It’s not hyperbolic to say that punk’s initial wave began with Ramones. Clad in black leather jackets and blue jeans, the Queens, NY, band threw out snotty slogans (“Gabba gabba hey!”) while putting a tougher, faster spin on melodic ’60s garage rock and the airtight arrangements of girl-group pop. Formed in 1974, the faux-fraternal quartet—lead singer Joey Ramone, bassist Dee Dee Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone, and drummer Tommy Ramone, all adopting a common last name—honed a ferocious live show as one of the house bands at the gritty New York City club CBGB. This led to a deal with Sire Records and a 1976 self-titled LP full of punk pogos (“Blitzkrieg Bop”) and gender-flipped ’50s rock homages (“I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”). Although Ramones sometimes drew on their own lives for inspiration—“I Wanna Be Sedated” was inspired by road ennui—they found a groove writing songs about teenage outcasts and adolescent angst; “We’re a Happy Family” describes a turbulent home life, while other tunes star vivid rebels named Sheena, Suzy, and Judy. As the years progressed, Ramones embraced a broader sonic palette (the metallic “Psycho Therapy,” a surf-rockin’ “California Sun”) and deeper lyrics: 1980’s “Do You Remember Rock ’N’ Roll Radio?” name-checked early musical icons Alan Freed and Jerry Lee Lewis yet resisted the urge toward misty-eyed nostalgia, while 1981’s “The KKK Took My Baby Away” touched on racism’s pernicious undercurrents. Ramones continued touring and recording steadily into the ’90s but broke up after taking a victory lap on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour. Although the band never reunited—all four original Ramones have since died—their legacy is secure. Not only can their world-famous Arturo Vega-designed logo be seen on T-shirts worn by grandmas and toddlers alike, but their short, sharp songs and intimidating look remain a modern punk blueprint.
ORIGINNew York, NY [Queens]