The splitting up of the Ramones gives us the opportunity to draw a definitive profile and to give some kind of sense to the frenetical life lived by one of the greatest band of the rock history. Some might say that we ” re exaggerating. How can we consider a group that never changed anything since its start as ‘big’? What credibility these old rockers dressed in black leather have at the beginning of the new millennium? These are the two criticisms that are usually made concerning the four ‘Big Apple Men’, and that are denied by irrefutable facts: more than 2. 000 concerts; about 20 albums of great quality, 3 of which are part of the rock history; thousands of groups have tried to imitate them; a look which crossed the whole world and which these days, is considered a transgression; their logo which appeared on the t-shirts of such group as Metallica, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Sonic Youth (who also covered their Beat On The Brat) and specially the recognition by a prestigious magazine which considered them one of the seven greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll bands along with Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Sex Pistols and Public Enemy while other specialized reviews defined them as ‘The most influential band of the last twenty years’.
Blitzkrieg Bop Even if the Ramones are part of the punk generation, they began their work a couple of years before the historical groups of the last rock ‘n’ roll revolution. They lived on a middle class suburban area of New York, Queens and lived the usual life of the kids living in a big metropolis; boredom in the day time, drinks, drunkenness and concerts in small clubs at night. Jeff Hyman (later known as Joey Ramone) was part of this reality. He was born on the 19 th of May 1951, although for a long time he claimed he was born on ’52, the same day of the Who’s leader Pete Townshend (one of his favourite bands), who he saw in concert and which he considered to be one of the most important experiences of his musical life. When he was 13 years old his musical and lifestyle model was Keith Moon, he liked him so much that his first instrument was a drum kit. The Beatles, Stones, Who, Slade, Sweet and T.
... and confetti Final Draft The Rock Show It was the most anticipated rock concert in the history of Dubai ... entered the arena, we saw big and small groups of devoted Slipknot fans, some sporting Slipknot T ... electric guitars the crowd went wild. The band jumped and screamed on stage and the entire ... kinds of people "] Roar of crowd when band started to perform "] Band screamed and jumped on the stage "] ...
Rex were his first important musical influences. Alice Cooper was another important influence on Joey, not for his vocal qualities, but for his very theatrical approach to music. Joey Ramone was always searching for anything different from the usual stereotypes; this vision of life and then getting in touch with Iggy and The Stooges had a devastating effect on him. Joey admitted that Iggy was the one ‘that let the beast in me get out’. His parents’ divorce when he was a teenager had such an important effect on his grow up, that he decided to start an independent life while he was still very young. This made him grow up much faster then his peers living in a terrible town such as New York.
John Cummings (aka Johnny Ramone) born on the 10 th of August 1951, was the only son of a mechanical constructor. Ever since childhood he had dreamt of becoming a baseball player (he still love the game today).
He had a very turbulent childhood especially during his school years, his ‘rebel’ period ended after spending two years in a military school. Johnny’s interest in music started in 1957 after seeing Elvis Presley on TV, and then in February 1964 after seeing the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. From hereon his interest in R ‘n’ R kept growing, especially towards Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Chubby Checker. So, like lots of guys of his age, he bought his first guitar.
His first musical experience was during High School where he was part of a Group called Tangerine Puppets who played Rolling Stones and Them’s covers. Johnny’s strong character was evident from his early years thanks to sometimes questionable choices always characterized by a strong element of self discipline that allowed him to be catalyzing and balancing element of the future Ramones, personalities that were sometimes very exuberant and self destructive (Dee Dee).
... friends sitting around and reminiscing about the first three years of high school we start making all the right predictions about how exciting ... . The graduating class of 2003 just completed the best year of their lives. The only word that can describe Apex high in ... can go through throughout their years in grammar school. Personally that was the best time of my life. As of August 12, 2002 ...
Johnny: ‘I always liked to decide for my own life and I always hated who told you what to do’. Johnny played the bass when he was part of the Tangerine Puppets while the drummer was Tommy Erdelyi (future Ramones drummer ’till Rocket To Russia).
He also started taking drugs and hallucinogens causing a psychological detachment in him and giving him the inspiration for a lot of his future songs.
Then, reality or legend, some kind of hit him as if he were St. Paul on his way to Damascus. Johnny: ‘One day, suddenly, a voice from above: what am I doing with my life? Is this what I’m here for, to be a delinquent? So I quit everything I had been doing wrong: stop with alcohol, drugs and every other excess, from then on the only password was ‘self discipline’. The two years spent in a military school played a big role in his change of life. There was a period in Johnny’s life when his future as a musician was in danger; he had seen live concerts of the Beatles, Stones and Led Zeppelin and this put the doubt in his mind that he would never real the greatness of those bands; but then the arrival of groups such as the New York Dolls convinced him that you didn’t have to be a guitar god and that the majority of the bands that he had heard up until then were more interested in the solos than in the songs, so he decided not to give up after all.
Beat On The Brat Besides being a novice musician, he also worked with his dad and his life would have been that of every other young American guy of the seventies if he hadn’t have worked as a bricklayer during the building of a skyscraper between 50 th St. and Broadway in Manhattan, the same one where his neighbor Dee Dee worked. Johnny remembers: ‘While we sat out eating and watching the girls pass by, we decided to start a group’. Dee Dee (real name Douglas Calvin) was born on the 9 th of December 1952 in Berlin, where he lied his adolescence; his father was an officer. From where he was very young he began having big drugs problems (14 years of heroin addictions), he remembers when he traded old war daggers with the soldiers for morphine, hashish, barbiturates and glue (his favourite drugs of early punks).
