Ivo's
Ramones History

The Ramones
 
the Ramones
The Ramones were loud and fast. Everyone knows that, even the poor, blind saps who never loved the band. But the Ramones were many other things, and gloriously so, from the moment of their inception in Forest Hills, New York, in 1974, until their final concert, #2,263, in Los Angeles on August 6, 1996.
They were prolific - releasing 18 studio and live albums between 1976 and 1996 - and professional, typically cutting all of the basic tracks for one of those studio LPs in a matter of days. They were stubborn, a marvel of bulldog determination and cast-iron pride in a business greased by negotiation and compromise. And they were fun, rock 'n' roll 's most reliable Great Night Out for nearly a quarter of a century. Which seems like a weird thing to say about a bunch of guys for whom a show, in 1974 or '75, could be six songs in a quarter of an hour. 

The Ramones were also first: The first band of the mid-'70s New York punk-rock uprising to get a major-label record contract and put an album out; the first to rock the nation on the road and teach the British how noise annoys; the first new American group of the decade to kick the smug, yellow-bellied shit out of a '60s superstar aristocracy running on cocaine-and-caviar autopilot. 

Above all, the Ramones were pop: Stone believers in the Top 40, 7-inch-vinyl songwriting aesthetic; a nonstop hit-singles machine with everything going for it--hammer-and-sizzle guitars and hallelujah choruses played at runaway-Beatles velocity--except actual hits. According to an August 1975 article in England's Melody Maker about the crude, new music crashing through the doors of a former country-and-bluegrass bar in lower Manhattan called CBGB, the local press was already hailing the Ramones as--get this--"potentially the greatest singles band since The Velvet Underground," a peculiar compliment since the Velvets' own few 45s were all crushing radio bombs. 

The Ramones are the first punk rock band. There were other bands, such as the Stooges and the New York Dolls, that came before them and set the stage and aesthetic for punk and bands that immediately followed, such as the Sex Pistols, that made the latent violence of the music more explicit, but the Ramones crystallized the musical ideals of the genre. By cutting rock & roll down to its bare essentials - four chords, a simple, catchy melody, and irresistably inane lyrics - speeding up the tempo considerably, the Ramones created something that was rooted in early '60s, pre-Beatles rock & roll and pop but sounded revolutionary. Since their breakthrough was theoretical as well as musical, they comfortably became the leaders of the emerging New York punk rock scene. While their peers such as Patti Smith, Television, Talking Heads and Richard Hell all were more intellectual and self-consciously artistic than the Ramones, they nevertheless appealed to the same mentality because of how they turned rock conventions inside out and celebrated kitschy pop culture with stylized stupidity. The band's first four albums set the blueprint for punk, especially American punk and hardcore, for the next two decades. And the Ramones themselves were major figures for the next two decades, playing essentially the same music without changing their style much at all. Although some punk diehards - including several of their peers - would have claimed the band's long career wound up undercutting the ideals the band originally stood for, the Ramones always celebrated not just the punk aesthetic, but the music itself.
 

Joey Ramone
Johnny Ramone
Dee Dee Ramone
Tommy Ramone
Based in the Forest Hills section of Queens, New York, the Ramones formed in 1974. Originally, the band was a trio consisting of Joey Ramone (vocals, drums; born Jeffrey Hyman, May 19, 1951, died April 15th 2001), Johnny Ramone (guitar; born John Cummings, Oct. 8, 1951), and Dee Dee Ramone (bass; born Douglas Colvin, Sept. 18, 1952), with Tommy Ramone (born Tommy Erdelyi, Jan. 29, 1952) acting as the group's manager. All of the group's members adopted the last name "Ramone" and dressed in torn blue jeans and leather jackets, in homage to '50s greaser rockers. The group played their first concert on March 30, 1974, at New York's Performance Studio. Two months after the show, Joey switched to vocals and Tommy became the band's drummer. By the end of the summer, the Ramones earned a residency at CBGB's. For the next year, they played regularly at the nightclub, earning a dedicated cult following and inspiring several other artists to form bands with simliar ideals. All of the Ramones sets clocked in at about 20 minutes, featuring an unrelenting barrage of short, barely two-minute songs. By the end of 1975, the Ramones secured a recording contract with Sire; discounting Patti Smith, they were the first New York punk band to sign a contract.
The Ramones put a lot of work, and analysis, into how they carried themselves in public. The black leather jackets, T-shirts, pudding-bowl haircuts, and torn, faded denim were a combination of their everyday wear in Forest Hills and the evocation of vintage class--a cock-strut throwback to '50s bikers and '60s garage mods, with a military-wardrobe twist. Calling themselves "Ramone" was a touch of The Beatles, originally cribbed by Dee Dee from Paul McCartney, who used it (spelled "Ramon") as a stage name in his Silver Beetles days. They shouted out a call to arms, and the rallying cry - 'Hey ho, let's go' - started a movement which changed the course of rock.

