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The Ramones

Punk rock pioneers The Ramones blasted out of Queens in the mid-70s with a minimalist rock vision and two and a half minute songs which somehow captured the musical ideals of the emerging punk underclass. Their immediate success may have been due to the way they cut rock and roll down to the bare essentials of four chords, a simple melody, stupid yet stylized lyrics and rapidfire tempos. Their music seemed rooted in the early 60s, pre-Beatles era yet also sounded revolutionary despite their shortcomings as poets and political philosophers.

As miraculous as the absolute minimalism of their rock vision was, the fact that they perpetuated it for over two decades without straying significantly from that vision is even more remarkable. Thus, listing their recordings in any sort of chronological order is beside the point.

Produced by "wall of sound" architect Phil Spector, End of the Century (1980) featured "Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio?" and "Rock 'N' Roll High School" as well as a touching rendition of "Baby I Love You," which became their biggest UK hit. With Animal Boy (1986), produced by former Plasmatic Jean Beauvoir, the Ramones delved into more metallic territory. On into the 90s, Acid Eeaters was a tribute to their rock 'n' roll mentors, and Brain Drain (1989) featured the punk holiday classic "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)."

The Ramones, comprising Johnny Ramone (John Cummings), Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin) and Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman) made their debut at New York's Performance Studio in March 1974. Two months later, manager Tommy Ramone (Tommy Erdelyi) replaced Joey on drums, who then switched to vocals. The quartet later secured a residency at the renowned CBGB's club where they became one of the city's leading proponents of punk rock. The band's debut appearance in London in July 1976 influenced a generation of British punk musicians. 1977s Rocket To Russia was marginally less frenetic as the band's novelty appeal waned, although "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" gave them their first UK Top 30 hit. In 1978, they took a starring role in the trivial Rock 'n' Roll High School.

Richie Ramone (Richie Reinhardt) occupied the drum stool from 1983 to 1987 before the return of Marky. Dee Dee, meanwhile, had adopted the name Dee Dee King and left the band to pursue an ill-fated rap career.

A revitalized line-up - Joey, Johnny, Marky and new bass player C.J. toured successfully in 1990 alongside fellow CBGB's graduate Deborah Harry and Talking Heads offshoot Tom Tom Club. In 1992, they released Mondo Bizarro, and by 1995, there were rumors of a final split. As Johnny conceded: "I know that you have to deal with a life without applause, and I'm looking forward to trying it. A lot of musicians are addicted to it and won't get out.

They announced their final gig in August 1996, a tearful event at The Palace club in Hollywood (captured on the 1997 live album). Joey Ramone succumbed to lymphatic cancer in April 2001. The following year the Ramones were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

© 2004