Every once in a while an artist or band comes out that helps define a generation, that’s exactly what happened with the Ramones and their self-titled debut album. Forty years ago today, The Ramones released their self-titled debut record via Sire Records and their appearance onto the punk rock scene was just a start as part of a movement that ignited around the world. The Ramones are punk rock staples, almost as the forefathers of the genre. (Not discounting other incredible artists, like the Stooges, in the genre but the Ramones are definitely at the helm of it.)
After forming in 1974, they emerged as the leading act for iconic New York City venue CBGB. Their memorable sound is filled with thrashing drums, rowdy guitars, and thunderous bass paired with Joey Ramone’s lyrics that vary from misplacement, lust, angst, humor, relationships, and so on. Many songs measuring at well over 160 beats per minute.
Their appearance was in punk rock solidarity; each member shared the same name (Ramone), each wore matching leather jackets/striped shirts/or t-shirts, and each member had similar haircuts. Their look was vital to their sound by rebelling by sticking it to “the man.” They were considered crude, unruly, and nihilistic by those who didn’t “get” their music but all in all, they just didn’t give a fuck. That kind of unpretentious attitude is the type of stuff that speaks to outcasts who are misunderstood and/or alienated. They relate to the music and its lyrics. (Or perhaps you fall in love with the band and its members, we all remember Rock N Roll High School and the ultimate fangirl, Riff Randell.) That kind of no-nonsense attitude is how their debut album was recorded in just seven days for a minute sum of $6,400.
The Ramones were vastly ahead of its time. Despite receiving mixed reviews and selling poorly upon its release, Sire stuck to their guns and supported the band. Which led to the band gaining a big following overseas, especially England. Helping influence bands like the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and many more.
It took Ramones 38 years to obtain gold status by the RIAA, selling half a million copies in the United States as of April 30th, 2014 (their 1994 Ramones’ Mania compilation went gold in 1994) but it remains as the only studio album in the bands catalog, to go gold.
Sadly Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny Ramone all passed away before they could be awarded their gold plaques. Tommy Ramone lived long enough to see Ramones sell half a million copies domestically but passed away three months later.
Four decades later, Ramones remains as a brilliant debut from front to back. Proving that you don’t need to be fancy or showy with music, you can use simple and relatable lyrics paired with an incredibly electric sound to leave a dynamic lasting impression. If you need proof as to why the Ramones are so crucial to music (why?) just look into the new exhibit in Queens.