“It’s the end, the end of the Seventies/It’s the end, the end of the century…”
Ugh. This one stings.
I was never a Ramones fanatic, but you don’t have to be to appreciate what they did, which was not (as you’ll hear today) “something totally new and unheard of” — it was just the opposite: stubbornly, almost singlehandedly, steering rock back around to its spare, 3-chord, 2-minute, unserious roots, in the era of 20 minute drum solos and double albums about devils and elves.
And this story from one month ago is actually a more fitting obit:
It’s been a long time coming.
The debut album by punk band The Ramones–creatively titled Ramones–has finally gone gold, with over 500,000 copies sold since its release in 1976.
The Recording Industry of America certified the album’s gold status on April 30, almost exactly 38 years after its debut. The slow progress may be thanks to the album’s lack of commercial success in the 1970s. It peaked at 111 on the U.S. Billboard 200.
Since then, however, the album has been labeled the most influential punk record by Spin magazine and was inducted into the Library of Congress in 2013 alongside Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Janis Joplin’s Cheap Thrills.
The Ramones arrived in London on July 4, 1976, like the outbreak of a virus. They had just released their debut album on Sire Records and were being managed by Danny Fields. Despite a few supporters in New York’s music press, the Ramones were broke and going nowhere. Imagine their delight flying into London and performing to an enthusiastic crowd of three thousand at the prestigious Round House.
Just before the show, Clash members Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon climbed through a broken window backstage and hung out with the Ramones in their dressing room. John Lydon charmed his way in through the stage door and joined this prophetic assembly. With other nobodies watching from the crowd, including members of what would become Stranglers and the Damned, if there was a seminal moment when punk was born, this was it — symbolically, on Independence Day, in London.
From the Guardian:
And that’s it; they’re all gone. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and now Tommy. Even “the fifth Ramone”, Arturo Vega, is no longer with us. It seems so unfair: not only did the Ramones never achieve the commercial rewards to match their staggering influence upon the trajectory of rock’n’roll, none of their principals was even granted a long life – at 62, Tommy was the Ramone who reached the greatest age.
He played drums on just three Ramones studio albums. The ones everyone, but everyone, knows are the three best: Ramones, Leave Home and Rocket to Russia. He’s on the first live album, too, It’s Alive, and between those four records you get the complete summation of why the Ramones mattered, and why they continue to matter. Over the 42 tracks on the three studio albums, lasting barely an hour and half, rock’n’roll is reduced to its undiluted essence: a count-in, a riff, a verse, a chorus. Very occasionally there’s a middle eight. But anything unnecessary – anything that distracts from the rush of excitement – is excised.
The aim of a Ramones song is not to make you admire the musicianship or the arrangement. It’s to take you from a standing start to fever pitch in 120 seconds or less. And at the back of it all, playing the unfussiest drum patterns you’ll ever hear – he made AC/DC’s Phil Rudd sound like Keith Moon – was Tommy Ramone.
He wasn’t meant to be the drummer. He was meant to be the manager. (…)
[T]he Ramones were the best group rock’n’roll ever produced. Not the most inventive, or the most versatile, or the most skilful, or the most emotionally resonant, or the most lyrical – but the best, because every time I put on one of the Ramones’ best records, I was reminded of how I felt the first time I heard it. And the first time I heard it, I felt: this is the sound I’ve been hearing in my head and here it is on 12 inches of black vinyl…