While bands like the Clash and the Sex Pistols were at the height of popularity in the punk music scene coming out of Britain in the 1970s, the Ramones were one of the biggest punk rock influences to achieve widespread fame and influence in the United States. The original four members of the band were Tommy Ramone on drums, Dee Dee Ramone on bass, Johnny Ramone on guitar, and Joey Ramone on lead vocals. These were actually pseudonyms, as none of the band’s members were related to one another.
Bands like the Clash and the Sex Pistols were known for their outrageous style, which is still popular with some members of punk culture to this day. The Ramones, on the other hand, had a much more simplistic approach to fashion. They wore high-top sneakers along with T-shirts and ripped jeans, a simple look that managed to give them something of a quiet edge. Their music was similar to their fashion sense, simple yet notable. Their lyrics were uncomplicated, but their music was fast and energetic. In this way, they managed to put a punk rock spin on the same formula that had worked for musicians such as Alice Cooper and the Beach Boys.
Like many bands, their spirit was in their lead vocalist, Joey Ramone. He was largely associated with the band’s image, although drummer Tommy was the one who best understood the music industry and the fact that beats and rhythm were important to creating a well-produced track. Dee Dee was also important in this regard, with his steady basslines. Finally, there was Johnny, who took an approach to music and guitar playing that was somewhat disciplined in comparison to the approach taken by many other punk bands. Together, the Ramones formed a well-rounded mix of personalities that appealed to their fans.
When the band released songs like “Beat on the Brat,” “Blitzkrieg Pop,” and “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” they managed to take the reckless sense of rebellion popular among bands performing at the CBGB punk club in New York and perpetuate it in the mainstream. None of the songs charted well when they were first released, but they were popular with the band’s primary fan base. Over the years, they would release even more notable hits such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” “Pet Sematary” (written for the soundtrack of the Stephen King movie), and one of their most notable songs, “Pinhead.”
The band was active until 1996, with several incarnations as various members came and left. They arguably had fewer hit songs than they had studio albums in total, but they still influenced numerous other bands. They covered a few styles from standard punk rock to surf rock, and despite being from Queens they managed to influence the spread of California punk through their influence on bands such as Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. They also influenced genres such as horror punk (the Misfits), thrash metal (Metallica), and alternative rock music (Nirvana).
These are just a few of the many bands the Ramones influenced over the course of their career. Their commercial success was limited in comparison to that of some other bands operating at the same time, but money was not what made them truly successful. The true success of the Ramones can rather be gauged by the sheer number of later bands who would cite Joey Ramone and his cohorts as being among the primary inspirations behind their careers.
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