Dee Dee Ramone, The Bass player and one of the founding members of one of the worlds most influential Punk Rock Band The Ramones , sadly passed away on 5th June 2012. The original members of the band met in and around the middle-class neighborhood of Forest Hills in the New York City borough of Queens. John Cummings and Thomas Erdelyi had both been in a high-school garage band from 1965 to 1967 known as the Tangerine Puppets. They became friends with Douglas Colvin, who had recently moved to the area from Germany, and Jeffrey Hyman, who was the initial lead singer of the glam rock band Sniper, founded in 1972.
The Ramones began taking shape in early 1974 when Cummings and Colvin invited Hyman to join them in a band. Colvin wanted to play guitar and sing, Cummings would also play guitar and Hyman would play drums. The lineup was to be completed with their friend Richie Stern on bass. However, after only a few rehearsals it became clear that Richie Stern could not play bass, so in addition to singing, Colvin switched from guitar to bass and Cummings became the only guitarist. Colvin was the first to adopt the name “Ramone”, calling himself Dee Dee Ramotne. He was inspired by Paul McCartney’s use of the pseudonym Paul Ramon during his Silver Beetles days.Dee Dee convinced the other members to take on the name and came up with the idea of calling the band the Ramones. Hyman and Cummings became Joey and Johnny Ramone, respectively.
A friend of the band, Monte A. Melnick (later their tour manager), helped to arrange rehearsal time for them at Manhattan’s Performance Studios, where he worked. Johnny’s former bandmate Erdelyi was set to become their manager. Soon after the band was formed, Dee Dee realized that he could not sing and play his bass guitar simultaneously; with Erdelyi’s encouragement, Joey became the band’s new lead singer. Dee Dee would continue, however, to count off each song’s tempo with his signature rapid-fire shout of “1-2-3-4!” Joey soon similarly realized that he could not sing and play drums simultaneously and left the position of drummer. While auditioning prospective replacements, Erdelyi would often take to the drums and demonstrate how to play the songs. It became apparent that he was able to perform the group’s music better than anyone else, and he joined the band as Tommy Ramone.
The Ramones played before an audience for the first time on March 30, 1974, at Performance Studios. The songs they played were very fast and very short; most clocked in at under two minutes. Around this time, a new music scene was emerging in New York centered on two clubs in downtown Manhattan—Max’s Kansas City and CBGB where They swiftly becaming regulars, playing there seventy-four times by the end of the year and garnering considerable attention for their performances—which averaged about seventeen minutes from beginning to end. The group was signed to a recording contract in late 1975 by Seymour Stein of Sire Records. After they were seen by Sire A&R man Craig Leon. he brought the band to the attention of the label. Stein’s wife, Linda Stein, saw the band play at Mothers; she would later co-manage them along with Danny Fields. By this time, the Ramones were recognized as leaders of the new scene that was increasingly being referred to as “punk”. The group’s unusual frontman had a lot to do with their impact. Dee Dee explained, “All the other singers [in New York] were copying David Johansen [of the New York Dolls], who was copying Mick Jagger… But Joey was unique, totally unique.”
The Ramones recorded their debut album, Ramones, in April 1976. Of the fourteen songs on the album, the longest, “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement”, barely surpassed two and a half minutes. While the songwriting credits were shared by the entire band, Dee Dee was the primary writer. The Ramones album was released in April. The now iconic front cover photograph of the band was taken by Roberta Bayley, a photographer for Punk magazine. Punk, which was largely responsible for codifying the term for the scene emerging around CBGB, ran a cover story on the Ramones in its third issue, the same month as the record’s release.
The Ramones’ debut LP was greeted by rock critics with glowing reviews”. In Rolling Stone, Paul Nelson described it as “constructed almost entirely of rhythm tracks of an exhilarating intensity rock & roll has not experienced since its earliest days.” Characterizing the band as “authentic American primitives whose work has to be heard to be understood”, he declared, “It is time popular music followed the other arts in honoring its primitives. Newsday’s Wayne Robbins simply anointed the Ramones as “the best young rock ‘n’ roll band in the known universe.”
Despite Positive reviews Ramones was not a commercial success, reaching only number 111 on the Billboard album chart. The two singles issued from the album, “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”, failed to chart. At the band’s first major performance outside of New York, a June date in Youngstown, Ohio, members of Cleveland punk legends Frankenstein aka the Dead Boys were present and struck up a friendship with the band. It wasn’t until they made a brief tour of England that they began to see the fruits of their labor; a performance at the Roundhouse in London on July 4, 1976, second-billed to the Flamin’ Groovies, organized by Linda Stein, was a resounding success.T-Rex leader Marc Bolan was in attendance at the Roundhouse show and was invited on stage. Their Roundhouse appearance and a club date the following night—where the band met members of the Sex Pistols and the Clash—helped galvanize the burgeoning UK punk rock scene. The Flamin’ Groovies/Ramones double bill was successfully reprised at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles the following month, fueling the punk scene there as well. The Ramones were becoming an increasingly popular live act—a Toronto performance in September energized yet another growing punk scene.
