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Buyer's Guide: Ramones

With just three chords and four leather jackets, the Ramones influenced everyone from the Sex Pistols to Metallica.

Frayed and ragged like well-worn sneakers, the bubblegum blitz of New York’s Ramones was as simple and blunt as a mallet. As with Motörhead and AC/DC, casual listeners will argue that if you’ve heard one Ramones album you’ve heard them all. Then again, if it ain’t broke, don’t turn into Metallica.

Born in 1974 at New York’s legendary CBGB dive, the musically unschooled and outwardly unwashed Ramones unwittingly scribbled the book of 1-2-3-4, do-it-yourself punk rock. Along the way they became slouched heroes to future generations of speed freaks, grunge geeks and pawn-shop guitar slashers with neither the dexterity nor the inclination to mimic Zeppelin or Clapton. 

Nicking their fictional surname from either Paul McCartney’s one-time pseudonym (Paul Ramone) or producer Phil Ramone (depending on who you ask), the founding fab four ‘brothers’ were singer Joey (aka Jeffrey Hyman), guitarist Johnny (John Cummings), bassist Dee Dee (Douglas Colvin) and drummer Tommy (Tommy Erdelyi). The Ramones managed only one gold album (1988’s double-vinyl ‘hits’ compilation Mania), but spent nearly 30 years inciting pogo pits and forging the loud-and-fast blueprint that would inspire everyone from the Sex Pistols to Guns N’ Roses. 

While Ramones concert tours stirred mania overseas, they barely registered a blip on their US homeland’s radar. 

Praise was hardly faint, however, as no less a bruiser than Lemmy himself wrote a namesake tribute to the Ramones for Motörhead’s 1916 album. On the more profitable and polite side of rock’s velvet rope, U2’s Bono and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder both continue to be outspoken in their utmost respect for the black-leather boppers. 

In 2002 the underdogs were finally thrown a bone when the Ramones were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. Sadly, 49-year-old Joey was denied his due, having died a year earlier in the grip of lymphoma. In the singer’s absence, Dee Dee gave a comedic induction speech, and was smacked dead himself just two months later when his life-long drug addiction proved more fatal than his ill-advised 1989 foray into rap music. In 2004 Johnny joined his doomed brothers thanks to prostate cancer. And in 2014 Tommy succumbed to cancer.

Today the surviving Ramones, including drummer Marky (Marc Bell), bassist CJ (Christopher Ward) and later drummer Richie (Richie Reinhardt), can enjoy their legacy of the good, the bad and the ugly.

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