Bopped 'till he dropped
Story by Tony BonyataThe Stooges and The New York Dolls may have preceded them, but make no mistake The Ramones were the first true punk band. Without their crude, fast music it's quite possible that the whole British punk movement of the mid-to-late '70s would have never happened. They were a direct influence on The Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash, who would later become the poster bands for the then burgeoning punk scene.
On Easter Sunday lead vocalist and founding band member Joey Ramone, born Jeffrey Hyman, died at the age of 49 of lymphatic cancer leaving a legacy of punk behind him.
Hailing from Queens, New York, Hyman, on vocals and drums, teamed up in 1974 with guitarist John Cummings (aka Johnny Ramone) and bassist Douglas Colvin (aka Dee Dee Ramone.) When Tom Erdelyi (aka Tommy Ramone) traded in his managing post for a seat behind the skins, the cast was set for punk rock. In an all-for-one and one-for-all mentality all four bandmembers changed their last names to Ramone, and as a tribute to the rock 'n' roll greasers of the '50s they adopted tattered jeans and black leather bilker jackets as their stage dress.
Their furious three-chord progressions, filled with '50s sensibilities, call-to-arms anthems and inane, yet often hysterical lyrics ("The KKK Took My Baby Away," "I Wanna Be Sedated," "Teenage Lobotomy" and "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue") found an immediate audience with bored kids and social outsiders.
From their explosive sets (which saw them bombarding their audience with literally dozens of short, fast songs in under half an hour) at New York's now-infamous CBGB's nightclub to their debut album which was recorded for under $7,000 and managed to eek it's way onto the charts (peaking at #111 on Billboard), Joey and his motley band of musical misfits were causing a stir in not only their hometown, but overseas as well.
When they hit British soil for the first time they were immediately embraced by a new group of kids that, like their New York brethren, were bored with the stagnation and bloated pretentiousness that had infected rock music.
The Ramones proved, more than anything else, that you didn't have to be a technically proficient musician or have a songbird's voice to make entertaining music. They gave hope, and still do, to every two-bit band hammering out their own version of three-chord slop in the back of the garage.
As one of rock music's true originator's, he will be sorely missed. But, in life, Joey Ramone followed his own advice and 'bopped 'till he dropped.'
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