... to progress emotionally, intellectually and physically. Parallel and observational play when toddlers play alongside each other but are aware of others still ... , put in cots for twenty to twenty four hours a day, with very little interaction, no visual or auditory stimulation and ... control finer movements such as holding a pencil or these days operating a game on a mobile phone or tablet. The ...
He moved to the Queens and during the long periods of unemployment he spent his time calling invented phone numbers just to hear the sound of a busy phone.
His youth wasn’t different from that of the other members of the band: he started playing guitar when he was 12 years old. He was very rebellious and cheeky and this caused him some difficulties in getting used to the American lifestyles, so he started to attend N. Y.’s and where he was shocked, as where a lot of other people, by a live gig held by the Stooges, the favourite subject of conversation between him and Johnny. In those days (1974) they were neighbours and soon Joey joined them as frequented the same places. Three of the future four Ramones were already in touch.
The fourth was Tommy Ramone. Born in Budapest on the 29 th of January 1952, he moved to American when he was 4 years old. Johnny and Dee Dee bought two guitars, and the next day began rehearsing. When Tommy found that his friends had guitars, he decided he would be their manager.
In those days Tommy had a studio on 20 th Street, which he shared with a guy named Monte Melnick. Years later Monte become the Ramones’ tour manager and would cater for all the group’s needs: from trave agent to psychiatrist, to bus driver. Before all this Monte Melnick played the bass with Tommy in a band called The Butch, then he played in a country named Thirty Days Out, which whom he recorded two albums and was the opening act for Captain Beefheart, the Beach Boys and Atom Rush. The splitting up of the group meant Monte became Tommy’s partner and shortly afterwards (March 74) the Ramones started rehearsing. They were: Johnny (guitar), Dee Dee (guitar and vocals) and Joey (drums).
In the beginning there was a fourth member playing the bass but he was after two days.
We don’t have much information’s about the early days, partly because Joey wasn’t officially a member. Joey: ‘I sang in a group called Snipers and I liked getting dressed up and my look still wasn’t the one of Ramones. I wore pink boots, a black silk shirt, leather gloves up to the elbow, black glasses and long hair. It was very exciting and in those days you could do it although a lot of people wanted to kill me’. About his meeting with Dee Dee he remembers: I knew Johnny from seeing him after the school, Tommy and he were friends and he played in a band with my brother Mitch. In the meantime I became friend with Dee Dee, who was already a friend of Johnny’s and after a meeting between the two of them they asked to become a member of the group.
... was the author of the book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love and also the book called Our House ... The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love By: Oscar Hijuelo Harper Collins Publishers ... was later their favorite place, was Miami, Florida. They played in clubs late at night still bringing girls back to ... and 6 other people who put together a band and played in clubs almost every night. After playing their gigs ...
I was very happy and I thought that Johnny and Dee Dee were very cool and had a very cool look too although torn jeans, leather jacket and sneakers was that they wore every day. We are what we look like’. The rehearsals became more frequent and Tommy was taken in by the chaos of the first Ramones. Although the sound wasn’t exactly conventional, the future drummer immediately spotted their originality. Tommy remembers: ‘They were terrible and wonderful at the same time; they were upsetting rock ‘n’ roll and they were getting better every time. Dee Dee sang almost always, but then Joey substituted him because his voice got rough after a few songs’.
On the 30 th of March 1974 Ramones had their first gig, for which they did all their own publicity. A ticket cost two dollars and almost 30 people showed up. Dee Dee was so nervous that after three songs, ht broke his bass. They needed a drummer, so they auditioned for drummers influenced by the hard rock (it was the beginning of the Seventies) and Tommy had to explain to each one of them what Ramones needed in terms of rhythm although he had never played before. It was very difficult for him to explain the beat he had in mind, so someone suggested that he should try to play the drum himself. He thought it was a funny idea and so he bought a cheap drum kit for 1000 dollars.
Tommy: ‘I was a guitarist and I was frustrated by playing the drums, I wanted for the Ramones a sound like one of the Stax records, but the others didn’t, so I started to play what they played. I didn’t have a great technique but the important thing was to combine what I played with the sound of the rest of the band’. Dee Dee wasn’t very technical either, to the point that he confessed to the journalist Howie Klein that he lacked so much talent that the only things he could was strum one string with his thumb. A few years later in an interview Dee Dee said that he always followed by Johnny’s guitar with his bass, and that if played violently the bass allowed him to express his feelings. When Johnny talked about technique, he always expressed the same kind of philosophy as punk bands: ‘The only time I say I’m a musician is when I have to fill out the tax forms, but I don’t feel comfortable with it. I don’t have any guitar at home, I have never improved since I started playing and I don’t want to do.
... but they are often successfully swayed when interest groups lobby Congress, Interest groups play a big part in the success of politicians ... it is also further informing the constituency. Although interest groups do notparticipate in elections, getting their point across while ... . Thus, there is a distinct relationship between interest groups and political parties that allows for mutual benefit within ...
I always thought that he who changes, changes for the worst; only the Beatles changed with success from album to album. If Elvis wouldn’t have changed he would have been very effective’. Judy Is A Punk The so called ‘in’ places began to be interested in the Ramones who in the meantime revealed why they chose such a strange name. I was picked from a list of 50 names.
