Synopsis of Pop Music
"Twenty, twenty, twenty-four hours to go,
I wanna be sedated..."
Who was the first punk-rock band? Many people will argue for the New York Dolls and many will argue for the Sex Pistols, but the facts are on the side of the Ramones. They were the first band to have a fully-realized punk style both in terms of look (leather jackets, torn jeans, sneakers) and sound (short songs, quick tempos, noisy guitars). They were also the first punk band to get a record contract and put out an album. More importantly, the Ramones had staying power: decades after their contemporaries had fallen by the wayside, the Ramones were still around to show young alternative-rockers how punk rock is done.
The Ramones story began in New York in 1974 when a quartet of buddies with the same trashy tastes in rock music and pop culture put together a band. They decided on a look that was equal parts 1950’s greaser and 1960’s garage rocker, and all adopted the last name ‘Ramone’ (a tribute to Paul McCartney, who used Paul Ramon as a stage name during the Beatles’ early days). They also began to pen guitar-driven, hook-laden pop tunes like “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “Judy Is A Punk” and learned to play them at lighting-fast speeds. A typical early set for the band was six to eight songs done in fifteen minutes.
The Ramones got their first professional break when they landed a residency at the legendary New York punk mecca, CBGB’s. They sharpened up their skills, built a devoted following and landed a record contract by the end of 1975. Early next year, they quickly recorded and released a self-titled debut album that won favor with rock critics. They also played concerts in London during the summer of 1976 and inspired a legion of future British punks in the process. These concerts also led to U.K. chart success: By the end of the year, their second album, The Ramones Leave Home, was a Top-50 hit in England.
The next year, the Ramones released one of their all-time classics in Rocket To Russia, an album full of punk-pop gems like “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” and “Rockaway Beach.” The LP was well-received, inspiring the band to expand their style the next year on Road To Ruin. This album featured songs that were more than two minutes in length (a first for the group) and even included (gasp!) acoustic guitars on some songs. These albums cemented the Ramones’s reputation as underground legends, as lyric snippets like “gabba gabba hey” became essential lingo for hip rock fans. In 1979, the Ramones got their very own movie, Rock And Roll High School. This drive-in classic featured the band performing their best tunes and has become required viewing for rock fans around the world.
As the 1980’s began, the Ramones released End Of The Century. It was their most professional-sounding album yet thanks to the slick production by legendary producer Phil Spector, who was a big influence on Joey Ramone through his productions for the Ronettes and the Crystals. Although the album had un-Ramones elements like a horn section and strings, the Ramones' attitude shined through on songs like “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?” The group continued in this smoother-sounding vein on their next two albums, Pleasant Dreams and Subterranean Jungle. However, keep in mind that ‘smoother-sounding’ is a relative term: both albums still had plenty of scorching punk-pop like “The KKK Took My Baby Away” and “Psychotherapy.”
By the mid-1980’s, there were scores of hardcore bands like Black Flag on the rise, and many of them claimed the early Ramones records as a key influence. The Ramones reacted to this by toughening up their sound on albums like Too Tough To Die, Animal Boy and Halfway To Sanity. They also began to tackle political themes on songs like “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg,” which criticized President Ronald Reagan’s visit to a European cemetery containing the graves of Nazi war criminals. In 1989, famous author and longtime fan Stephen King got the Ramones do the theme song for the film version of Pet Sematary. This song soon became a radio and MTV favorite.
In the 1990’s, the Ramones continued to wave the punk-rock flag on albums like Mondo Bizarro and Acid Eaters. Meanwhile, modern punk-pop specialists like the Offspring and Green Day became popular by following in the footsteps left behind by the Ramones. The Ramones recorded their final album, Adios Amigos, in 1995 and disbanded the next year after a final tour as part of the Lollapalooza Festival.
Joey Ramone passed away in 2001, but the band’s other members remain active in the music scene through other groups and solo projects. Just the same, they have already left an important mark on the pop music world through their work as the Ramones. As long as people want to play punk rock, the pioneering music of the Ramones will show them how it is done.
Artist Release HistoryMay 1976 - The Ramones
Feb 1977 - The Ramones Leave Home
Nov 1977 - Rocket To Russia
Jun 1978 - Road To Ruin
May 1979 - It’s Alive
Jan 1980 - End Of The Century
1981 - Rock And Roll High School Soundtrack
Jul 1981 - Pleasant Dreams
May 1983 - Subterranean Jungle
Jan 1985 - Too Tough To Die
May 1986 - Animal Boy
Sep 1987 - Halfway To Sanity
1988 - Ramones Mania
May 1989 - Brain Drain
May 1990 - All The Stuff and More, Volume One
May 1990 - All The Stuff and More, Volume Two
Oct 1991 - Loco Live
Sep 1992 - Mondo Bizarro
Dec 1993 - Acid Eaters
Jul 1995 - Adios Amigos
Jun 1996 - Greatest Hits Live
Nov 1997 - We’re Outta Here!
Jul 1999 - Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: The Anthology
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music AlbumsRamones Mania (Sire)
Band MembersJoey Ramone vocals
Johnny Ramone guitar
Dee Dee Ramone bass (1974-89)
Tommy Ramone drums (1974-78)
Marky Ramone drums (1978-83,1986-96)
Ritchie Ramone drums (1983-86)
C.J. Ramone bass (1989-96)