Their next two albums, Leave Home and Rocket to Russia, were released in 1977. Both were produced by Tommy and Tony Bongiovi, the second cousin of Jon Bon Jovi. Leave Home met with even less chart success than Ramones, though it did include “Pinhead”, which became one of the band’s signature songs with its chanted refrain of “Gabba gabba hey!” Leave Home also included a fast-paced cover of the oldie “California Sun”, written by Henry Glover & Morris Levy, and originally recorded by Joe Jones, though the Ramones based their version on the remake by the Rivieras. Rocket to Russia was the band’s highest-charting album to date, reaching number 49 on the Billboard 200. In Rolling Stone, critic Dave Marsh called it “the best American rock & roll of the year”.The album also featured the first Ramones singles to enter the Billboard charts “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”. And The follow-up single, “Rockaway Beach”. In 1977 the Ramones recorded It’s Alive, a live concert double album, at the Rainbow Theatre, London, released 1979 (the title Refers to the 1974 horror film of the same name).
Tommy, left the band in early 1978, but continued as the Ramones’ record producer under his birth name of Erdelyi. His position as drummer was filled by Marc Bell, who had been a member of the early 1970s hard rock band Dust, Wayne County and the Backstreet Boys, and the pioneering punk group Richard Hell & the Voidoids. Bell became Marky Ramone. Later that year, the band released their fourth studio album, and first with Marky, Road to Ruin. The album, co-produced by Tommy with Ed Stasium, included some new sounds such as acoustic guitar, several ballads, and the band’s first two recorded songs longer than three minutes. It failed to reach the Billboard Top 100. However, “I Wanna Be Sedated”, which appeared both on the album and as a single, would become one of the band’s best-known songs. The artwork on the album’s cover was done by Punk magazine cofounder John Holmstrom.
After the band’s movie debut in Roger Corman’s Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979), renowned producer Phil Spector became interested in the Ramones and produced their 1980 album End of the Century. During the recording sessions in Los Angeles, Spector held Johnny at gunpoint, forcing him to repeatedly play a riff. Though it was to be the highest-charting album in the band’s history—reaching number 44 in the United States and number 14 in Great Britain—Johnny made clear that he favored the band’s more aggressive punk material: “End of the Century was just watered-down Ramones. It’s not the real Ramones.” This stance was also conveyed by the title and track selection of the compilation album Johnny later oversaw, Loud, Fast Ramones: Their Toughest Hits. Despite these reservations, Johnny did concede that some of Spector’s work with the band had merit, saying “It really worked when he got to a slower song like ‘Danny Says’—the production really worked tremendously. ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio’ is really good. For the harder stuff, it didn’t work as well.” The string-laden Ronettes cover “Baby, I Love You” released as a single, became the band’s biggest hit in Great Britain, reaching number 8 on the charts.
Pleasant Dreams, the band’s sixth album, was produced by Graham Gouldman of 10cc, and released in 1981. It continued the trend established by End of the Century, taking the band further from the raw punk sound of its early records to a more heavy metal sound. The next album Subterranean Jungle, produced by Ritchie Cordell and Glen Kolotkin, was released in 1983 this contained junky ’60s pop adjusted for current tastes”, at a slightly slower tempo. Billy Rogers, who had performed with Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, played drums on the album’s second single, a cover of the Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today”, becoming the only song showing three different drummers: Rogers on recording, Marky on album credits and Richie on video clip. Subterranean Jungle peaked at number 83 in the United States—it would be the last album by the band to crack the Billboard Top 100. In 2002, Rhino Records released a new version of it with seven bonus tracks.
In total The Ramones performed 2,263 concerts, touring virtually nonstop for 22 years until 1996, when after a tour with the Lollapalooza music festival, the band played a farewell concert and disbanded. Sadly Little more than eight years after the breakup, the band’s three founding members—lead singer Joey Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone, had died while bassist Dee Dee Ramone sadly passed away in 2002. The Ramones are often cited as the first punk rock group, and despite achieving only limited commercial success, the band was a major influence on the punk rock movement both in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Their only record with enough U.S. sales to be certified gold was the compilation album Ramones Mania. However, recognition of the band’s importance built over the years, and they are now cited in many assessments of all-time great rock music, such as the Rolling Stone list of the 50 Greatest Artists of All Time and VH1′s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. In 2002, the Ramones were ranked the second-greatest band of all time by Spin magazine, trailing only The Beatles. On March 18, 2002, the Ramones—including the three founders and drummers Tommy and Marky Ramone—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2011, the group was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.