The Ramones were one of the original inventors (if not THE inventors) of punk rock. Their sound was fast, with hooky tunes and flat vocals that were delinquent and brilliant at the same time. The Ramones influenced thousands of bands with simple yet complex guitar chords, creating a new sound that many would try to copy and few would succeed at.
Onstage, the band were a cohesive machine gun shooting music out into their fans. Despite backstage drama that over the years increased with levels of petty fighting (and actual fighting) between the band mates the sound on the stage never changed. The look also didn’t change. Sure, there were the albums where the band ditched the leather jackets, but that was only for jean jackets. Not really a level of change worth noting.
The band made their bones at the music club, CBGB’s, in New York City with quick rapid-fire songs “Beat on the Brat” and “Blitzkrieg Bop.” After their debut self-titled album in 1976, the band toured constantly. Eventually the band even hit the charts with “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” and their tip-of-a-hat to surfer music, “Rockaway Beach.” In 1979 they starred in a movie titled Rock n’ Roll High School and continued making albums (and touring into the late nineties).
Despite never having major commercial success, in 2002 the Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The four original members, vocalist Joey Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone, bassist Dee Dee Ramone and drummer Tommy Ramone have all died. Still the band is cited as a major influence of up and coming rock bands both in sound and attitude, and let’s face it, both were very important to the Ramones. Here are twenty facts you may not know about the one of the founding bands of punk rock music.
20. They Weren’t Actually Brothers
Despite being known as rock n’ roll brothers, the Ramones were not related. They are all from Queens, the original members all from the Forest Hills neighborhood, but that’s it. There’s no blood, just a common love of leather jackets, fast guitars and rebellion. Joey started on drums before turning to vocals and Tommy was the manager before taking over the drums. All of this was prior to their debut and didn’t change for many, many years to follow.
19. The Pete Townshend Cameo
Pete Townshend, from The Who, sings vocals for “Substitute”, the song from the 1993 album titled Acid Eaters. The song is originally by The Who and is covered by the Ramones so I guess you could call this a cameo by Townshend. There was also a video for the song that was banned by MTV, back when MTV played videos and had a rule about banning at least one video a week.
18. The Maria Bartiromo Obsession
During the late nineties Joey Ramone was a stock broker who was obsessed with CNBC talk show host Maria Bartiromo. He even wrote a song about her, but never got a chance to sing it. What’s shocking to me is that he didn’t write a song named “Day Trader”, that would have been something. No word on whether Joey Ramone was a successful trader or not; however, sitting around drinking coffee with Sex Pistols in the background while making trades definitely gives a unique definition of a day trader.
17. Dee Dee King?
Dee Dee quit the Ramones and released a rap album named Standing in the Spotlight. Did he release it under Dee Dee Ramone? No, he went incognito with the name Dee Dee King. No one knew it was Dee Dee Ramone (note: everyone knew). This is not a fact or fiction list, this actually happened. Was it any good? No, of course it wasn’t. If you are a Ramone you are not suppose to make a rap album. It’s possible (after a listen) he was a little before his time, after all Blondie was known to rap some and Beastie Boys started off a punk band that ended up having a pretty nice run as rappers. I guess if you were a Ramone you just weren’t suppose to rap. That was a rule.
16. The Band is Named After A Beatle
The Ramones name comes from the name “Paul Ramon,” a fake named used by the Beatle, Paul McCartney, when he would check into his hotel or try and hide from the press. This is fairly well known, but what isn’t known is how McCartney felt about it. I’m sure he was somewhat flattered and always brought it up in conversation when he and John Lennon spoke. “So John, what new punk band is named after your fake name? Oh, no one! Well, let me tell you about these lads from New York City…”
15. Jeff Starship and Sniper
Before the Ramones, Joey Ramone was known as Jeff Starship for the glam (some would say glamorous) band Sniper from 1972-1974. I’m not sure what I love more, the name Jeff Starship or band named Sniper. Gun to my head I’m going with Jeff Starship because that could lead seamlessly into a world of adult cinema if that’s what you want (always good to keep your options open). Both Jeff Starship and the band name Sniper have unlimited possibilities, damn Joey for leaving that band for the Ramones!
14. Embracing Pop Punk
Joey Ramone said he was a big fan of several new bands, including Green Day and The Offspring. Interesting enough is how these bands seemed to always be in a “pop punk” rivalry. Green Day pulled influence from both the Ramones and The Clash while The Offspring was clearly influenced by California surfer rock as well as the Ramones. No word on whether Joey Ramone was a fan of Blink 182 or if he threw up in his mouth each time someone asked.
