By 1975, rock music had become a parody of itself. The Beatles were split up, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison were dead. A lot of the great bands from the 60’s were still playing (The Who, the Stones, The Band and the Grateful Dead spring to mind) but most of the vitality was gone from the form. Popular culture had moved on to disco and lite rock acts like Seals & Crofts and England Dan & John Ford Coley. Little kids like my sister and me were listening to the Partridge Family, the Bay City Rollers, Wings and Leif Garrett. Concert goers were thrilling to the theatrics of KISS. Intellectual types were swooning to pompous art rock bands like Spirit, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Some of it was fun, a little of it was artistic, none of it was rock n’ roll.
…as four geeks from Queens reminded us when they turned their amps up to 20 and belted out blistering four-chord, triple-speed two-minute rock anthems like Blitzkrieg Bop and I Wanna Be Sedated. They were the Ramones. They invented punk (a label they despised) and in the process revived true rock music, as defined by volume, simplicity and schlong. They never hit pay dirt in the music industry, never got to be a household name, never made any real money. But only the Beatles were more influential, and that’s not just my opinion. They were The Band That Saved Rock before Nirvana came along and did it again in 1991.
Everyone in the band had a fictitious name, which is to say they all assumed the surname “Ramone”, one of Paul McCartney’s aliases. Over a particularly bad three-year stretch at the turn of the millennium we lost three of them: Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny, my personal favorite Ramone for a long list of reasons. Tommy, the original drummer, died over the weekend. Tommy Ramone was only with the band for the first four years, but he established the seminal Ramones beat (ably imitated by his replacement, Marky). His death, how can I put it, is a real bummer. Nothing to do now but put on the It’s Alive at the Rainbow and raise a glass of the good stuff. ONE TWO THREE FOUR!!!