Time Warp Across the Rollercoaster History of The Ramones
Posted: Sep 20 2020
Hailing from New York, Ramones are often referred to as one of the founding bands of punk. Although not originally commercially successful, over the decades their influence and importance to music have been cemented. The group have go on to achieve a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and an induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Sadly, by 2014 all founding members of the group, Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny, and Tommy had passed away.
It’s not only their sound that is influential but their imagery, their outfits, their hair but perhaps most iconic is the band’s logo. Based on the Seal of the President of the United States, it was designed by New York City artist and long time friend to the band, Arturo Vega. Vega was said to be inspired after a trip to Washington D.C, calling the band all American, his take on the seal sprung from there. He swapped out some detail to reflect the band, including the constant changing of names around the circle and the eagle’s scroll saying “Hey Ho Let’s Go”
You can buy official Ramones Presidential Seal Merchandise through our online store.
The Early Years
Established in 1974 in Queens, all members had been part of other bands throughout their time at Forest Hills High School. John Cummings (Johnny) and Thomas Erdelyi (Tommy) originally played together in a band named Tangerine Puppets. The pair befriended Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee) who had recently moved from Germany, and Jeffrey Hyman (Joey) fronted glam rock band, Sniper, eventuating into a group together. The Ramones would have a line up of Dee Dee as the lead singer and on bass, Johnny on guitar, Joey on drums and further down the track, Tommy would become the drummer.
Ramones Commonly Mistaken for Brothers
Commonly mistaken for brothers, Dee Dee was the first to encourage the rest of the band to take on the pseudonym of “Ramone” as their last name, though none were related. This was said to be a nod to Paul McCartney from The Beatles who would often check into hotels under the name Paul Ramon. After playing together for a while with Thomas Erdelyi, managing the band, Dee Dee realised he couldn’t sing and play bass and so Joey stepped up to be the lead singer with Dee Dee still counting the band in with their signature “1 2 3 4”. With Joey upfront, the position of drummer needed to be filled and during the auditioning process, it became apparent that Tommy would be the best fit to join the band, thus completing the original line up.
Ramones Takes the Stage for the First Time
On 30 March 1974 the group took the stage for the first time, in what is known as typical punk fashion, each song was fast punchy and short, clocking in at two minutes or just under for each song. As the band was beginning, so was the music scene in New York with the opening of iconic CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. The Ramones played for the first time at CBGB’s in August of 1974, uniformed in their black leather jackets, a look that at the time was unseen. Over the course of a year, the group played 74 times at CBGBs.
One of Ramone's first gigs at CBGBs on 15 September 1974 at New York's CBGBs.
Ramones Begin Pioneering the 'Punk' Scene
At the end of 1975 they were signed to Sire Records by Seymour Stein (also known for Talking Heads and The Pretenders) and had well established themselves as the pioneers for a new genre of music called punk. In 1976 they released their debut album, Ramones, which was received extremely well by critics but did not do well commercially. On it were Ramones staples such as ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, ‘Judy is a Punk’, ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ and ‘Beat on a Brat’.
Ramones performing Blitzkrieg Bop
In 1976 the group befriended Dead Boys and went on a brief tour of England which proved fruitful for the group. In July of the same year, they performed in a double bill with The Flamin Groovies at Roundhouse in England. This is where they met, T-Rex lead singer Marc Bolan, the Sex Pistols and the Clash which cemented them in the middle of the on the rising genre of punk. They then brought the same double bill performance to Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles which only further fuelled their presence in punk.
Ramones playing live at Roxy Theatre in 1977
Commercial Rollercoaster To Success
Although now a permanent fixture in their genre, their next album, Leave Home, released in 1977 did commercially worse than their first album. On the album Leave Home is what is considered their signature song, ‘Pinhead’. However their third album released also in 1977, Rocket to Russia is still considered one of their best selling albums to date and houses their first single to make it to the billboard chart, ‘Sheena Is a Punk Rocker’. ‘Rockaway Beach’, another single from the album made it all the way to number 66, the highest one of their singles would ever reach.
The iconic cover for Rocket to Russia by Ramones.
The first to leave the band in 1978, tired from constant touring, was Tommy but he remained as a record producer under his real name. Marc Bell replaced him as a drummer and took on the name Marky Ramone. In the same year, they released their fourth studio album Road to Ruin. It signalled a new direction for the band with some acoustic songs and some ballads but the change was not beneficial as it never charted. Off this album, ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’, would become another well-known song from the group.
