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Joey Ramone.fw

Ramones

+ {Dee Dee Ramone} + {Joy Ramone}

Defined as much by their “1-2-3-4” intros as their beatnik-punk look, the nihilistic RAMONES were one of the prime movers – many would cite them being the first – in the re-emergent US punk scene of the mid-70s. Drawing a line from The STOOGES to PATTI SMITH (with Phil Spector thrown in for good measure), Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and whatever drummer was in place, the RAMONES could blast-out youth-fuelled, no-frills anthems like there was no tomorrow; the first three LPs were undeniably seminal in their construction and indispensable for their spirit and vibe.
Formed in Forest Hills, New York in August ‘74 by guitarist Johnny (Cummings), drummer-cum-singer Joey (alias Jeffrey Hyman) and bassist Dee Dee (alias Douglas Colvin), the initial trio took the working surname of Ramone, although they were brothers only in the loosest sense of the word. The RAMONES began as resident combo at the legendary NY club, the CBGBs; Tommy (Erdelyi) coming in on the drum stool in order to free Joey up for suitably deranged vocal duties. In June ‘75, the fresh-faced punk quartet were dealt a slight blow when they failed an impromptu audition for RICK DERRINGER’s Blue Sky label in front of 20,000 fans at a JOHNNY WINTER concert; although later that year, their manager Danny Fields found an up and coming new wave label, Sire (run by Seymour Stein) considerably more receptive.
Unleashed around the same time as their pivotal (and highly influential) London Roundhouse gig, the band’s eponymous debut album, RAMONES (1976) {*10}, presented a sound every bit as exhilaratingly juvenile and humorously warped as their leering, mop-topped scruffiness might’ve suggested. Ripping out gloriously dumb, two-minute buzz-saw classics on such perennial punk subjects as: solvent abuse (`I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’), girls/relationships (`Judy Is A Punk’, `I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ and `I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You’), dance (a la `Blitzkrieg Bop’ and a rousing take of Chris Montez’s `Let’s Dance’) and erm… miscellaneous (`Beat On The Brat’, `Chain Saw’ and `53rd & 3rd’), the RAMONES had invented themselves as larger than life, cartoon yob no-wavers well ahead of their time, their attitude alone copied by countless two-bit punk bands (and a few great ones) the length and breadth of the British Isles – yes, included The SEX PISTOLS, The CLASH and BUZZCOCKS.
Barely pausing for breath (or whatever it was these guys inhaled), the “Neu Yoik brudders” followed up with LEAVE HOME (1977) {*9}, another strychnine-fuelled half-hour session of primitive but tuneful terrace chant anthems – RAMONES style; from this point onwards, the words “gabba gabba hey” (from `Pinhead’) would be forever carved in the stone of the punk lexicon. The album even managed a minor dent in the UK charts, a full scale assault led later that year with the brilliantly throwaway `Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’ and `Swallow My Pride’ hits. Head-banging sing-a-long anthems all, choice cuts came thick ’n’ fast through `Suzy Is A Headbanger’, `I Remember You’, `Commando’, `Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment’ and a rendition of The Rivieras’ `California Sun’.
The climax of the early RAMONES blitzkrieg came with ROCKET TO RUSSIA (1977) {*8}, the lads easing ever so slightly off the gas pedal and taking the credo of mangled, two minute surf-pop to its day-glo conclusion; the hilarious `Cretin Hop’, `Rockaway Beach’, `I Don’t Care’, `We’re A Happy Family’ and `Teenage Lobotomy’ remain among the most definitive moments in the RAMONES’ dog-eared catalogue; they could also afford to throw in two covers: Bobby Freeman’s `Do You Wanna Dance’ and The TRASHMEN’s `Surfin’ Bird’. A rather disappointing UK Top 60 placing (Top 50 Stateside) failed to do the record justice, although by this stage the combo were beginning to make some inroads into the home market. Further evidence, if any was needed, that RAMONES’ chief writer was at the peak of his powers came with the blistering `Chinese Rocks’, a JOHNNY THUNDERS & THE HEARTBREAKERS track co-penned by Dee Dee.
With the departure of Tommy (into production work) the following year, ex-RICHARD HELL & The Void-Oids, Marc Bell (now Marky Ramone) was recruited in his place. Incredibly, the tried and tested formula (with a few notable exceptions, a guitar solo on `Go Mental’(!) and a ballad `Questioningly’) continued to excite via ROAD TO RUIN (1978) {*7}, their first album to break into the UK Top 40 and the resting place of the legendary `I Wanna Be Sedated’. Set against a cheesy-sock cover of The SEARCHERS hit, `Needles And Pins’ and the acoustic-led soft-rock `Don’t Come Close’, there were still elements of breakneck-speed RAMONES through `I’m Against It’ and the Phil Spector-esque `She’s The One’. The riotous IT’S ALIVE (1979) {*7} captured the RAMONES in-concert experience head-on, neatly wrapping up the first stage of the boys’ career and providing a handy overview of their career to date.
