Personalities | The Ramones | Seventies | Rock
The definitive American punk rock group, The Ramones, were formed in 1974 in Forest Hills, New York, by high school friends Joey Ramone (born Jeffrey Hyman, 1951–2001), Johnny Ramone (born John Cummings, 1951–2004), Dee Dee Ramone (born Douglas Colvin, 1952–2002) and Tommy Ramone (born Tom Erdelyi, 29 January 1952).
Gabba Gabba Hey
They played their first gig at CBGBs in 1974 with Joey on drums and vocals, Johnny and Dee Dee on guitars and Tommy as manager. The line-up soon changed to Joey vocals, Johnny guitar, Dee Dee bass and Tommy drums, and they quickly gained a reputation with their 20-minute sets of two-minute songs, each counted in with a rapid ‘one-two-three-four’. Every show was rounded off with the slogan, ‘gabba gabba hey’.
As well as adopting the same surname, ‘da brudders’ also wore the same uniform of torn jeans and leather jackets. The songs – a wall of guitar chords, deadpan cartoon lyrics and no solos – reflected the underbelly of the Bowery where they hung out: ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, ‘Beat On The Brat’, ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’, ‘Judy Is A Punk’, ‘53rd & 3rd’.
The band signed to Sire Records in 1975. The Ramones (1976), a low-budget album, created a stir in the emerging punk scene but did not make the American Top 100. Few radio stations were bold enough to give their singles airplay. But DJ John Peel and a host of punk musicians-to-be were more impressed when they toured Britain soon after the album’s release. Leave Home (1976) was more of the same with songs like ‘You’re Gonna Kill That Girl’, ‘Pinhead’ and ‘Carbona Not Glue’. They toured the US and UK frequently and cracked the UK Top 30 with ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’ from their third album, Rocket To Russia (1977), which made the US Top 50 and confirmed a more bubblegum approach to their songs.
Tommy left in 1978, worn out from touring. But he stayed on to produce Road To Ruin (1978) featuring new drummer Marky Ramone (born Marc Bell, 15 July 1956, New York) and songs that edged towards the three-minute mark, including the UK Top 40 ‘Don’t Come Close’.
After the double It’s Alive (1979) The Ramones filmed their central role in Rock’n’Roll High School, directed by B-movie maestro Roger Corman. But despite being remixed by Phil Spector the title track only scraped into the UK Top 50 and failed to chart in the US. Nevertheless the band stuck with Spector for End Of The Century (1980), which was their most commercially successful album, going Top 20 in the UK and Top 50 in the US. They also had a Top 10 UK hit with a cover of the Spector/Ronettes classic ‘Baby I Love You’.
With the punk revolution dying out The Ramones continued to seek longevity, working with 10cc’s Graham Gouldman for Pleasant Dreams (1981) and bubblegum veteran Ritchie Cordell for Subterranean Jungle (1983). Even though they could not achieve...
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