In 1979, the group appeared in the feature film, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and producer of the film, Phil Spector showed interest in the band and produced their next 1980 album, End of the Century. Rumours have always swirled around the recording of the album that Spector held a gun to Johnny’s head and forced him to play the same riff over and over. The album charted at 44 in America and 14 in England, members of the band were always outspoken about how much they considered the album a watered-down version of their more fast and furious punk sound.
Drugs, Fighting and Reconciliation
At this point in time, although The Ramones had established a long career, there were tensions and issues within the group, all aired out for the public to witness. Johnny, for example, was a staunch conservative and Joey, a strong liberal, their personalities often clashed as a result. There were relationship issues, Joey’s struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder, Dee Dee’s bipolar disorder and drug addiction which caused the strain. In one instance, Marky and Joey even got into a fight on the Howard Stern show over each other’s drinking habits. Many years later, they went on the same show to squash their beef and reconcile.
The Music Video for Rock & Roll High School
Trading Punk Sound For Radio Airtime
In 1981, the band released their sixth album, Pleasant Dreams which was even further away from their original punk sound. Produced by Graham Gouldman who was behind English rock band 10cc, he moved the group’s sound to something more lined with heavy metal. By this point in the band’s career, they still weren’t getting radio play and this seemed to be an attempt to get there.
One of the Classic Appearances Ramones Has Had on The Howard Stern Show
Their 1983 album, Subterranean Jungle moved the band back to something more closer to their original sound and charted at 83 in America. Following the release of this album, Marky was fired due to issues with addiction and was replaced with Richard Reinhardt (Richie Ramone). He added to the band immensely, writing songs and singing whilst playing the drums.
A Drastic Shift in Sound and the Departure of Dee Dee
In 1984 they released their first album with Richie, Too Tough To Die, with Tommy Erdelyi back as a producer, a real shift back to their original sound was at the forefront of this album. From this album, ‘Bonzo Goes to Bitburg’ was picked up on American student radio and was a protest song written by Joey about Ronald Reagan visiting a German military cemetery. It appeared again, retitled as `My Brain is Hanging Upside Down’ on their ninth album, Animal Boy.
Ramones Video for Psycho Therapy off Subterranean Jungle
Richie recorded his last album with the band in 1987, Halfway to Sanity, leaving over a dispute with the rest of the band about getting a share of money made from merchandising after five years. He was replaced by Clem Burke from the disbanded Blondie. He was fired after two performances as he couldn’t keep up his drumming with the band. Marky, now clean and sober returned.
Things started to go awry when it came to their eleventh album, Dee Dee no longer wanted to be in the band and so after their Halfway to Sanity tour, he left. He was replaced by Christopher Joseph Ward (C.J Ramone) who remained with the band until they disbanded. Dee Dee would come back eventually, in the capacity of a songwriter.
The 90's, the 9th Studio Album and The Simpsons
In their final years of being active the group moved from Sire Records to Radioactive after a decade. On their new label they released Mondo Bizarro, which went gold in Brazil, and then Acid Eaters, a cover album.
My Brain is Hanging Upside Down - Ramones Ninth Album, Animal Boy.
In 1993 appeared in an episode of The Simpsons, which they were big fans of. After their fourteenth studio album, Adios Amigos, they disbanded in 1996. Ending their time as a band, they played at Lollapalooza and toured the states, finishing up at the Palace in Hollywood.
Ramones Appearance on The Simpsons.
The End of The Ramones
In 1995 Joey passed away from cancer and three years later, the remaining members of the group, Dee Dee, Johnny, Joey, Tommy, Marky and C.J made a final appearance altogether in New York at a record signing. In 2002 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the same year Dee Dee died from a heroin overdose. As time went on all members passed, bar Marky, but their legacy continues to be celebrated. in Berlin the world’s first Ramones Museum opened, a street is named after them outside their old high school and in 2014 the group’s first album became certified Gold by the Recording Industry of America, all members had died by the end of the same year.
Joey Ramone's Appearance on American TV
In summary, it is indisputable that the band has had a massive influence on music and set the bar for many bands to follow. Green Day, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion and metal bands such as Iron Maiden, all cite the Ramones as a major influence on their sound. The impact of The Ramones music and style is here to stay.
You can help continue the legacy of the Ramones by buying official Ramones merchandise through our online store.