Early in 1976, the Ramones recorded their debut album for just over $6, 000. The resulting album, Ramones, was released in the spring, gained some critical attention, managed to climb to 111 on the U.S. album charts. Their debut album together with a seminal gig at London's Roundhouse on bicentennial day, July 4, 1976, gave the punk movement a kick-start, and spurred dozens of aspiring young bands to take up the banner. English bands like The Clash, Buzzcocks and the Sex Pistols subsequently went on to eclipse the New Yorkers in terms of chart success and notoriety, but punk heroes like Joe Strummer readily admitted their debt to the American 'fab four' who had created it all. The Ramones were nihilists with a sense of humour, and their ground-breaking debut album defined punk: the perfect black-and-white cover shot, fourteen tracks inside just over thirty minutes, driving basslines, vocals that smacked you in the face with their yobbishness. Uncompromising, and ultra-cool, Ramones returned the compliment The Beatles had paid to the USA in 1964. Throughout 1976, the Ramones toured constantly, inaugurating nearly 20 years of relentless touring.

By the end of the year, the group released their second album, Ramones Leave Home. The aural assault continued: passionate, blistering, no-frills, 1-2-3-4 fun, it also introduced Carbona ("Carbona Not Glue"; for unbeknownst to them Carbona was a corporate trademark. To avert a potential lawsuit the track was substituted in the U.K., by "Babysitter", in the U.S, by "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker"), pinheads ("Pinhead"), headbangers ("Suzy Is a Headbanger"), and the chant of 'Gabba Gabba Hey'. While the album just scraped the US charts, Leave Home became a genuine hit in England in the spring of 1977, peaking at number 48. By the summer of 1977, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones were seen as the two key bands in the punk rock revolution, but where the Pistols imploded, the Ramones kept on rolling.

Following the U.K. Top 40 hit "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," the Ramones released their third album, Rocket to Russia, in the fall of 1977. Arguably the definitive Ramones album, it underlined their ability to combine the punk approach with catchy melodies. In slightly over two minutes, "Teenage Lobotomy" encapsulated everything there is to say about teenage alienation. The album also contained "Sheena", as well as the pure pop genius of "Rockaway Beach". It found its way into every punk collection - and that's both fans and musicians.
 
Marky Ramone
 
Tommy Ramone left the band in May 1978, although he produced the group's subsequent album. He was replaced by former Voidoid Marc Bell, who immediately changed his name to Marky Ramone (drums; born Marc Bell, Jul. 15, 1956). With their new drummer in place, the Ramones recorded their fourth album, Road to Ruin, which was released in fall. Another classic, its shock tactics included acoustic guitars, songs lasting longer than two minutes, and guitar solos, albeit short ones. Marky brought with him a heavier drum sound. Road to Ruin marked the band's first significant attempt to change their sound - not only were there stronger bubblegum, girl group, surf and '60s pop influences on the music, it was the first of their albums to run over a half hour. The stripped-down style was embellished but not compromised; the integrity remained. "I Wanna Be Sedated" became an anthem.
The double album It's Alive (1979), recorded at London's Rainbow Theatre on New Year's Eve 1977, captured the band at the peak of their powers. Containing an entire Ramones set, it showed that few bands could match the fury and passion of the twice-the-speed-of-sound shows for which they are so revered.

Although their sound was more accessible, it didn't gain the band a noticeably larger following. Neither did Rock 'N' Roll High School, the 1979 Roger Corman film in which the Ramones had a pivotal part. The soundtrack to Rock 'N' Roll High School and the U.K.-only live album It's Alive were the band's only releases of 1979. For most of the year, they were in the studio recording their fifth album with legendary '60s pop producer Phil Spector. The title song to the Corman movie was the first track released from the sessions, although the soundtrack album did feature a number of older Ramones songs remixed by Spector.

End of the Century, the Spector-produced Ramones album, finally appeared in January of 1980 to mixed reviews. Despite the lukewarm reception to the album, the record's cover of the Ronettes' "Baby I Love You" became their only Top Ten British hit; in America, none of the singles made an impact, although the record became their biggest hit, peaking at number 44. But working with the famously unpredictable Spector was a chastening experience for the Ramones, and the meeting of spiritual opposites resulted in an album that pleased nobody very much. 

