Joey Ramone 1951 - 2001
Dee Dee Ramone 1952 - 2002
Johnny Ramone 1948 - 2004
I still remember that fateful performance on Countdown in 1980. Four tough looking gang members came out fronted by an odd looking stick insect, all wearing ripped jeans and leather jackets and proceeded to explode into one of the greatest pop songs ever written, which at the time was played at a frightening speed but still kept it's melody and sense of perfect timing. Something the Ramones excelled at throughout their career.
The Ramones retired in 1996 after 22 years of touring in a van, playing an average of one show every three nights for that entire period, as well as recording 21 albums along the way. To say the Ramones were a hard working band is an understatement and after they "retired" (which still sounds odd for a Ramone) they all went in different directions to enjoy their well deserved time off. Johnny moved to California with his wife Linda, as far away from Joey as was possible while still staying in his beloved USA. Joey and Johnny hadn't talked for years but they believed the Ramones were bigger than their problems. Joey recorded a solo album and died of cancer in 2001. Dee Dee kept writing songs for the Ramones and playing music after his departure from the band in 1989, and died of an overdose in 2002. Johnny died in his home on September 15, 2004.
We've now lost three original Ramones in the last four years. After Joey died I was in a state of shock and sadness after realizing that we were now living in a post Ramones world. A world where people will never get to see the Ramones live, which is where they excelled unequaled in this world. For those of you who experienced it, they will know it was rock and roll delivered straight from God......
It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't get the Ramones what they mean to a fan. Johnny Ramone is the reason I play guitar. He's the reason I make guitars. He's one of the reasons I love music. Joey and Dee Dee are the other.
There are bands that have a time and a place but at the same time never had their time and place. Bands that just take everything good about music and meld it into the perfect, ultimate feeling that great rock and roll is supposed to be. This was the Ramones. They could only have come from New York, but they sang about sun, surf and girls (and sniffing glue). They never fitted into any musical movement and as such were dumped in with the punks, even though they were as catchy as most mainstream pop. For their time they are only equaled for sheer primitive musical genius as the Saints from Brisbane who also exploded in retaliation against pompous, overblown, self indulgent coke heads who had taken all the fun out of music in favour of showing their six fret stretches, minor sevenths and 20 minute drum solos.
I saw the Ramones live three times and no band comes close to the sheer exhilaration and joy of loud music played fast for the fans. The Cramps come closer than most. Fugazi are the most impressive display of controlled noise and Ian MacKaye deserves much more respect in this world, both musically and socially, but nothing again will ever be like the Ramones live.
The ferocity and speed at which Johnny Ramone played his Mosrite can not be understated. He set down the blueprint for all that was to follow. All that was worth listening to anyway.
They took the Beatles, the Who, The Beach Boys, the Sonics and reintroduced the world to guitar pop, played without classical training and overblown histrionics. It was stripped back to the essentials and played with love and honor. This was the Ramones legacy to the world. They left with us the inspiration to play rock n roll and mean it.
Rock n roll isn't fair. No-one ever said it was. If it was the Ramones would have been as big as U2 or the Rolling Stones. The Stooges would be recognized as the greatest rock band ever and Billie Holiday would be called the first real punk. But hopefully Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee could all look back while lying in their deathbeds and say "I was a F#@kin' Ramone and I changed the world" !
I'm gonna smash my radio !!
Gabba Gabba Hey.