According to Joey it was a kind of musical. Dee Dee said that they liked the producer Phil Ramone, and that the name seemed like that an outlaw band. According to Johnny the name was chosen because they thought no one else would chose it. They then changed their surnames for Ramone so to appear more compact, as if they were brothers even though they weren’t. This image was also strengthened by their identical look. From the beginning the Ramones were special.
Usually bands started their career playing covers but, as Johnny recalls, their technical capacities were so limited that this was impossible, so they decided to play original songs from the beginning. Johnny: ‘I could never play a Who’s song, but we wrote I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You the first day’. The first repertoire of the Ramones was made up of songs such as I Don’t Care and Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, written by Joey before he became part of the their experiences such as the song about sniffing glue, or they were ironic and funny and without political content. ‘We were stooges fans, and we loved Slade’ – says Johnny – ‘and the guy that thought Noddy Holder to sing some advice to Joey on how to sing without wasting breath, and Slade and New York Dolls convinced us that you could write great songs without being a virtuoso of the instruments’. After six months of useless auditions, Tommy convinced himself that he was the band’s drummer, and they added to their repertoire songs such as It’s A Long Way Back to Germany, Blitzkrieg Bop and Babysitter.
... some of these groups have sold unprecedented amounts of albums, thus making them quality. While these groups have sold insane ... teach them a few dance steps and hand them songs and you have the formula for multi-platinum success ... music construct is "verse chorus verse" (allusion to song / quote of Kurt Cobain) or the same old ... all strings of guitar, of any pop-punk song, add a few, and you have a pop ...
Although there was much ferment on the music scene, the Ramones were the only ones in a a panorama that was revolutionizing itself completely and not just from a musical point of view. To define their music people used adjectives such as ‘sonic’ and ‘minimal’. At the beginning of 1976 the journalist Danny Field (to whom they dedicated Danny Says on their album End Of The Century) wrote in Music Gig that te group was choosing material for a concert at CBGB’s (a club situated on Bowery Avenue that with Max’s Kansas City became the Mecca of every new band in New York) and outlined that Lou Reed was a fan of theirs and that this was a great thing for a group as its start. The CBGB’s Omfg (country, bluegrass and blues) was opened in 1973 by Hill Kristal and became the favourite club for Ramones first exhibitions.
Johnny remembers: ‘We discovered it thanks to the Television and to a notice on Village Voice talking about this place, so we decided to try there too’. Hill Kristal remembers their first gig: ‘Their set lasted only 17 minutes and 20 fast songs full of energy. No one ever did something like that: it was like hitting people on the head with no pity and when you were going to ask them to stop it! They already had’. The majority of the critics weren’t ready for this revelation: some saw the iron is de of it (‘They played every song at 78 rpm’, some complained about the shortness of the concert. Ramones reply to these accusations was: ‘You have what you paid for’. As we said, their first concerts were very short.
After playing all their songs, the group would repeat them two or three times… Sometimes they stopped to argue with each other and after Dee Dee’s 1-2-3-4 everyone started a different song. Their first gig at CBGB’s was on 16 th of August 1974. Afterwards they played there every week by the end of the year. The first audience made up of the barman and his dog, increased in number and intelligence as they kept playing thanks to the presence of characters such as Andy Warhol. At their first concert there was in the audience a young Mexican painter / actor , Arturo Veja.
He lived near the club and for the Ramones meeting him was a important as meeting Monte Melnick. Arturo Vega would always take care of the group’s light show. So he remembers the meeting with the group: ‘I meet Dee Dee because he went out with a girl living upstairs from me. I love R ‘n’ R but at the time there weren’t any exciting things around, so I wandered through the town’s clubs looking for something new.
Then I saw the Ramones and thought they were good but too funny to be real. They had great energy and weren’t mummies as Yes or ELPs’. Loudmouth Arturo Veja was the first person to work full time for the Ramones, first as a roadie, the operating at the lights, taking care of adds and handbills / leaflets that were sent to attract journalists and other people interested in the music business. Arturo Veja was the one who invented the Ramones logo that started on t-shirts and allowed the group to have other earnings besides the ones from the concerts. Besides Veja, also Monte Melnick was very important although at the beginning he wasn’t at all enthusiastic about them: ‘I was a musician and musicians couldn’t like Ramones because musicians are technical and Johnny and the others weren’t’.
Passing the word on about Ramones concerts brought many journalists who had been sceptical in the beginning to reconsider. Ramones were not now seen to be ingenuous loudmouths, but the flag bearers of new wave. The journalist John Holmstrom remembers: ‘One evening I went to see them at the CBGB’s, there were only 40 people and I was swept away! Those days their concerts lasted only 20 minutes, that night they played for half an hour and didn’t say a word. It was the perfect rock show, the right length, not boring, very radical and menacing but very artistic and so well performed that I couldn’t understand if they really were punks who would kill you because you looking at them in the wrong way or if they were only pretending. When I finally met them I understood that the truth was in between’. Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz never had any doubts: ‘They were extraordinary both in the musical way and in their look.
In the days of glam rock they were savage and extreme and in the days of the long suites they hit them with two minutes songs. They were a punch in the stomach. Ramones were the essence of Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Their fame was growing day by day and the time came for them to play outside New York. The baptism of the fire tool place at the Palace Theatre in Waterbury, Connecticut, as Johnny Winter’s unexpected support act. This was the first time of many nightmare concerts the group performed to audiences that didn’t know them and therefore were very hostile to them.
