Hard to believe that The Rolling Stones, half of The Beatles and The Who, and a dozen more bands that started a full decade before The Ramones (1974) have outlived them, and in many cases are still touring. They were one of my favorite punk bands ever... and with the recent death of Tommy Ramone (nee Thomas Erdelyi), all four original members of one of New York's finest bands ever, we are not "glad to see you go." The first three -- lead singer Joey (nee Jeffrey Hyman, died 2001), bass player Dee Dee (nee Douglas Colvin, died 2002), and guitarist Johnny (nee John Cummings, died 2004) -- all died only within six years after calling it quits.
They did not go gently into the night. Their off-stage dramas kept them from maintaining their once shared friendships.
Ironic isn't it? The original Ramones, the guys from "Rockaway Beach" that wanted to be sedated, are all gone. I saw their very last U.K. show ever, February 3, 1996 at the Brixton Academy, as a guest of rock photographer Tony Woolliscroft. It was the final year they would ever tour together -- even though only Joey and Johnny were founding members -- ending in early August in Irvine, California. Quite remarkable that the band had soldiered on for nearly two decades and with only Joey and Johnny as the original members. Still the band was firing on all cylinders in that sweaty venue in Brixton. Any acrimony that may have existed in previous years, every gig since who knows when, was left on some Forest Hills stoop and/or garage that cold, winter night south of London. It was a relentless assault on the ears and senses. But the melody of any of their songs was always bubbling under, easy to digest, easy to sing along with, "Hey, ho, let's go!"
There would be no CBGB legacy without The Ramones gracing the grimy confines of that legendary club. There would be no American punk rock movement, or even a U.K. movement, without their hyper-accelerated primitive garage rock.
You could argue that their first four albums -- Ramones (1976), Leave Home (1977), Rocket to Russia (1977), Road to Ruin (1978, with Marc "Marky Ramone" Bell replacing Tommy on drums) -- are all essential, a true blueprint of the DIY punk ethos. Actually their first album cost all of $6,000 or so to produce. And even though it met with critical acclaim, it sold poorly. Sire Records must have been thinking that they'd signed a real turkey. But many of the era's most beloved punk anthems were penned by the lads -- "Blitzkreig Bop" and "Rockaway Beach" and "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" and "Beat on the Brat" and "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" and "Rock 'n' Roll High School" and....
Safe to say that there would be no Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Social Distortion, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Nirvana, The Strokes, et al. without The Ramones before them.
Who will soldier on in the spirit of The Ramones, one of the world's greatest rock bands? What new band of boys and girls thrashing away in some faraway basement or garage have what it takes to become a legend? We shall see...
Rest in peace, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and now Tommy, rest in peace.
1, 2, 3, 4...
Mr. Wright is a content creator and culture curator. He is a contributor to the Huffington Post, a DJ at David Lynch's Transcendental Music Radio, the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and television. He's also a singer/songwriter who has released four solo CDs and one with folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was a William Morris agent.