The Ramones continued their attempts at crossover success with their sixth album, Pleasant Dreams, which was released in 1981. Featuring a production by former Hollies and 10cc member Graham Gouldman, the record was a commercial disappointment in both America and England.
 
Richie Ramone
The band was relatively quiet during 1982, spending most of their time touring. In the spring of 1983, the band returned with Subterranean Jungle, which was produced by Ritchie Cordell and Glen Koltkin, the heads of the American indie label Beserkley Records. Not only did Subterranean Jungle fail to gain the band the larger audience they desired, it continued the erosion of the band's diehard fan base, as well as their decline in the eyes of many rock critics. Following the album's release, Marky Ramone left the band; he was replaced by Richard Beau, a former member of the Velveteens, who changed his name to Richie Ramone (drums; born Richie Reinhardt, Aug. 11, 1957).
With 1984's Too Tough to Die, the Ramones delivered a belated response to America's burgeoning hardcore punk scene that was largely produced by Tommy Erdelyi. It found the Ramones back at their hard-hitting best. The album helped restore their artistic reputation, as did the 1985 single, "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg," (1985), a hilarious dig at Ronald Reagan following his much-criticized visit to a cemetery containing SS graves, confirmed that the quasi-Nazi imagery of early Ramones songs and symbols had been outrageously ironic jokes. In the same year, Joey Ramone contributed to the anti-apartheid single "Sun City", finally nailing the myth of the band as a bunch of right-wing rednecks.

Instead of continuing with the sound of Too Tough to Die, the Ramones began pursuing a more streamlined, stylized, and conventional take on their songwriting formula with 1986's Animal Boy. This was a direction the group followed for the remaining ten years of their career.

Following the release of 1987's Halfway to Sanity, Richie Ramone left the band and Marky Ramone rejoined the group.

In 1988, the career retrospective Ramones Mania appeared. This compilation packs in 30 digitally remastered cuts. Although the song selection is straightforward, the running order is entirely non-chronological; a British B-side ("Indian Giver"), a previously unvinylized movie mix of "Rock'n'Roll High School" and a couple of 45 versions make it mildly attractive to collectors.

Besides a T-shirt and poster, the luxurious limited edition (2,500) boxed set entitled End of the Decade contains half a dozen UK 12-inch singles (with some B-side rarities), dating from 1984-1987. A strange era to cover in such an expensive package.
 
C.J. Ramone
In 1989, the Ramones contributed the theme song "Pet Sematary" to the Stephen King movie, and the track was included on Brain Drain, which was released in the summer of that year. After its release, the group's bassist, Dee Dee Ramone, left the band to pursue a career as a rapper called Dee Dee King (he even released an album called Standing in the Spotlight; 1989); after his debut rap recording failed miserably, he formed the band Chinese Dragons. Dee Dee was replaced by C.J. Ramone (bass; born Christopher Joseph Ward, Oct. 8, 1965). A former fan, he stepped neatly into Dee Dee's shoes, and gave the band a new sense of purpose.
All the Stuff (And More) Volume One (1990) and Volume Two (1991) look like greatest hits compilations, but are actually the one-CD/cassette pairings of Ramones/Leave Home and Rocket to Russia/Road to Ruin, combined with previously unreleased demos, B-sides and a live tracks.

In 1991 a video called Lifestyles of the Ramones showed up, which is a compilation of all the Ramones' videoclips mixed with interviews with the band and other artists like Debbie Harry, the Talking Heads and Anthrax.

In the early '90s, the Ramones sobered up, with both Joey and Marky undergoing treatment for alcoholism. The band returned to recording in 1991, first releasing the live Loco Live.

Then they released Mondo Bizarro (1992), although too perfectly produced for some punk die-hards, surprised many critics who had written the Ramones off as an anachronism. But their first studio album in three years turned out to be a commercial failure.

In 1993 Jim Bessman relased the book Ramones: An American Band, presenting the bands history from the beginning.

The 1994 covers album, Acid Eaters, provided an odyssey through the band's own influences, including covers of songs by artists as diverse as The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Love and Bob Dylan. This eclectic collection underlined the secret of the Ramones' craftsmanship twenty years on, and they were still stripping rock down to its underwear.

