views updated


Ramones, The , N.Y.C.’s leading proponents of punk rock in the mid-1970s. Membership : Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman), voc. (b. Forest Hills, N.Y., May 19, 1952); Johnny Ramone (John Cummings), gtr. (b. Long Island, N.Y., Oct. 8, 1951); Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin), bs. (b. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sept. 18, 1952); Tommy Ramone (Tom Erdelyi), drm. (b. Budapest, Hungary, Jan. 29, 1952). Later members include drummers Marky Ramone (Marc Bell) (b. N.Y.C., July 15, 1956); Richie Ramone (Richard Reinhardt, aka Richard Beau); C. J. Ramone (Christopher Joseph Ward), bs. (b. Long Island, N.Y., Oct. 8, 1965).

The Ramones proffered uncomplicated, furious rock featuring sarcastic, implacable, and wryly satirical lyrics that stood in staunch opposition to the overproduced and complacent contemporary musical styles—from progressive rock to disco to pop—then dominating popular music. Their first two albums, The Ramones and The Ramones Leave Home, became punk classics, and their headline engagements in London in July 1976 inspired a generation of young British musicians, including the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and dozens of other defiant, unconventional groups. However, while other punk groups either self-destructed, disappeared, or adopted more palatable musical textures and lyrical nuances to gain mainstream populariry, the Ramones remained stylistically intransigent and never attained more than a rabid cult following. Nonetheless, they persevered into the 1990s.

The Ramones formed in Forest Hills (Queens), N.Y., in August 1974 with high school dropouts Jeffrey Hyman, John Cummings, and Douglas Colvin. They debuted at N.Y.’s Performance Studio in March 1974; within two months, manager Tom Erdelyi joined on drums as Hyman switched to lead vocals. They began a residency at CBGB’s, one of N.Y.C.’s leading punk clubs (along with Max’s Kansas City), in August and became one of the city’s leading purveyors of frantic, unadorned, straight-ahead rock featuring vituperative, wryly satirical lyrics. Signed to Sire Records in November 1975, the Ramones’ debut album contained punk favorites such as “Beat on the Brat,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Judy Is a Punk,” and “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.” Touring exhaustively, the group soon recorded The Ramones Leave Home, which included “Pinhead,” “Commando,” the classic “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment,” and their first minor hit, “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.”

The Ramones conducted their first tour of Great Britain in 1976, and their July 4th debut at London’s Roadhouse caused a sensation that drew a number of musicians who would later form some of the country’s most outrageous and popular punk bands. Their third album in 18 months, Rocker to Russia, produced minor hits with “Rockaway Beach” and “Do You Wanna Dance” and contained “Cretin Hop,” “Teenage Lo-botomy,” and their first ballad, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.” Tommy Ramone left the group in May 1978 to pursue a career in production, to be replaced by former Richard Hell and the Voidoids drummer Marc Bell, who became Marky Ramone. The group’s next album, Road to Ruin, included the punk classic “I Wanna Be Sedated” as well as “I Just Want to Have Something to Do,” the love song “Questioningly,” and a cover of Sonny Bono’s “Needles and Pins,” a major hit for the Searchers in 1964.

In 1979 the Ramones appeared in the teenage movie Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and recorded End of the Century, their best-selling album, under legendary producer Phil Spector. The album featured “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” the endearing “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?,” and a remake of the Ronettes’ “Baby I Love You.” The group then recorded Pleasant Dreams under songwriter-producer Graham Gouldman, an erstwhile member of lOcc, which included “The KKK Took My Baby Away” and “We Want the Airwaves.”

Despite the waning of punk’s popularity in the 1980s, the Ramones continued to record for Sire Records. However, Marc Bell left in 1983, to be replaced by Richie Ramone (Richard Beau). Bell returned in 1988, but Dee Dee Ramone departed in 1989 to pursue a solo career as Dee Dee King and was replaced by C. J. Ramone (Chris Ward). None of the group’s 1980s albums sold particularly well, although they did record occasional gems such as “Psycho Therapy,” “Howling at the Moon,” “Animal Boy,” “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg),” “I Wanna Live,” and “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).” In 1990 the Ramones toured the world as part of the Escape from N.Y. tour with Debbie Harry and the Tom Tom Club. By 1992 the Ramones had switched to the MCA-distributed Radioactive label for Mondo Bizarro, which included “Censorshit,” “Cabbies on Crack,” and “The Job that Ate My Brain.” It was followed by an album of cover songs, Acid Eaters. In 1995 the band announced their retirement with the release of Adios Amigos, which features “I Don’t Want to Grow Up,” the ironic “Have a Nice Day,” and “Born to Die in Berlin.”


THE RAMONES : The R .(1976); The R. Leave Home (1977); Rocket to Russia (1977); Road to Ruin (1978); Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (soundtrack; 1979); End of the Century (1980); Pleasant Dreams (1981); Subterranean Jungle (1983); Too Tough to Die (1984); Animal Boy (1986); Halfway to Sanity (1987); R. Mania (1988); Brain Drain (1989); All the Stuff (and More), Vol. I (1990); All the Stuff (and More), Vol. II (1991); Loco Live (1992); Mondo Bizarro (1992); Acid Eaters (1993); Adios Amigos! (1995). DEE DEE KING : Standing in the Spotlight (1989).


J. Bessman, R.: An American Band (NX, 1993).

—Brock Helander