Tuesday, July 15, 2014

7.15.14 Heroes of the Day: The Ramones

Bee-otch of the Day honors are awarded Monday through Thursday, Bee-otch of the Week is awarded Friday on Chuck69.com.



Name: The Ramones
Age: 40
Occupation: former punk rockers
Last Seen: in the great beyond
Awarded For: influencing modern rock for the better

When I was a young boy, I remember watching a promo on The Family Channel for Bonanza with my now-late grandfather.

The announcer said to join Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon for another rip-roaring adventure in the Ponderosa. Grandpa shook his head and uttered, "they're all dead".

Of course, Pernell Roberts was the last original member to die, but he left the show in 1965 because of a conflict between him and NBC. As a matter of fact, he died in 2010, nine years after Grandpa died.

It's sad when members of a rock band die. The Rolling Stones have lost Brian Jones, The Beatles are without John and George and a whole bunch of folks from Lynyrd Skynyrd died from their infamous 1977 plane crash and other causes afterward. Fortunately, there are some bands with their full lineups intact such as ZZTop. But now, it's a sad fact that now, all four original members of The Ramones have all left us.

On Saturday, Tommy Ramone, who drummed on the band's first three albums and helped to produce others died of bile duct cancer at age 65. Born in Hungry as Thomas Erdelyi, he moved to the US with his Holocaust-survivor parents at age four. In 1974, he and high school buddy John Cummings, Doug "Dee Dee" Colvin and Jeffery "Joey" Hyman, all banded together as The Ramones, named after Paul McCartney's alias "Phil Ramon" during his days as a member of The Quarrymen, a band that was a precursor to The Beatles. They played at several local New York clubs, namely CBGB where they caught the attention of several record labels. They signed with Sire Records in 1975 and a year later recorded their self-titled album.

To many, The Ramones were not the same commercial rock you'd hear on the album-oriented stations at the time. They had their own look with long, flowing black hair with leather jackets and sunglasses. Their songs were loud and short, most of them clocking under three minutes. Despite a cult following, The Ramones' first album wasn't a huge seller; it only went gold earlier this year. However, it did spawn two singles: "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and the punk anthem "Blitzkrieg Bop". Their next album Leave Home didn't produce anything major although they finally cracked the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978 with "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" off of their Rocket to Russia album. Their biggest pop hit was "Rockaway Beach", which charted at #66 in 1978. Their biggest success in America, however was 1989's "Pet Sematary" which went to #4 on the Modern Rock charts in 1989.

However, Tommy tired of touring and left the band in 1978. Marc Bell, aka Marky, took over the drumkit. Tommy remained as the band's producer for many more years. A year later, the band recorded "I Wanna Be Sedated", probably the band's most-famous song. The tune's popularity grew ten years later when a video was shot of the group sitting at a breakfast table with Joey lip-syncing the song.

Over the years, the band had their conflicts with Joey and Johnny's famous fighting over politics and race, plus Marky's alcoholism, which got him kicked out the band. It was some of the major reasons why the band broke apart in 1996. Three years later, just about everybody who was a Ramone appeared at the Virgin Megastore in New York one last time.

Sadly, the post-Ramones years were tough on the founding members. Joey died of lymphoma in 2001, Dee Dee died of a heroin overdose a year later and Johnny died two years later from prostate cancer. Now, with Tommy gone, all four founding Ramones are joining Lorne, Pernell, Michael, Dan and Grandpa in the great unknown.

True, the non-founding Ramones - Marky, Richie, Elvis (really Blondie's Clem Burke) and CJ - are still around, but sadly, that doesn't mean that we'll have a Ramones reunion soon. However, The Ramones will survive in one way, shape or form. Without them, rock radio wouldn't be what it is today. In the late 70's, rock fans could sit through overplayed arena rock or worse, disco, but The Ramones, along with other bands such as the Sex Pistols, Blondie, X, Talking Heads and others helped to make punk and new wave stand out above the rest. Imagine what today's rock bands would sound like if The Ramones didn't exist. It would be tough! But they did, and we were proud that they gave us some memorable tunes.

Thanks, boys. Say hi to Grandpa, will ya?


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