The story might sound familiar… two neighbors, John Cummings, and Thomas Erdelyi formed a band, the Tangerine Puppets, then they met Douglas Colvin and a bit later they invited Jeffry Hyman, lead singer for Sniper. In the very beginning Colvin (Dee Dee) was handling lead vocals and rhythm guitar, but very soon he discovered that he couldn’t sing, and play at the same time, so Hyman (Joey) switched from drums(!) to lead vocals, while Erdelyi (Tommy), who was going to b the band’s manager, became the drummer… so, that’s more or less how the Ramones got started, while they got their name from Paul McCartney’s nickname when he used to book hotel rooms. It was Dee Dee that used “Ramone” as his surname, and then convinced the others to do the same as well.
Their debut, self-titled album was recorded in only seven days (it took them three days for the instruments, and four for the vocals) and cost them $6,400, since they walked in the studio and played their live set. Despite the albums commercial failure, it barely reached No.111 on the Billboard charts, the critics loved it from the very beginning. Just imagine that even the anthemic “Blitzkrieg Bop”, and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” didn’t even chart back then! Their lyrical themes varied from male prostitution on “53rd & 3rd” –actually, it’s believed that the song tells a true story since Dee Dee used to hang out there, where it was a well known spot for male prostitutes-, violence on “Beat On The Brat”, Nazism on “Today Your Love, Tommorow The World”, horror movies on “I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement”, and of course drugs on “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”.
Not even one song goes past the two and a half minutes mark, while every and each one of them is considered to be a classic in punk’s history that actually begun from the States by the Ramones, but flourished in Great Britain, and that’s actually how the false impression that it started from there begun. It’s quite characteristic that although the Ramones weren’t drawing big crowds when they were playing outside their hometown New York, when they travelled to England for a short tour the fans’ reaction was impressive, and members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols that were starting their career were there to meet their heroes and get inspired.
The Ramones grabbed the music of their era from the Stooges and New York Dolls, mixed it with the Beach Boys, Beatles, Ronettes, and Shangri-Las using their own style, speeding u the pace and taking out any form of solos. They were inspired by whatever they’d lay their eyes on, and especially Dee Dee was the most gifted writer in the band, as the others always acknowledged, but he had his moments. Living in the States during the post-Vietnam era, the Watergate scandal, and the social issues the Ramones provided the ideal soundtrack… counting from 1 to 4, using three chords, galloping drums, and Joey’s trademark vocals… that was the recipe that became influential not just for the emerging punk scene, but to pop music, heavy metal, hardcore, even grunge.
Today, 36 years after its release the Ramones self titled debut remains a monumental album, a punch to the status quo gut, the spearhead of a musical revolution that the band started, and the trademark of the undying cool, since the band’s logo became more famous than the band itself and can still be seen on t-shirts wore by any kind of people that have little or nothing to do with music in general. Ironically the band achieved its highest popularity long after it was over, and three of the original members were dying one by one. I guess that’s what always happens with the greatest artists. They are truly renowned after they are gone.