tommy (Real Name Tom Erdelyi; drums) would then be recruited for drums to free Joey up for vocal duties.
By a surprising twist of fate, the band were setback in 1975 when they failed an audition for Rick Derringer's 'Blue Sky' label in front of 20,000 fans at a Johnny Winter concert, but their saving grace was later that year their manager, Danny Fields, found New Wave start-up Seymour Stein's 'Sire' label who proved to show more interest. The stage was now set for their eponymous 1976 debut album that, after release, would prove to become highly influential for its two-minute highly charged tracks on such punk rock subjects as solvent abuse on I Wanna Sniff Some Glue, chainsaws on Chain Saw, and for the rest of the album: girls. It would be almost 30 years later when the cartoon characters and larger-than-life look of punk rock would catch on, making the Ramones far ahead of their time in that respect; years later their sound and style would be wholesale duplicated by both classic and two-bit punk rock acts around the world. Regardless, the Ramones were now in full swing and followed it all up with Leave Home (1977), another session of primitive but catchy tunes, even giving birth to 'Gabba Gabba Hey' being added to the punk rock dictionary. This time, the album managed to make 45 on the UK charts, a feat that would be followed up on later that same year with the EP single Sheena Is A punk rock Rocker making 22 UK and breaking them at home with an 81. But the height of their early career was most definitely the follow-up third effort album, Rocket To Russia (1977), an album seeing them slow down ever so little to make room to throw in two-minute pop/surf-pop sounds and dayglo feel in tracks like Cretin Hop, Rockaway Beach and Teenage Lobotomy. Although influential, especially as the years went on, the album made it only to 49 US/60 UK.
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Marky Ramone (Real Name: Mark Bell; ex-Void-Oid/ex-Richard Hell/ex-Dust) would now step in to replace the departing Tommy, who had chosen to leave for production work
For their next album, Road To Ruin (1978), the basic formula of guitar solos, and even a ballad on Questioningly, not to mention their most known hit, I Wanna Be Sedated, managed to impress enough to give them a US 32. Their live follow-up, It's Alive (1979), successfully captured their concert experience, not to mention neatly wrapping up the first part of their career.
The next part of their career would be a tough start for by 1980 the punk rock scene had splintered leaving each band to fend for themselves. In answer to the changing world the Ramones chose to adopt a more classic '60's pop style ala Phil Spector, starting off with a cover of The Ronettes' Baby Love You making a surprising UK 8 while their hardcore fans balked. But the luck wasn't to last for the subsequent follow-up albums of Pleasant Dreams (1981) and Subterranean Jungle (1983) lacked the rugged sound of their previous works. Nonetheless they pressed on with Too Tough To Die in 1985, now featuring Richie Ramone #2 (Real Name: Richard Reinhardt) replacing Marky. The album was a slight improvement by featuring a sharper focus in answer to the competition now arriving on the music market; unfortunately the album only managed a 63 UK The follow-up, Animal Boy (1986), managed a surprising 38 UK but they couldn't keep the unified front going and on Halfway To Sanity (1987) it completely collapsed, the limitations in their style now clearly showing and the album reflected it with only a 78 UK.
Brain Drain (1989) would see Dee Dee leave after release to be replaced with C.J. Ramone (Real Name: Christopher Joseph Ward). The album only managed a 75 US The live effort Live Loco (1991) and Mondo Bizarro (1992) reflected this new change in membership to offer a slightly fresh approach but they still failed to chart all the same.
The follow-up, Acid Eaters (1993), was their tribute to the '60's sounds which had inspired them, but it was now too little and too late and they probably knew it because the previous two albums seemed to be their attempt to sum up their business before the closing out sale. The punk rock revival movement was now knocking at the door, and many of the bands, like Offspring and Green Day, that were inspired by the Ramones, especially from their early career, would now be ruling the empire and so the Ramones called it quits in 1996 with the aptly titled Adios Amigos album and follow-up tour.
Footnote: Joey died in New York on 15 April, 2001.
Also: The band has also featured a Ritchie Ramone (#1), and an Elvis Ramone by the reaol name of Clem Burke (an ex-Blondie drummer).
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Ramones performing in Toronto in 1976. Left to right: Johnny Ramone, Tommy Ramone (at back), Joey Ramone, and Dee Dee Ramone.
Photo by: Plismo
(CC BY-SA 3.0)
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