A love letter to the Ramones from Castlebar

1,2,3,4 Gabba Gabba Hey!! If you listen carefully to any Ramones song you will hear those first four numbers from drummer Tommy Ramone on the band’s debut record and for most part of any Ramones song.

Its  pretty much not a Ramones song if you don’t!!

All of the band members adopted pseudonyms ending with the surname “Ramone”, although none of them were biologically related. I thought they were as a kid at least i liked to believe this and for some reason i still do. 

I have been listening to the  Ramones for a very long time. The very first album i ever purchased from the band was an album called BRAIN DRAIN. The very first track i ever heard from the Ramones was a song called PET SEMATARY  from the Stephen King inspired book and film of the same name. 

The iconic cover for the  Ramones self-titled debut album, released in 1976.

I used to own the movie on an old VHS tape and at the end of the movie when the track played over the end credits i would rewind the tape over and over again just to hear that song. I wanted to know about more about the group. It was and still is one of my favourite Ramones track which is often requested when we stage our Halloween shows in Castlebar and played by local DJ MARC CONWAY. 

Shortly after overplaying Brain Drain and i decided to investigate further as to what these Ramones were all about and where they came from. 

So i will quickly give you a rundown as to how things stand today. 

Hailing from Forest Hills – a neighborhood of Queens, New York City (USA) – the original line-up consisted of singer Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman, born May 19th, 1951, died April 15th, 2001), guitarist Johnny Ramone, (John Cummings, born October 8th, 1948, died September 15th, 2004), bassist Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin, born September 18th, 1952, died June 5th, 2002) and drummer Tommy Ramone (Tom Erdelyi, born January 29, 1952, died July 11th, 2014).

I can safely say that the world is a lot worse off without having the Ramones in it!!

 

After Tommy left the band in 1978 he was replaced by Marky Ramone (Marc Bell). He then left the band in 1983 and was then replaced by Richie Ramone (Richard Beau). In 1987, he then left the band and Marky came back to take his place. In 1989, Dee Dee left and was replaced by C.J. Ramone  (Christopher John Ward). 

I was very lucky to have had the chance to meet and see Marky Ramone in Dublin almost ten years ago when his band called “Marky Ramone and the Intruders” played The Mezz bar in Temple Bar in Dublin almost fifteen years ago. 

In 2001, Joey Ramone passed away, a victim of Lymphoma. The following year, Dee Dee died in Los Angeles on June 5th, 2002. Johnny Ramone died in his sleep in Los Angeles on September 15th, 2004. Tommy died 10 years later, on July 11th, 2014, making him the last original member of the Ramones to die.

But lets take a look a at some of the highlights of the band’s carerr. 

The band were inducted into the Rock N Roll hall of fame by Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder (sporting a Mohawk) in 2002. You can check out the video for the induction below. 

 

The Ramones very first single off their debut album was the very catchy track “Blitzerg Bob”. One critic desciribed the song as The title of the Ramones’ debut single, writes critic Steve Huey, is a “nice encapsulation of the group’s aesthetic: simple, bouncy, pre-British Invasion rock & roll played at top volume and twice the speed. Blaring the same three chords for most of its duration, the song was rock at its most basic. 

 

At the time, 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 Ohi, 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 Rounhouse in London on July 4, 1976, second-billed to the Flmain Groovies, organized by Linda Stein, was a resounding success!! Check out some of the audio from that gig below,

 

 

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 album  of the year”.The album also featured the first Ramones single to enter the Billboard charts Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.

The follow-up single, “Rockaway Beach”, reached number 66—the highest any Ramones single would ever reach in America. On December 31, 1977 the Ramones recorded Its Alive , a live concert double album, at the Rainbow Theatre, London, which was released in April 1979 (the title is a reference to the 1974 horror movie of the same name.

 

 Later that year, the band released their fourth studio album, and first with Marky,called  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 theBillboard 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.

Road To Ruin was released in 1978

Through out the years the Ramones release a total of 22 albums while they were together. One of those albums “End of the Centuary” was produced by the wall of sound producer Phil Spector. 

It was to be the fifth album released by the band in 1980, it also featured another one of the band’s biggest hits “Baby I Love You” a cover from The Ronnettes. 

The album received lots of praise when it was released and did well. Although rumours had it that the band felt very uncomfortable working with Spector during this time. 

Bassist Dee Dee Ramone  wrote of Spector’s obsessive techniques: “Phil would sit in the control room and would listen through the headphones to Marky Ramone  hit one note on the drum, hour after hour, after hour, after hour.”  During the recording of “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”, Johnny was forced by Spector to repeat his part hundreds of times over the course of several hours. 

Early in the sessions, Spector reportedly held the Ramones hostage at gunpoint.

 

According to Dee Dee, when Spector took Joey away for a three-hour private meeting somewhere in his mansion where the album was to be recorded, Dee Dee went looking for them. “The next thing I knew Phil appeared at the top of the staircase, shouting and waving a pistol. 

Anyway for me the Ramones were and still are an institution. They were a great Rock N Roll band and kept their formula very simple and it worked! 

If i recommend any documentary about the band please check out, it is probably one of the most informative documentaries to date about the band. Now 1,2,3,4 Gabba Gabba Hey! 

As you were Castlebar…

 

 

 

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