New York's CBGBs was a unique Rock venue. Just off Houston St. in the Bowery on the Lower East Side, the club was easy to spot. On humid summer nights people were standing outside sipping beer from cans sunk in wet brown paper bags.
CBGBs was long and narrow. On your right was a bar that nearly ran the length of the place. On your left was seating, booths and tables, where early adapters were positioned. As you moved toward the stage, you'd find a space along the bar and order a Rolling Rock. The place was dark and dank. Perfect for Rock.
By comparison, the Hard Rock Cafes of the world looked like churches. It was in this environment the Ramones made a name for themselves back in '74.
Paul McCartney often used the name "Ramone" when he wanted to move about without the Beatle baggage. Nice piece of Beatle trivia. So Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy, with no family connection, adopted the Ramone surname.
As Rock was taking itself too seriously (happens every now and then and should be avoided at all costs), the Ramones came along with two minute high-energy blasts. "Teenage Lobotomy," "Rockaway Beach" and probably their best known song "I Want To Be Sedated" brought some needed moshing fun.
"Bonzo Goes To Bitburg" was their read on then President Reagan's Germany trip that included a tribute to war dead at a cemetery that also contained graves of Nazi S.S. officers. The Bonzo reference came from a Reagan film about a chimp going to college. Yeah, that's right. And you thought the plots to Elvis movies were bad.
The Ramones, never a huge commercial success, they did contribute the title track to Stephen King's "Pet Sematary" film. King was a long-time fan.
Personnel changes hit the band when drummer Tommy left. He was replaced by Marky who in turn was replaced by Richie in '84. When Dee Dee left in '92, fan C J, entered the picture.
Leader Joey passed away in '01, Dee Dee fell victim to a drug overdose in '02, shortly after the group's induction into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, and Johnny died of cancer in '04.
'14 had both good and bad news. First, the good news. The Ramones' self-titled debut album was certified gold by the RIAA, signifying sales of over 500,000 units. Released in '76, the landmark Punk album initially peaked at #111 on the Billboard 200. It only took 38 years to go gold!
But just a few weeks later, Tommy, born in Budapest, Hungary, died of cancer at age 65. He immigrated to the U.S. with his family in '57 and was originally a guitarist. Heard on the Ramones first three albums, Tommy had been last surviving original member.
Speaking of which, the intersection of 67th Avenue and 110th Street in New York was officially renamed The Ramones Way in '16 as a memorial to the legendary Punk band. The intersection is in front of Forest Hills High School, where the band's original lineup met.
1977 Leave Home
1977 Rocket To Russia
1978 Road To Ruin
1980 End Of The Century
1981 Pleasant Dreams
1983 Subterranean Jungle
1984 Too Tough To Die
1986 Animal Boy
1987 Halfway To Sanity
1989 Brain Drain
1992 Mondo Bizarro
1993 Acid Eaters
1995 Adios Amigos!
The Ramones cut a powerful Punk swath in the mid 70s. The thing didn't run out of gas until the early 80s. A phenomenal run considering what they were doing.
Not brilliant songwriters or exceptional musicians, the Ramones' genius rose from their brutal disregard of convention, especially musical ones. Sloppy and amateur sounding, the Ramones drove their best work with an undeniable passion.
Eventually, the Ramones burned out, suckered the audience into multiple farewell tours and tossed out second rate efforts. Whadda expect? You can't stay young and rebellious forever.
After "Pleasant Dreams," recorded in '81, the prolific Ramones stalled, almost permanently. Less driven and less interesting, it got no better in the '90s.