In an interview on Spin Dee Dee remembers: ‘The lights come on and everyone was standing up and yelling because they thought we were Johnny Winter, but as soon as we started to play the audience became terrible. I never had so many bottles and spit aimed at me. It was an hallucinating experience’. Thanks to help from important magazines such as Rolling Stone, from September 1975 onwards, the group started to get positive reviews, even from the audiences which had previously snubbed them. Hey Ho Let’s Go… On the 19 th of September 1975 at 914 Studios the Ramones recorded the demo of Judy Is A Punk and I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.
They were there with arty Thau, New York Dolls’ manager and founder of the label Red Star on which Suicide also recorded. Ramones contacted Thau, considering him suitable to be their manager, but his dream was to become a discography producer. The recordings of the four rockers were his first experience, and knowing that Sire had already looked at the four he contacted the A&R assistant Craig Leon. Marty Thau: ‘Leon was surprised that I had some Ramones’ recordings.
When he heard then his eyes started shining. When he made Seymur Stein listen to them, every possible doubt about the group was dispelled after five minutes’. Seymur Stein was Sire’s founder and he delegated Leon to find and sign up the most significant artists of New York’s scenes. Leon remembers: ‘Patti Smith was my first choice but she signed for Arista. I have to admit that all the new bands of New York from Ramones to Television to Talking Heads had all my respect. Most of the people thought that Ramones, after what happened on tour with Johnny Winter, couldn’t perform another tour or make a record.
I was the only one convinced that they would record a revolutionary album’. His confidence in the group was supported by Linda Stein (Seymur Stein’s ex wife), who saw them at Mother’s in October 1975 and was so enthusiastic that she convinced Seymur Stein to sign them. There was one thing on which Seymur Stein didn’t agree with the group: their reference to nazism in some songs. Seymur: ‘You can’t forget twenty years of Jewish growth in Brooklyn and I certainly didn’t want to do, so I told them but I decided that neither I nor Sire would object what they wanted to do, so I had to bend to their wishes, but I have to admit that I really felt uncomfortable about this’. On this matter the group was dumb founded and didn’t understand the media’s ad version to their lyrics; they explained that the lyrics came from the vision of many war movies. At that point what they needed was a ‘right on’ cover photo.
Robert bailey had the honor and the pleasure to take that pic. Johnny: ‘I took the picture right there behind CBGB’s, they were leaning against the wall of a rented house. We didn’t need any trials: we only had to frame and take’. This photo became a classic: ‘We wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. Only one take of us standing outside of Arturo Vega’s apartment.
I know that covers are important, I bought a Stooges’ album for its cover’. The first Ramones album sold 5000 copies in the first week containing many of their hits, from Blitzkrieg Bop and Beat On The Brat, to Judy Is A Punk, songs which made na impression on all the people who were tired of suites and eccentric songs. In those days it was the ‘real’ New York album. The group’s fame was consolidated further, thanks to their records being frequently played on the radio by the young DJ Rodney Bingenheirmer. He also invited the group on his program Rodney on the ROW and it was a great success.
On the 4 th of July 1976 Ramones performed their first concert in England. At that moment their album was number one in the import charts and the group found themselves in front of masses of colorful and excited punks cheering at them. The audience present at their concerts was the gotha of the English scene, Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer and Sid Vicious who followed Dee Dee everywhere. Johnny: ‘Of the English scene I really liked the Sex Pistols for their destructive impact and for their songs that were definitive. From the point of view of a visual impact, the Clash were much better’. Along with the popularity, Ramones also had some problems as well due to glue sniffing; in that period twenty kids died of it in England.
Johnny minimal ized that the song Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue was a song about teenagers frustration, and not a praise of drugs. Rocket To Russia A few years later the Ramones admitted that in the past they had sniffed glue, but they insisted on the fact that it was very dangerous and that they had quit very early. After the great success of their English tour with Talking Heads, the band went back to the States for some concerts in California, which in those days absorbed the whole punk revolution, becoming a real cradle of talents; it still plays this role thanks to Bad Religion, Rancid, NOFX, Offspring. After this tour on the West Coast Ramones started recording their second album at Sun dragon Studios. Johnny revealed that it would have harder and stronger sounds but softer lyrics. The production was entrusted to Tommy and Tony Bongiovi with Ed Stasium’s supervision.
Ed: ‘I had been working in Canada for them months and I never heard about the Ramones. In that period everything was so musically flat and easy-going: there were Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and Hotel California by Eagles. I went to CBGB’s and it was shocking’. Tony Bongiovi: ‘I thought it would be one of the greatest things ever done or an enormous flap. It really was a frightening wall of sound’. Leave Home was ready in a very short time.
Although it was a record that contained some of the best songs Ramones ever wrote, it was rather lacking in production, partly because Tony Bongiovi had nothing in common with their granitic sound. A great album in its intentions, but less in substance. When the Ramones performed the songs live the result was great and this witnesses the extreme value of the material. It’s real a pity that a song like Carbona Not Glue – present on Leave Home’s first edition – was censored for its praising of the use of glue. I was substituted by babysitter on the European Version and by Sheena Is A Punk Rocker in the rest of the world.
Because of their growing importance on the music scene they were compelled to have a more professional look. Luckily the catalyzing and balancing figure of the group, Johnny, due to some drastic decisions, helped the group not to be swept away by the events of those times. Danny Field: ‘Johnny was very clever, faithful, loyal and honest: he knew exactly what to do and when to do it. Johnny Ramones couldn’t stand mistakes or stupidity, so sometimes he was rude with us, but he never was so without a good reason. He had a diary of all concerts, so he knew exactly where they had been and how many people went to see them. He was very precise’.
