Ramones
Gabba Gabba Hey!

Joey Ramone - Vox - aka, Jeffrey Hyman
Dee Dee Ramone - Bass - aka, Douglas Colvin
Johnny Ramone - Gtr - aka, John Cummings
Tommy Ramone - Drums - aka, Tommy Erdelyi

Queens, NYC - 1974 - Hey, ho, let's go. Da Brudders were neighbours with a shared love of narcotics, alcohol & comics. Dee Dee, desperate to quit his smack habit, had served 90 days jailtime for his part in an armed robbery in Indiana before returning to NYC to hook up with fellow junk afficianado, Johnny. They elected to buy gtrs instead of gear & began bashing out rudimentary chords to pass the time. Joey was recruited, initially to play the drums, but eventually as the group's singer. Having served time in correctional facilities for the mentally ill, ex-hippy Joey shared Dee Dee & Johnny's love of The Stooges & sick humour. Drummer Tommy completed the line up, bringing enuff studio experience to mark him down as producer when the time to record came.

The Ramones were amongst the first of "the new groups" to play the Lower East Side venue, CBGB's. Early witnesses were shocked by the brevity of the band's material, audiences either laughed or became disciples. Their pinhead image was dressed in black biker leather, ripped jeans & sneakers - the classic punk look, still viable today.

The Ramones soon signed to Seymour Stein's Sire label & released their first single, "Blitzkrieg Bop" & their genre defining 1st lp, "The Ramones". 14 cuts in 28 minutes, a nuclear explosion between yr. ears with enuff tunes to ride the fallout. Songs about junkies, nutcases, beating children, glue sniffing & cretenism - there was no way of stopping the cretins from hopping. A shout of 1,2,3,4 was all it took to kick it all off again.

The first Ramones visit to Britain was largely responsible for inspiring the whole UK punk movement. The 1976 Roundhouse gig on US Independance Day featured members of most future UK punk bands in the audience. Paul Simenon was not the only one to pick up a gtr because of the Ramones.

Breaking into their own country proved a harder exercise for the band. The NYC scene was a drop in the Atlantic Ocean to the US rekkid buying public - England was learning faster than a Ramones tune. The second Ramones LP, "Leave Home", hit the ground running in 1977 & shifted units from day 1 in the UK. The band were regarded as godheads by their adoring English fans, everyone wanted to bang their heads along with Suzy.

1977 was a very busy year for the Ramones. Tour followed tour & the band lived out of suitcases & hotels. Their sound was slowly refining along the way; incredibly the band got faster, the gtrs got louder & the songs went from strength to strength. Two lp's in one year was a tall order for any group, but by the time The Ramones dropped "Rocket To Russia" they'd progressed to bubblegum punk prefection with the classic 45, "Rockaway Beach".

In late 77 Tommy took the descision to quit as the band's drummer to concentrate on production. The vacant drum stool was filled by Marky Ramone (Marc Bell - ex Richard Hell & The Voidoids) - Marky first appeared on 1978's yellow vinyl special, "Road To Ruin". The sleeve depicted the band as cartoon characters & the rekkid provided the most advanced vershun yet of da brudders sound. A live show at London's Rainbow Theatre on New Year's Eve 1977 was recorded for posterity & was eventually released as "It's Alive", a doulble lp set that captured The Ramones at their blistering best. It was a fitting document, a high point that would never be eclispsed, because in reality - the band were falling apart.

Although The Ramones were to continue recording & touring on & off for the next 18 years (finally giving up the ghost in 1995), line up changes & constant bickering gaurenteed that they never again created the amazing tension present on those first four lp's. Even being held at gun point by Phil Spector during the recording of 1980's "End Of The Century" could not improve what was fast becoming self parody. Punk was turning into post punk & new heroes were turning up on an almost weekly basis.

The Ramones have continued to influence many waves of punk rockers since, however. The excitement their music creates & their pedigree has never diminished - neither has their stature as one of the greatest bands in the history of rock & roll music. Ramones fans all over the world were united in grief on 15 April 2001 when Joey Ramone died of lymphatic cancer, aged 49. Gabba, gabba, we accept you, we accept you, one of us.

Jean Encoule


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