The Ramones—Johnny, Joey, Marky, and Dee Dee—in 1979. David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images
Douglas Colvin, John Cummings, Thomas Erdelyi, and Jeffrey Hyman aren’t famous names, but everyone in the world knows the Ramones. Dee Dee. Johnny. Tommy. Joey. These four men came together to change the face of music forever, ushering in an era of fast, no-frills songs that were punk before anything was called punk. Through personal trials and difficult upbringings, they played sardonic songs about sniffing glue, wanting to be sedated, and getting shock treatment. Here are 11 facts about the Ramones.
1. The Ramones got their name from Paul McCartney’s fake hotel check-in name.
There used to be a rumor that the punk band got their name by throwing a dart at a phone book, but the truth is far more romantic. Bassist Dee Dee Ramone was a huge Beatles fan and had heard that Paul McCartney would check into hotels as “Paul Ramon” during the early Silver Beatles days to score a sliver of anonymity. Dee Dee took “Ramone” as his nom du guerre and the punchy band name was born.
2. The Ramones rarely found success on the Billboard charts.
With their black leather jackets and scuffed jeans, the Ramones would never be mistaken for a novelty surf act, but it was the sunny “Rockaway Beach” from the 1977 album Rocket to Russia that made it higher than any other single they produced—all the way to No. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100. As for albums, 1980’s End of the Century was the band’s best, coming in at No. 44 on the Billboard 200. If you’re looking for more chart success, you won’t find much: Only four Ramones albums ever cracked the top 100, with some leaving the top 200 after less than a month on shelves.
3. The first Ramones show was exactly five years after Woodstock.
Sometimes history has a way of rhyming, and so it was that the Ramones took the stage at the legendary CBGB bar in New York’s East Village on August 16, 1974, to announce a stripped-down, ultra-noisy style on the fifth anniversary of Woodstock. Theirs was a rebuke of the free love sound as well as the corporate rock from major labels that dominated airwaves. They played around half a dozen songs and were done in about 17 minutes.
4. The Ramones logo showcased how “all-American” they were.
The iconic Ramones logo was crafted by artist Arturo Vega, an early friend of the band who let them practice in his loft space. “I saw them as the ultimate all-American band. To me, they reflected the American character in general—an almost childish innocent aggression,” Vega told The Guardian. So it’s no surprise that the logo is a riff on the presidential seal, complete with the eagle holding a baseball bat instead of arrows (owing to Johnny Ramone’s love of baseball), and the individual band members’ names encircling it in bold letters.
5. Dee Dee Ramone wrote “Pet Sematary” in Stephen King’s basement.
Author Stephen King and the Ramones were mutual admirers, so the horror icon invited the group to his house in Maine when they were touring through New England in the ’80s. They had dinner and marveled at King’s horror memorabilia collection, before Dee Dee went off by himself holding a copy of Pet Sematary (as Marky Ramone later remarked, that usually meant trouble). An hour later, he returned from King’s basement with the completed lyrics and melody for a song that was eventually used for the movie version of the book.
6. Dee Dee kept writing for the Ramones even after leaving the band.
Dee Dee was the creative engine for the Ramones, writing the lion’s share of their songs over the decades. He also suffered from mental illness and addiction, and he left the band after growing weary of touring. Despite quitting, though, he continued writing new material for their later albums like Mondo Bizarro and ¡Adios Amigos!, which was the group’s final studio recording. Dee Dee would later join the spin-off band, The Ramainz, alongside replacement/former Ramones members Marky and C.J.
7. Elvis Ramone only lasted two shows.
The band’s lineup shuffled enough for there to be a total of eight Ramones throughout the years. The shortest-lived was Elvis Ramone, a.k.a. Clem Burke, who was the longtime drummer for Blondie. He played two shows with the Ramones in 1987 after Richie Ramone (Richard Reinhardt) quit. Unfortunately for Elvis, he couldn’t keep up with the band’s breakneck pace and was soon replaced by the rehired Marky Ramone.
8. Phil Spector pulled a gun on them during a recording session.
In 1979, the band starred in the Roger Corman-produced musical comedy Rock & Roll High School, which came complete with a new single based on the movie. Both projects underperformed, leading the band’s label to pair them up with legendary producer Phil Spector for their next album, End of the Century, hoping that a more commercially successful sound would come of it. It was a disaster. Spector was a loose cannon, profoundly controlling, and pulled a gun on Dee Dee (though some versions say Johnny) when he tried to leave Spector’s house one night.
9. Johnny and Joey Ramone hated each other.
Guitarist Johnny Ramone and frontman Joey were the only Ramones to be a part of the band from the very beginning all the way to the bitter end—they also absolutely despised each other. According to Rolling Stone, they barely spoke during much of the group’s 22-year run and traveled the world together in virtual silence for decades. Johnny didn’t even visit Joey in the hospital while he was sick and refused to attend his funeral when he died in 2001, stating plainly that they weren’t friends and he wouldn’t have expected Joey at his funeral.
What came between the two? The age-old answer of love and politics: Joey was a liberal, Johnny was a conservative, but they found common ground by falling in love with the same woman, Linda Danielle. Linda and Johnny eventually married, and while the music survived the personal drama, the group died with Joey.
“[It] was never officially over until Joey died,” Johnny wrote in his autobiography. “There was no more Ramones without Joey. He was irreplaceable, no matter what a pain he was. He was actually the most difficult person I have ever dealt with in my life. I didn’t want him to die, though. I wouldn’t have wanted to play without him no matter how I felt about him; we were in it together…”
10. The Ramones played 2263 shows in 22 years.
That’s essentially one show every three days for more than two decades. They were a jobbing band, putting in the work and wearing the mantle of punk rock’s progenitors despite personal infighting, lineup changes, and the unforgiving gaze of America’s rock critics.
11. The Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame their first year of eligibility.
In an act of vindication that mirrored their true contribution and influence on the soundscape, the Ramones crashed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 18, 2002, in their very first year of eligibility. Johnny, Tommy, Marky, and Dee Dee accepted the honor as the major living members, with a fifth award on the podium for Joey, who died the previous April. Johnny blessed George W. Bush. Dee Dee thanked himself.
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