Artist and Musician Biographies


In this video, "I Wanna Be Sedated" - The Ramones.

With stringy shoulder length black hair, motorcycle jackets, ripped tee-shirts and peg-legged faded jeans; Joey, Johnny, Dee-Dee, and Tommy Ramone, four suburban kids from New Jersey, may have looked more like biker zombies from an 1950's horror movie than a promising musical group. The group was formed in 1974, in the Forest Hills section of Queens, New York, after finishing high school. The band was a trio consisting of Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman, 1952-2001), a vocalist and drummer; Johnny Ramone (John Cummings, 1951-2004) on the guitar; and Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin, 1952-2002), a bass player; and Tommy Ramone (Tom Erdelyi, 1952), who acted as the group's manager.

But in 1975, it was the Ramones who willfully severed Punk's early ties to avant-garde and experimental music by stripping it down to an almost primitive simplicity. Combining intensely elemental garage rock with a 1950's bubble gum pop sensibility, the Ramones wrote original songs that were all very short (most around 2 minutes) and delivered at a blistering pace; the drums banging with machine-like precision. Considered by many to be the original punk band, the Ramones were a regular attraction in the early days of CBGB's.

They defined the New York Punk sound with streamlined, fast songs, no solos and a wall of guitar chords. These were borrowed from early rock and roll as well as California surf melodies, and the thrash attitude was borrowed from the gender bending underground glam rock group, the New York Dolls.

Their irresistibly inane, and comically rebellious lyrics ("I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You", "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement", "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue") were just as minimal as their music with some songs repeating as few as three lines. However, the simplicity of the Ramones is exactly what caught the attention of Sire record's Seymour Stein, who signed them as the second punk band to have a record contract, following Patti Smith.

Although the 1976 release of the Ramones self-titled debut album was far from successful in the United States, when it hit the streets in London its impact was monumental. Since no English bands were creating music of this variety and simplicity, the "Ramones" became the album that many fledgling English musicians learned to play along to. Up to this point the New York punk scene had been far ahead of its London counterparts, but after the Ramones were introduced all of that was about to change.

Despite their ongoing influence, and genuine contribution to the beginning of Punk Rock, the Ramones had little commercial success. Their only top-ten British hit was a 1980 cover of the Ronettes' "Baby, I Love You", which also became their biggest American hit, ending up at number 44 on the charts.

Although the Ramones went through several personnel changes over the years, including the recycling of a few original members, Joey and Johnny were the only two who remained throughout. After 17 albums, all of which adhere to the original stripped down four-chord formula, (hey, why fix what isn't broken?) The Ramones announced the end with their 1997 final release "Were'Outta Here." Their influence has been enormous, and can be felt in groups as diverse as the Sex Pistols in the 1970's, Guns'N'Roses in the 1980's, and Beastie Boys in the 1990's. Sadly, Joey died from lymphoma in 2001 at the age of 49, and Dee Dee died of an apparent drug overdose at the age of 50 in 2002. Johnny died from prostrate cancer in 2004.

Page author: A.E.