The Ramones were a band that formed in New York City in 1974. There were four original members and while they weren’t related at all, they decided to take the last name of Ramone. They didn’t get along that great, in fact two of them didn’t speak to each other for two years while they were touring. They didn’t write the deepest frilly lyrics or have the most amazing technical ability – but they did one thing very well. They played their butts off and came up with good, quality music.
Sure – they wrote lyrics at times that made you scratch your head:
She had a very bad affair
With some cat from Hiroshima
She turned into a head of lettuce
She eats Thorazine in her farina
Or how about this:
She went away for the holidays
Said she’s going to L.A.
But she never got there
She never got there
She never got there, they say
The KKK took my baby away
They took her away
Away from me
That was their charm! So yes, you can scoff at them at times for their childish lyrics or rhythmic guitar banging, but if you sat me down in a big comfy chair, shoved a pair of headphones at me and gave me the choice of listening to the Ramones or any one of your ‘song-writing artists’ – I would take the Ramones every single time. Have any of your artists been named the 2nd best rock and roll band EVER by Spin magazine? Nope – but the Ramones have. Other than the Beatles, they were the most influential band ever. The Ramones were able to mix a hard driving beat with a 60’s vibe to create a sound that had never been heard before.
The funny thing is that when they were putting out all of their great music, very few people cared. They’re kind of like the Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton of rock bands. They were all critically lambasted while they were in their primes, but now Reagan somehow has aircraft carriers and airports named after him and he’s some sort of a legend now. Same way with the Ramones.
So why this on and on about the Ramones? Their last surviving founding member – Tommy – died this week. The Ramones were my constant go-to for all of the 80’s and 90’s. I listened to them every chance I could and as my parents and my brother could attest, I listened to them loud. They got me through high school and were the proverbial ‘soundtrack of my youth’. I honestly owe them a lot, including their look – and yes, I looked a little bit like this during my high school years:
So to see the last one of them pass away this week is an eye-opener. Their main singer and writer – Joey – was the first to go in 2001 at the age of 49 from lymphoma. He had a street named after him in New York City that is still the most-stolen road sign in all of the city. Joey did a lot of good work for charities and cancer causes before he passed away. But he left us one thing that we Ramones-heads (or whatever we’re called) will be eternally grateful for – a bunch of partial songs. Those partial songs were all put together by his friends in 2010 and put out as a posthumous album. The below song ‘Waiting for that Railroad’ was on it. It is the perfect ending to a perfect band, and one that I will miss tremendously.