Every punk band coped with the scene’s fragmentation in their own way, RAMONES not so wisely choosing to indulge their love of classic 60s pop via the genre’s guru, Phil Spector. The results on END OF THE CENTURY (1980) {*7} were predictably confused (it was released at the beginning of the decade!), while many long-time RAMONES head-bangers baulked at their UK Top 10 cover of Spector’s RONETTES’ 60s smash, `Baby, I Love You’ or the “Judy” sequel `The Return Of Jackie And Judy’. On reflection, the bite was intact on a handful of cuts, most notably opener `Do You Remember Rock And Roll Radio’, a worthy re-vamp of `Chinese Rock’, `Let’s Go’ and `Rock’n’Roll High School’. The latter had already represented the anarchic RAMONES film musical of the same name, featuring cameos from the band and a Various Artists/part-RAMONES soundtrack.
Subsequent early 80s efforts such as PLEASANT DREAMS (1981) {*6} and SUBTERRANEAN JUNGLE (1983) {*6} lacked the ragged glory of their earlier work. Many would put this down to the colourful clashes between, on the one hand Joey (a Jewish liberal with OCD) and on the other, Johnny (a conservative ex-conscript into Nazis). It all really came to a head when Johnny started dating (and later married) Joey’s girlfriend Linda, resulting in Joey contributing his own songs and ultimately not talking to each other for the next two decades – even before and after gigs! Joey’s song from the aforementioned Graham Gouldman-produced set of ‘81, `The KKK Took My Baby Away’, was in-tune to this affair. That dysfunctional album of sorts also had a handful of highlights from Dee Dee in the poignant `All’s Quiet On The Eastern Front’ and `You Sound Like You’re Sick’. The back-to-basics of the 1983 set (it was produced by Bomp! Records bosses Ritchie Cordell and Glen Kolotkin) saw another surge into the 60s via covers of `Little Bit O’ Soul’ and The CHAMBERS BROTHERS’ `Time Has Come Today’ among the usual Joey and Dee Dee hook-lines.
The replacement of Marky with Richie (alias Richard Reinhardt) for 1984’s Tommy Erdelyi-produced TOO TOUGH TO DIE {*8} found the band sharpening their attack and presenting a united front against the hardcore pretenders of the day. The full-frontal assault of `Mama’s Boy’ (penned with the ex-RAMONE), the oi!-friendly `Wart Hog’, `Daytime Dilemma (Dangers Of Love)’ and Dee Dee’s `Howling At The Moon (Sha-La-La)’ hit, were just what the doctored ordered; the President Ronnie Regan-bating `Bonzo Goes To Bitburg’ (included on their next outing) was another classy record, but not a hit.
Retained for Beggars Banquet Records for further UK sets, they couldn’t keep it up though, and the limitations of their art really began to bite deep on the bedraggled, Jean Beauvoir-produced ANIMAL BOY (1986) {*5} and HALFWAY TO SANITY (1987) {*3}. A re-shuffle led to former BLONDIE sticksman Clem Burke (for two disastrous gigs) deputising for Richie, but it was down to clean and sober Marky to fill the stool again in 1988.
BRAIN DRAIN (1989) {*4} was the final chapter for Dee Dee who pursued a solo career thereafter; his replacement C.J. Ramone (alias Christopher Joseph Ward) effected something of a rejuvenation on LOCO LIVE (1991) {*5} and the long-awaited studio set MONDO BIZARRO (1992) {*6}. Despite some decent songs on the latter, including a version of The DOORS’ `Take It As It Comes’, the rib-tickling `Cabbies On Crack’ and an address to Tipper Gore (wife of Senator Al) on `Censorship’, it falls short of the necessary RAMONES fix.
The following year’s ACID EATERS (1993) {*3}, saw the band pay tribute to the 60s rock sounds which had inspired them, while in turn, many of the younger bands who had actually been inspired by the RAMONES would soon be calling the shots at America’s major labels. One can at least marvel at their shout-y attempts at:- The AMBOY DUKES’ `Journey To The Center Of The Mind’, The WHO’s `Substitute’, The ROLLING STONES’ `Out Of Time’, Max Frost & The Troopers’ hit `Shape Of Things To Come’, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’s `Somebody To Love’, The ANIMALS’ `When I Was Young’, LOVE’s `7 And 7 Is’, BOB DYLAN’s `My Back Pages’, The SEEDS’ `Can’t Seem To Make You Mind’, CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL’s `Have You Ever Seen The Rain?’, The TROGGS’ `I Can’t Control Myself’ and JAN & DEAN’s `Surf City’.
Yet despite this punk revival of sorts and the success of such acts as GREEN DAY and The OFFSPRING, the RAMONES finally decided to call it a day in early 1996 following the release of another poorly-received set, ADIOS AMIGOS (1995) {*5} and the accompanying tour. Veering on self-parody, it was a sad farewell to the band; the album had looked promising from their version of TOM WAITS’ `I Don’t Want To Grow Up’ onwards. Two further RAMONES instalments hit the shops, GREATEST HITS LIVE (1996) {*4} and the double-disc WE’RE OUTTA HERE! (1997) {*4} just about said it all, although featured guest spots from fans EDDIE VEDDER, LEMMY, CHRIS CORNELL, RANCID, even a returning Dee Dee Ramone among them.
Fans of all ages were shocked to hear the news of Joey’s death (of lymphoma) on April 15, 2001. Barely a year later (June 5, 2002), Dee Dee also passed away, while on September 15, 2004, the last of the stalwart RAMONES, Johnny, died of prostate cancer at his home in Los Angeles. A tragic final chapter to the once great and pivotal punk band.
© MC Strong 1994-2008/GRD-LCS-BG // rev-up MCS June2012

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