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Along for the Ride
The Ramones Anthology. . .
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Johnny, Tommy, Joey and Dee Dee

jon langford

Audio

LISTEN to the piece about Jon Langford’s trip to NYC in search of the ghost of Joey Ramone that aired on Weekend All Things Considered.

LISTEN to an NPR 100 piece about the Ramones' song "I Wanna Be Sedated".

Text

SEE the shrine to Joey Ramone laid out in front of one of his favorite venues, CBGBs, and check out a photo album of the Ramones’ career.

They were four guys from Queens looking to be as big as the Bay City Rollers. Oh well. The Ramones (whose name was once an alias of Paul McCartney’s) would have to settle for launching American punk rock instead.

Their first album, released in 1976 and entitled Ramones, had 14 songs in 29 minutes. Whew. Many of those songs -- Blitzkrieg Bop, All I Want is to Sniff Some Glue, Beat on the Brat with a Baseball Bat - would become punk rock classics and the anthems of a generation. At about the same time other New York bands - The New York Dolls, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Television - were trying to fold the glitter of glam rock and the fury of Iggy Pop into the cool of the Velvet Underground. What the Ramones did was add in the Beach Boys. No, really: they took the sound of fluffy early 60s pop, pared down the lyrics and revved up the speed. And while they were first taken as a joke - and they did intend to be funny - they meant it, too. They were equal parts bored, bemused and angry. Their political affiliations were neither right nor left. They were literal outsiders (they were from Queens after all) and their music was meant for everyone left out of disco, "progressive" rock and the other bloated behemoths of early 70s mainstream American music.

The Ramones made 14 studio albums and toured constantly for 20 years. There were personnel changes: bassist and main songwriter Dee Dee left in 1989, Marky came in 1977, left in 1983, and came back again in 1987. They played their final concert in 1996 as part of the Lollapalooza tour. And while the Ramones were traveling in a van, The Sex Pistols and The Clash were riding the Ramones' wave of innovation to bigger venues and bigger bucks. But the Ramones never stopped feeling like pioneers. And everyone agrees that when Joey died something truly remarkable about American music died with him. You can trace their influence from Husker Du and Gang of Four through to Green Day, The Offspring and into the Riot Grrrl movement and bands like Sleater-Kinney. Oh yeah, and there’s Nirvana and, well, The Mekons. So Joey lives on, as do the Ramones and their music, their attitudes, and their accoutrements. Marky’s trademark Chuck Taylor sneakers are now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From Queens to Cleveland in 3 easy decades. Hey Ho. . . . . . .