Ramones

  • Punk rock band formed in 1974 from Queens, New York, New York. None of the band members were actually named “Ramone” – they all used it as their last name of the stage names. The original members were Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman – lead vocals), Johnny Ramone (John Cummings – guitars), Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin – bass guitar and co-lead vocals) and Tommy Ramone (Thomas Erdelyi – drums). Tommy was replaced by several other “Ramone” drummers over the years, and Dee Dee was replaced by C.J. Ramone (Christopher Ward) in 1989. All members contributed to songwriting.
  • The four original members were neighborhood friends in the Forest Hills area of Queens. Cummings and Erdelyi were in a high school garage band together in the late 60s. In 1974, Cummings and Colvin (both on guitar) invited Hyman (on drums) to join them in a new band. Colvin was the first to adopt the Ramone name, calling himself Dee Dee Ramone, in homage to Paul McCartney, who used the pseudonym Paul Ramon when checking into hotels before the Beatles became the Beatles. Dee Dee convinced the others to adopt the Ramone stage name, and they named themselves the Ramones.
  • A friend tried to be the bass guitarist, but it became clear that he didn’t have the skill, so Colvin switched to bass. Erdelyi was tapped to be the manager for the band, but after Joey discovered how difficult it was to handle lead vocals and drums, Erdelyi joined as Tommy Ramone on drums. They performed their songs very fast and short, wearing black leather jackets. They became regular performers at CBGB’s, which was ground zero for a developing music scene called punk rock. In late 1975, they were signed to a recording contract.
  • Their debut album, titled Ramones, was released in early 1976. It received glowing reviews by critics, but it hardly sold – it peaked at #111 on the Billboard album chart, and its two singles – Blitzkrieg Bop and I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend did not chart. The album was ranked at #47 on Rolling Stones’ 2020 list of the Greatest Albums of All Time, and Blitzkrieg Bop came in at #92 on the magazine’s Greatest Songs list. A brief tour in Europe that summer got them exposure and over the next several months, their brand of rock music became increasingly popular.
  • Two albums were released in 1977 – Leave Home and Rocket to Russia. The former was even less successful than their debut album. The latter was more successful, reaching #44 on the album chart. Songs from the album showed the influence of 60s surf rock on their music – the singles Sheena is a Punk Rocker (#461 on Rolling Stones’ GOAT songs list) and Rockaway Beach had a Beach Boys-like style, and a third single, Do You Wanna Dance?, covered a song the Beach Boys released in 1965. All three managed to chart on the Hot 100 – their only songs to chart on the pop chart – with Rockaway Beach charting highest at #66.
  • In 1978, Tommy left the band, tired of touring, and he took over record producer duties, using his given name of Erdelyi. Marc Bell became the drummer, naming himself Marky Ramone. Their Road to Ruin album was released later that year. It incorporated some acoustic guitar and it had several songs that were ballads, but this nudge towards pop music didn’t translate into more record sales. It included their signature song I Want to Be Sedated, which was released as a single in 1980 when it was used in the soundtrack to the film Times Square. As a single, it was certified platinum, and it was ranked #145 on Rolling Stones’ GOAT songs list.
  • In 1979, the band was featured in the film Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, A single of the same name from the soundtrack was released. Seven albums were released during the 80s, and singles during this time were popular within the punk rock scene, though as usual, they did not chart on the Hot 100. In 1983, Marky was fired from the band, and was replaced by Richard Reinhardt (Richie Ramone) on drums. Marky returned to the band in 1987 when Richie left in a dispute about receiving a share of the merchandising money. In 1989, they recorded the song Pet Sematary for the film of the same name, an adaptation of the book by Stephen King. The song became their biggest radio hit, reaching #4 on the Alternative Songs chart. Soon after, Dee Dee left the band and was replaced by C.J. Ramone.
  • After three albums were released in the 90s, the band announced that they were breaking up. Their final album was aptly titled ¡Adios Amigos! Joey died of lymphoma in 2001. The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and three months after the ceremony, Dee Dee died of a heroin overdose. Johnny died in 2004 of prostate cancer. In 2011, the group was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Tommy, the last surviving original member, died in 2014 of bile duct cancer.
  • The Ramones were the first successful punk rock band, and they often are credited as the inventors of punk rock. Their influence on music was undeniable – Rolling Stone ranked them at #26 on their list of the Greatest Artists of All Time. That’s remarkable for a band that never had a top 40 hit. Watch the punk rockers and their “Hey ho, let’s go” in Blitzkrieg Bop.

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