Because of his personality and his sometimes dictatorial ways the other members called him f”uh rer. The live shows became more frenetic and Ramones spent most of the time travelling from one place to another. Being so close together created tensions that disappeared as soon as the four had a little privacy. In those days they performed five concerts a week doing 45 minutes each set. Rockaway Beach On the 21 st August 1977 Ramones started recording their third album, Rocket To Russia, maybe their best from a technical point of view. A great concentration of power, melody and fun that helped the band enter the USA charts.
Rocket To Russia can be considered a classic from every point of view: at least ten potential singles, a contagious album that you can never take off your turntable. The songs? There are so many to choose from: Cretin Hop and Rockaway Beach to Surfin’ Bird. Alot of younger fans discovered the Ramones thanks to this album. Rocket To Russia. Contains some revolutionary and stylish tracks: Johnny’s solos (thank heaven only a few) and a couple of ballads till then unthinkable for Ramones. America’s media welcomed the record clamorously.
Bill Altman on Creek: ‘It’s pure dynamic, everything is superb; the best Ramones album ever recorded and this is very important because I think that not many bands of the new rock will go on after the first work’. Dave Mars, Rolling Stone: ‘The best American R ‘n’ R record and maybe the funniest rock album ever done’. A curiosity: recently the Queers, a Californian punk group that loves Ramones, remade Rocket To Russia from start to finish, virtually identically from cover to song order. With this album the so called ‘historical trilogy’ of Ramones ended.
The band closed 1977 in triumphant mood with a memorable concert at London’s Rainbow on the 31 st of December. The gig was recorded on the double album It’s Alive, surely one of the greatest live records ever published. The group opened the new year with a gig at the Palladium in New York on the 7 th January, 1978. In spite of enormous success a New York Times critic wasn’t impressed at all by the band that he defined ‘A joke people get tired of very fast’. Even if Ramones achieved great success on the road, their engagements were always very cheap and the group’s earning were spent on new equipment. Each member’s salary was 125$ a week, although Dee Dee’s heroin habit cost him 100$ a day! And Dee Dee wasn’t the only one with problems, going on tour was very hard and Tommy started to worry about this.
Tommy: ‘I was having a lot of fun, I liked making records and feeling that we improved in each of them, but I became paranoic during our tours. I like making albums so I decided only to make records and to quit the life on the road’. Do You Wanna Dance? After recording It’s Alive, Tommy quit his role as drummer to become co-agent with Ed Stasium for the group’s new album. They auditioned a lot of people to replace Tommy and they choose Marc Bell (consequently nicknamed Marky Ramone).
Johnny: ‘we knew Marky because he was the drummer of the Void oids and we thought he was too jazzy and was wasting in that group. We didn’t want to steal the drummer from another band, but he was much better with us’.
Marky: ‘When the Ramones first album came out, all the bands of CBGB’s were envious. They really were a step above the others: Blondie was a group with too many influences on the sixties, Talking Heads were too intellectual, they read too many books. Instead the Ramones were New York City. Every group I played with looked like Ramones, when I heard their first record I knew it was the beginning of something new, I never heard anything like that. Dee Dee was the one that asked me to join the group’. As the new drummer Marky had just three weeks in which learn all the songs and become confident with their live repertoires.
After only three rehearsals he learned thirty-one old songs and four new ones. Road To Ruin On the 31 st of March 1978 they started recording the new Road To Ruin, which took two months of work and unexpectedly had acoustic openings and a cover of Sonny Cher/ The comments about it were discordant. Scott Is ler on Trouser Press talked about ‘A blasphemous record that signs Ramones’ fall’, while Robert Christ gau of the Village Voice talked about ‘A mature work, which in no doubt is their Sgt. Pepper’. The album was welcomed by the audience and the first thousand copies were pressed on yellow vinyl. In 1978 Ramones performed 154 concerts and in December they started the filming of the very low-budget movie Rock ‘N’ Roll High School (for their participation they earned 5000 dollars, not much to live on, so they had to perform concerts on the days when they weren’t filming).
The Ramones had the chance to become the better acquainted with the man who mixed their two songs on the soundtrack and who would produce their next album. He was one of the most important producers and one of the most controversial characters of R ‘n’ R. His name was Phil Spector, who worked with the Beatles. Two different ways of making rock music came together: on the one or tow days, on the other a guy who might need up two days for just one song. A lot of people had some doubts about this association, Seymur Stein remembers: ‘I think the idea came from Joey and me. During the recordings a lot of sad things happened: the death of Johnny’s dad, the tensions created by Phil Spector’s excessive pedantry that made Johnny record the intro of a song 23 times! Just think that before this we fought if we didn’t finish seven songs in one evening!’ Now, after six years of back breaking activity, the group was at a crossroads.
They were neither rock stars not beginners. One day Spector asked them: ‘Do you want to do a good album or great album?’ . Joey remembers: ‘Phil quit loafing to produce us. It was two walls of sound that crash and sooner or lather the sparks would come out, but working with him really was exciting’. They were always some problems during the recording sessions, because the contrasting personalities always collided and because it took a long time and a lot of money to build this wall of sound. By the end it had cost 200.
000 dollars (the highest price budget for a Ramones record) and had taken six months to mix. ‘When it was ready Phil wanted to mix it again’ – remembers Dee Dee who always fought with Spector because of his heroin habit. Phil Spector had his problems as well (too much alcohol).
This Ramones discovered because of the frequent fury attacks and mood changes.