13. Dark Times for Dee Dee
The Manhattan street corner of 53rd and 3rd in the seventies was known as a place to find male prostitutes. The song “53rd and 3rd” is supposedly about Dee Dee Ramone, working as a “male hustler” on the corner to pay for his heroin habit. I’m all for autobiographical songs and meaning, but I’m not so sure this would be a chapter I would offer up. “Hey guys, remember the time I sold my body for smack?”
12. First Punk Hall of Famers
In 2002, the Ramones were voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before fellow punk bands The Sex Pistols and The Clash were voted in. An important fact to use if ever caught in a “who is the founder of punk music” discussion. Does being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame validate a career? Of course not, nor does it make the Ramones more punk than the other bands, but it’s always good to be first! Also, it’s always good to win music arguments in pubs, it makes you look superior to everyone around (note: it does not.)
11. They Toured. A Lot.
The Ramones played 2,263 concerts in over 22 years. They never stopped touring. When they did take a break crazy things would happen (like Joey Ramone becoming a day trader). Clearly this was a band meant to be on the road, all the time. Burning question – did the leather jackets ever get dry cleaned? I think we all know the answer to that one.
10. Joey Ramone’s Disease
Joey Ramone was gangly looking and often appeared slumped over the microphone stand. He actually suffered from Marfan syndrome, which is dealing with elongated limbs. This explains part of why he looked the way he did. It’s quite possible Joey Ramone would have killed it in pick-up basketball games had he ever taken off his leather jacket, and you know, played basketball.
9. The Boss Wrote A Song for Them
Bruce Springsteen wrote “Hungry Heart” for the Ramones. So many questions…was Bruce sitting on the end of a pick-up truck tailgate penning this diddy with the Ramones in mind? Was Bruce a big Ramones fan? I like to think not! Listening to this song now it’s hard to imagine this being a Ramones song and really feels like a Springsteen song. That’s not a compliment to Bruce. It’s a lucky break by the Ramones.
8. The Inspiration Behind “Blitzkrieg Bop”
The song “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones was based on Bay City Rollers tune “Saturday Night.” The song has somewhat dark neo-Nazi lyrics, but is offset by its genius upbeat sound. All Joey Ramone and company wanted to create a song with a cool chant that fit into the “bubblegum” rock and roll genre. Check and check.
7. The Spector Confrontation
Phil Spector is a weird dude and the fact that he once pulled a gun on the Ramones probably doesn’t even make the 20 Shocking Facts of Phil Spector list. I mean his hair alone probably has a more shocking top 20 than anyone else. The Ramones never really seemed like a group of guys you’d need to pull a gun on. Just threaten to turn on the lights or open the shade, my guess is they would have just scurried away toward the darkest corner they could find.
Marky Ramone produces and sells his own marinara sauce. I guess this is for those Anthony Bourdain (huge Ramones fan, dedicated his memoir Kitchen Confidential to the band) types who like to cook Italian while wearing leather. It’s advertised as a pasta sauce with so much flavor, it beats the rest. Clever, sort of. Also, 10 percent of all proceeds go to autism research.
5. The One-Note Solo
One of the band’s more popular songs, “I Wanna Be Sedated” features a guitar solo by Johnny Ramone. The guitar solo is the same note 65 times in a row. Now that’s pretty punk rock and risky. The song is about air travel which makes sense because I think we all want to be sedated trying to navigate through an airport, onto a plane and then deplaning. Hell, just thinking about the whole process has me craving a Valium.
4. The 2nd Greatest Band of All Time
In a list of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time, Spin magazine voted the Ramones second, only behind the Beatles. Apparently someone pretty high up was a big fan of the band. Beating out the Rolling Stones alone sounds like highway robbery to me. I hope they at least got some free stock tips and marinara sauce for this.
3. Beat Those Brats
The song “Beat On the Brat” is about all of the spoiled brats they grew up with in Queens. It’s probably a good thing they rarely ventured into Manhattan or they would have made the song “Beat On The Rich Cultured and Privileged Brat in the Penthouse” which has too many adjectives and would not have been as good.
2. Their First Album Was Dirt Cheap
The Ramones’ self-titled debut album only cost $6,400 and was recorded in a week. Next time some band goes into the studio and drops $10 million someone should bring this up. Unless it’s Axl Rose, then it’s totally worth it. (Note: not even close to worth it.) The Ramones debut may be the only instance of a record that influenced more bands than cost in dollars.
1. Johnny and Joey’s Hatred
In a classic lead singer/guitar player rivalry it was known that Joey Ramone and Johnny Ramone hated each other. They shared drastically different political views (Joey the liberal, Johnny the conservative) and Johnny ended up marrying Joey’s ex-girlfriend. Taking a step back and looking at this, yeah, it was probably the whole “marrying the ex-girlfriend” thing that caused more hate than politics.