Following the release of Acid Eaters, the mainstream guitar-rock audience in America finally embraced punk rock, in the form of young bands like Green Day and Offspring. Sensing that the climate may have been right for the crossover success they had desired for so many years, the Ramones immediately followed Acid Eaters with Adios Amigos (1995), claiming that unless the new album sold in substantial numbers, the band would call it quits after a final farewell tour. The album showed them going back to their roots, with all the attack, vision, humour and punch of their early work. Adios Amigos only spent two weeks in the charts. 

Nevertheless, the Ramones embarked on a long farewell tour that ran throughout the rest of 1995. The band was set to split in the beginning of 1996 when they were offered a slot on the sixth Lollapalooza festival. The Ramones toured with the festival that summer. Following the completion of the tour, the Ramones parted ways, 20 years after the release of their first album. After finally calling it a day we've seen two live albums, MCA's Greatest Hits Live (1996) and Radioactive's We're Outta Here! (1996; also released as a video + CD box set). Neither should really have seen the light of day.

After 2,263 shows, 14 studio records, 5 live records and one classic film Rhino payed tribute to the band that invented punk with the release of Hey Ho Let's Go!: Ramones Anthology (1999), a 2CD retrospective presenting the Ramones' work from beginning to end.

Since the band called it a day, individual Ramones have remained musically active. Apart from Johnny Ramone, that is, who swore never to pick up a guitar again (but who recently made a guest appearance at a Pearl Jam show nevertheless). 

The youngblood CJ Ramone has been touring and recording with his new band, Los Gusanos. They released their selftitled debut in 1998. After Los Gusanos dis-banded CJ formed a new band called the Warm Jets, who after releasing a single renamed their band to Bad Chopper.

Drummer Marky has a new band, Marky Ramone and the Intruders. They have released two albums, their selftitled debut (1996) and The Answer to Your Problems? (1999). Marky recently released his home video collection of life on the road ("Ramones Around the World") a kind of Spinal Tap but of course, Ramones-style. In 2001 Marky formed a new band called Marky Ramone and the Speedkings. They already released an album called No If's, And's Or But's!

Original drummer Tommy is set to unleash some new material.

After releasing an album with his group I.C.L.C. (I Hate Freaks Like You; 1994) Dee Dee Ramone has already released three other solo albums: Ain't it Fun (Europe) / Zonked! (U.S.) (1997), Hop Around (2000) and Greatest & Latest (2000), as well as an autobiography, "Poison Heart: Surviving The Ramones" ("Lobotomy: Surviving The Ramones" in the U.S. version) and the novel Chelsea Horror Hotel.

Dee Dee and Marky have toured together with Dee Dee's wife Barbara Zampini (aka Barbara Ramone) as the Ramainz, playing mainly Ramones songs. They have released a live album in 1999 called Live in NYC.

Long time drug addict Dee Dee (R.I.P.) died from an overdose in his Hollywood home on June 5th 2002.

Singer Joey Ramone (R.I.P.), has produced a record for Ronnie Spector and performed regularly in the USA until he passed away on April 15th 2001 after a long battle with cancer. His post mortem debut solo album Don't Worry About Me came out in february 2002.

In 2001/2002 Rhino re-releases the first eight Ramones albums in remastered and extended versions with a lot of rare bonus tracks and the compilation Masters Of Rock: Ramones is released.

Will there ever be a Ramones reunion? Most unlikely, and for that we should be grateful. Let's remember the Ramones as they were, and, as Lemmy said, "don't forget them."

Quotes:

"Before the Ramones, there was nothing."
-A rock critic

"The Ramones were the only outside band that everyone looked up to."
-Chrissie Hynde

"They've remained true to their vision of rock'n'roll as fast, fun music"
-Kurt Loder

"They speak up for outcasts and disturbed individuals."
-Jon Parales, The New York Times

"People say that your music is loud and destructive and lethal to mice, but I think you're the Beethovens of our time."
-from Rock 'n' Roll High School

"Virtually every current commercial guideline in rock is broken somewhere in the Ramones."
-Robert Hilburn

"We're not trying to compete with Bruce Springsteen."
-Tommy Ramone

"One of the Seven Great Rock Bands of All Time."
-Spin magazine

"We've always been our own breed of band. We concocted a unique sound and style all our own ­ a trademark."
-Joey Ramone

"Everyone says their fans are the best. Ours really were. Our fans didn't like anything--but us."
-Johnny Ramone

"If there were a Punk Rock Hall of Fame...the Ramones would be the first inducted."
-Eddie Vedder

"Thirty-five songs in ten minutes, the way they don't babble between songs, the way they wear their leather jackets... They understand about rock and roll, you see - most people don't."
-Lemmy

"If you're not in it, you're out of it."
-Joey Ramone

Ramones Sector