There was someone who benefited from all this, Joey, who learned to sing much better thanks to Phil’s lessons. Dee Dee had a drastic opinion of his relationship with Spector: ‘The worst shit I ever wrote was in that album’. Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio The new End Of The Century album was released in 1980 and with no doubt is one of the Ramones’ most controversial. The cutting guitars are still there, Spector shines them up a little and gives them a new sound.
Johnny: ‘The album was a strange production for a group as ours but Phil never tried to change us. He produced our songs the way he produces, but we shouldn’t have done Baby, I Love You’. Anyhow it turned out to be their most successful and Time magazine considered it the best album of the year. It brought a lot of changes, not just on the musical side. Linda Stein and Danny Fields were out of the entourage and the relationship between the members (Johnny and Joey) were kind of tense. It began with Tommy abandoning the group he considered his creation.
His departure left a big gap and according to Dee Dee, in an interview, Johnny immediately tried to fill it by becoming the leader. The others didn’t agree: Dee Dee said that Johnny did things for the group that the others weren’t able to do, such as taking care of the business and the contracts with the managers. Dee Dee: ‘No one ever made us earn as much as Johnny’. The bass player admitted that the guitarist had also helped him during this numerous weak and self destructive periods. In the meantime the band’s contract with Danny Fields had ended after five years.
Danny: ‘The Ramones had great success playing live, but the effort of having an album in Top Tem exhausted them, so they started looking for a new manager. I can’t blame them for it, five years of activity playing all over the world, they were famous but their songs were never heard on the radio’. Pleasant Dreams Times were changing and a new generation of bands were being created: of the old punks groups the Clash were at the top thanks to London Calling and a lot of new wave bands were taking their place. Ramones’ identity crisis continued also in 1981, the year of Pleasant Dreams, a very uncertain work produced in the wrong way. The main thread and the powerful melody that characterized Ramones till then was missing. All the songs were considered poor.
The media reaction was terrible and the group resented it very much, especially Johnny. He worried about the direction taken by the band, and was afraid Ramones would loose the respect which they had won with so much effort, from the fans and critics. The following Subterranean Jungle album was a small step in the right direction, produced by Richie Cordell and his partner Glen Kolotkin. The recording sessions started October 1982 and the record was released the next year, marking the change of the drummer. Marky was sacked because of his alcohol abuse and was replaced by Richie Reinhardt (aka Richie Ramone).
Marky: ‘I was so stoned that I didn’t play anymore! We were in Cleveland, I stayed up all night and the next morning I was completely far out. That evening we had to play at Virginia Beach but I started drinking and got drunk. I had go to the airport, but I lost the plane and although I wanted to rent a plane they wouldn’t let me go on because I was too drunk’. The new drummer, so different from Marky in style, was fitting in quite well until an article appeared reading ‘Punk star fights for life’. It reported a fight at four in the morning between Johnny Ramone and Seth Macklin, member of the punk band Sub Zero Construction. They started fighting because of Johnny’s girlfriend who was drunk.
Johny offered help, and was subsequently kicked in the head. He had to be taken to hospital and was given very delicate brain surgery. The guy that hit him was immediately busted and Johnny’s recovery meant that the group had to stop for two months until he returned with his head completely shaved (the reason why for a long time he wore a baseball cap).
This accident was the incentive that reunited the band and spurred them on to record new songs. Joey: ‘With Subterranean Jungle we were us again. After End Of The Century we couldn’t stand the sight of each other anymore’.
For the first time they took their girls on tour, but this created more than a few problems. Johnny: ‘Girls never get along with each others and always try to give advice to their men: why don’t you do this? Why don’t you do that? It’s all your manager’s fault! I’d rather ask advice of a fan than of a girlfriend. Yoko Ono is more than enough!’ From this moment on, not only Johnny, but also Joey had a main role in the Ramones’ return. Subterranean Jungle wasn’t the one of the main albums of the group’s history but it was a direct comparison between the ‘historic’ punk of the Ramones and the hardcore that in that period was creating great groups.
The band also wanted to win over the new generations and so they hardened the sound putting the Sixties melodies of the previous records to one side and producing the new songs as if they were live. Too Tough To Die The album was very angry, especially Time Has Come Today and the great Psycho Therapy (covered by Skid Row), one of their best songs. The popularity of this record, especially the audience and not so much from the media, brought them to a new positive phase. This new creative wave and the renewed confidence brought the group back to the Media sound Studios to record Too Tough To Die.
For this, Ramones choose Tommy Erdelyi and Ed Stasium as producers since they had already worked for them in their best production. With this album Ramones returned to their punk roots, although there were some pop digressions such as Howling At The Moon and Chasing The Night, recorded with Busta Jones. Too Tough To Die really is a modern pink masterpiece and once more it showed that no one is better than Ramones at playing three chords. For the first time in their lyrics there was some kind of political commitment that demonstrated growth in a new direction. Jim Faber of the New York Daily News wrote that Too Tough To Die was the most emotional Ramones album since Road To Ruin, and one of the best records of the year. 1984 also marked the group’s return to play gigs in Europe.
They did so with great exhibitions coming to an apex with an historical concert in Amsterdam in front of 250. 000 people! The Ramones new interest in politics was confirmed by the song Bonzo Goes To Bitburg, written by Dee Dee, Joey and Jean Beauvoir (member of the punk band Plasmatic’s, whose leader was the porno star Wendy Williams).
It was a protest against a ceremony held by Ronald Reagan in a cemetery where Nazi soldiers were buried. Little Steven, Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist, was so struck by the violence of its lyrics, he asked Joey to join Bruce and other musicians to help release a record for Artists Against Apartheid. Joey also had a small part in the single Sun City giving him the opportunity to play with such legends as Bob Dylan and Miles Davis. Animal Boy Bonzo Goes To Bitburg created some conflicts between the Ramones themselves; in fact, although they were an apolitical group, some of them were very close to Reagan’s conservation.
Bonzo… was also the opening song for the new album, Animal Boy, confirming how positive these days were for them. Joey: ‘We finally were out of the tunnel. In 1983/84 we touched the bottom and I was thinking of quitting or of recording a solo album’. Animal Boy was released in May 1986 and it received great praise, winning the New York Music Award for best single (Bonzo… ) and as best album.
The other single (Something To Believe In) received a nomination for best video clip. It was only surpassed by Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer. The video starts with a guy called Ken Seno mar (it’s Ramones spelled backwards), who explains what ‘Ramones Aid’ is. To advertise Animal Boy the band started yet another tour, which was to be one of their best ever.
They also had the time to write new songs, which the band considered to be great. Joey: ‘It’s inferior only to Rocket To Russia’. Things weren’t exactly that way. The album is qualitatively inferior to Animal Boy, it’s superb only in parts, such as I Wanna Live and Bop ‘Til You Drop.
For the first time the producer was a young man, Daniel Rey, engaged by Johnny to save money! Daniel: ‘Instead of spending 20. 000 dollars for a famous producer, they thought about me! That’s the was Johnny is: attentive to cost and to fan’s expectations’. Halfway To Sanity Halfway To Sanity was released in 1987. In the meantime the latest member, Richie couldn’t stand Johnny’s anymore and left the band.
This decision was purely economical. Joey considered Richie more than just only Ramones drummer, hence he was very upset. His replacement was Clem Burke (ex-Blondie), who became Elvis Ramone. He lasted only two weeks after which he left because of personality differences.
Johnny: ‘Two concerts with Clem were a disaster. He did his best but he didn’t have the right style. He was too soft and didn’t play the way we needed’. All of sudden Marky returned. He had left the group in 1983 but since then he had quit drinking. Johnny: ‘We fixed a rehearsal with Marky to see how he was doing: after one song it was exactly as the Ramones should be.
I called Joey and told him Marky was fantastic. Less than one week later Marky was back with us. We didn’t have to cancel any gig’. Monte Melnick: ‘People think that anybody can play drums with the Ramones: when Clem joined the band he asked Johnny how many beats he should play, the answer was: fast and faster. After two weeks he was out of the group’. In May 1988 a Greatest Hits album was issued with the name Ramones mania.
Then followed the single Funky Man recorded by Dee Dee as a soloist. Brain Drain Dee Dee’s album Standing In The Spotlight was released during the same period. The bass player changed his look and also music: greased hair instead of his famous haircut, earrings and gold chains instead of the leather jacket, rap instead of punk. Daniel Rey helped him in this new artistic dimension remembering: ‘Dee Dee had been in the hospital for two weeks to detoxicate himself. When he got out he was Dee Dee King the rapper and I helped him write part of the album but I didn’t feel at ease: he was one of the Ramones and he couldn’t be playing that stuff’. It received quite a warm welcome from the media, Joey said: ‘I don’t think that Dee Dee’s disorientation for rap will have a great effect on us: he likes it, but he is also very involved in writing the songs of our new album’.
This album was Brain Drain and was produced by Bill Laswell, known for his work with Material and P. I. L. It was released during a tour in Italy and in conjunction with the issue of Stephen’s King movie Pet Sema tary for which the Ramones wrote the main song of the soundtrack, one of their most melodic tracks confirming the write capabilities of Daniel Rey and Dee Dee Ramone. Brain Drain is a very likeable album and Bill Laswell produced it with his usual skill, although it was light years away from the Ramones sound.
At the end of the tour a real bolt out of the blue happened: Dee Dee decided to leave the Ramones! Johnny: ‘Dee Dee left his wife Vera a month earlier and this could have been one of the reasons, a period of real mental instability, but I never thought he would quit. Do you think he did for his solo career? It doesn’t seem like he had a lot of benefit’s from it, or am I wrong?’ Vera: ‘It’s been a lot of things combined, he quit drinking and using drugs five years ago, but was always on tour with Ramones or writing and recording songs. He wrote every song more to satisfy Johnny than himself, he started sober more for me and the others for himself’. Joey: ‘Hew went to the psychoanalyst everyday, but then he quit his recovery program, that is medicine, he thought that everyone else was crazy and he didn’t listen to anyone because he thought that they were enemies trying to harm him’. Dee Dee’s loss had dramatic effects. He wasn’t just the bass player, but the song writer, the engine of the live shows and the pillar of the Ramones.
Dee Dee: ‘I couldn’t take it anymore, I was exasperated’. Life was made up only of tours and records, the Ramones were rich but they never spent money for a day off, and I was tired of Johnny treating me as if he was my mother’. New kid on town The auditions for a new bass player began and a lot of people attended. There was a bit of everything: Dee Dee clones, many fans who have never played before, orientals, women, african. After thousands auditions Johnny’s attention fell on a guy called Christopher Joseph Ward.
He introduced himself saying: ‘Hi, I’m C. J. I play the bass and I have three idols: Paul Simon on of the Clash, Sid Vicious and, obviously, Dee Dee. I’m ready!’ . According to Johnny, C.
J. had a great musical disposition and very importantly he didn’t drink or use drugs. Another important factor was his military experience in the marines that Johnny interpreted as a sign of discipline and character. So, after many days of rehearsals, C. J. left his job and became C.
J. Ramone. As it happened Dee Dee didn’t leave the group completely, he continued to write songs for them. C. J.’s concert debut was on the fourth September 1989. Johnny: ‘C.
J. was terrible. There was so much excitement he forgot all the rehearsals. He moved too much although I told him to do it only when he felt at ease.
And he cuts his finger playing Blitzkrieg Bop with too much enthusiasm’. C. J. : ‘It was my baptism of fire.
I went on stage completely out of my mind and making a million mistakes. In the meantime I was covered with a spit and the audience was throwing everything on me’. C. J.’s entry was like a breath of fresh air. Everybody was infected by his vitality and happiness. Monte Melnick: ‘He smiled more during one gig than all the others had during their whole career’.
For Johnny, C. J. was the missing piece of the puzzle. A journalist defined him as a mix between Mel Gibson and Sid Vicious.
C. J. never forgot Dee Dee who in turn, more than once praised his successor writing songs for the group that would be sung by the new bass player. Vera: ‘If C. J.
hadn’t worked out it would have been the end for the group, but he made it. He wasn’t Dee Dee, but Dee Dee wasn’t C. Jay’. N the meantime Dee Dee get busted with twenty-five other people during a police anti-drug raid, he was released after a few days and was thrown out of a night club after taking drugs in the bathroom.
Following this, in an interview Joey wished Dee Dee all the best but says: ‘At this point no one wants him back in the Ramones’. Later on, him ex-wife talked about him as reborn Dee Dee, a person that had recovered and had formed the new band Chinese Dragons. Daniel Rey: ‘He’s the best person I ever worked with’. In 1990 the band’s first video was released with the name Lifestyles of The Ramones. It was made up of all their videos (until Brain Drain) (including the full version of Psycho Therapy) and an interview made by George Seminar a.
In June 1990 All The Stuff (And More) Vol. 1 was released and in July 1991 the second volume was, with all the four first albums and some bonus tracks. Motorhead (another historic group) dedicated the song R. A. M.
O. N. E. S. to the four rockers. Joey called this the greatest honor: ‘The same as having John Lennon writing a song for us’.
Another demonstration of the great respect shown by the new groups was when Soundgarden asked Johnny to introduce them during a memorable evening at the Madison Square Garden with Guns ‘N’ Roses. Loco Live was the second live album by the band, recorded during the 1991 European Tour. It was released in tow versions, completely different both graphically and in concert: the US edition is more appreciable for its cut Carbona Not Glue. It was also the band’s last record for Sire. The new songs were recorded on the Radioactive label on which the new Mondo Bizarro was released in 1992. Dee Dee took part in this project writing Poison Heart, Main Man and Strength To Endure which was written for Marianne Faithfull and sung by C.
J. Vernon Reid of Living Colour and Flo and Eddy (historic american duo of the Sixties) also had a part in it. Mondo Bizarro is considered a turning point in the group’s career, certainly for the great excitement contained on the album, and which it generated. Besides Dee Dee’s composition Joey wrote seven songs, his presence in the band seemed more eloquent thanks to a new found health: he had quitting drinking and taking drugs (cocaine).
Marky also seemed to have contributed more to this album: ‘I really knew him as a real person only after his second time in the group, before I only associated him as a drummer’.
Johnny also helped him a lot: ‘I learned a lot from him and now we like being together’. The new manager Andrea Starr underlines this extremely positive status: ‘Now there’s a general excitement that wasn’t there before. They ” re closer together, it’s like a marriage between four people, C. J. was the last one to arrive and he immediately grasped Dee Dee’s essence, he signs like him and looks a little like him’. ! Adios Amigos! In 1992 the magazine Spin defined Ramones as one of the seven best bands ever, even Bob Gucci one speaking of their arrival said: ‘Ramones invented punk, although Sex Pistols catalyzed this image.
They are to punk what Grateful Dead are to the Sixties’. In spite of these awards and testimonials of respect, they were beginning to realize a project that they had been thinking about for a long time, but had never been able to do: a cover album! The choice fell on the strangest trust (Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, etc. ), who in the past remade other’s songs so well that they seemed like their own, hence this new idea didn’t seem particularly authentic with the choice of 1993’s Acid Eaters. As usual Ramones started a worldwide tour. In the meantime, rumors started to spread: shortly the band split, but not before the last studio album! Adios Amigos! . It opens with an extraordinary cover of Tom Wait’s I Don’t Want To Grow Up together with some other great songs.
The result caused their previous critics to pale with regret. The splitting up was announced by Johnny after an historic concert in Rio de Janeiro opened by Pearl Jam: ‘Our breaking up is official at 99, 9%’. In the meantime the nth Live is released, containing their version of Motorhead’s R. A. M. O.
N. E. S. At this stage people prepared themselves for a world without the Ramones: Johnny definitely hung his guitars on the wall (he said he sold them all), Joey is having fun as DJ on a radio station, Marky has a new garage band (Marky Ramone and The Intruders) with whom he released an album for an independent label, even C. J. has a group of his own with whom released albums too.
At the end of it all Johnny said: ‘We are only middle class guys from Queens, it’s the same as being from Nebraska or Oklahoma. There’s no difference’. After the end, on November 1997, it was released We ” re Outta Here, as box containing an excellent live album and a video containing interviews in the US, and as a CD and video separately in Europe. ￼ ￼ ￼.