The Ramones were a band that significantly influenced new music around the world. Emerging from New York City in 1974, they were one of the sparks that ignited a new music trend in America and across the UK. Perhaps the band's greatest achievement was that they led the way for punk rock.
Some reckon that The Ramones were the first punk band. They weren't hugely talented musicians but had an ear for a great song. Their brand of fast music, downstroke led power chords and no guitar solos was a trademark sound for many years.
Right from when they kicked off their first gig in New York in August 1984, through to their last In Los Angeles in 1996, they were a great live music act. The line up may have changed over the years but the inspiration they provided for other bands remained. U2, The Clash, The Sex Pistols and Green Day were among many bands of various styles citing The Ramones as an influence.
Inspiration for The Ramones from unlikely sources
But who inspired The Ramones in the first place? Well there are obvious comparisons and links to the likes of Iggy Pop and the Stooges. But there are a couple of other perhaps surprising bands which made The Ramones listen and helped shape their distinctive style.
Joey Ramone was asked in an Entertainment Weekly interview in 1990 to name one band that inspired him to make music. Joey talked about The Who and how a live gig of the British rockers which he went to helped set his mind on how he wanted to perform for audiences.
"When I was 16, I saw the Who. It was the first time they played America. It was a Murray the K show at the RKO theater on 59th street [in New York City] — like 30 bands and the Who and Cream for the first time in America. Cream were great, but the Who blew my mind. The character and the visuals, Townshend, Keith Moon. It was the best thing I’d ever seen. When I perform, I want to blow people’s minds like that."- Joey Ramone
Johnny Ramone was also heavily influenced by another giant of rock, Led Zeppelin. Mickey Leigh referred to this in his book about his brother Joey, I Slept With Joey Ramone:A Family Memoir, as reported by FarOut Magazine. Leigh talks of playing Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown” to Johnny.
"One day, I started playing Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown,” and John was really impressed. ‘Wow, you know about downstrokes, huh?’ John said. ‘Whaddaya mean, downstrokes?’ I answered. ‘Ya know, how you’re picking everything downward’ John said, motioning. ‘I’m just trying to play how it sounds.’ I explained. ‘Yeah, well that’s really important,’ John told me. ‘Most people don’t realise that. That’s how rock and roll should be played. All of it! Everything should be a downstroke.'"- Mickey Leigh
Leigh believes that Johnny had taken that sound very much on board.
"In retrospect, I believe Johnny had begun formulating the concept for the Ramones sound even back then."- Mickey Leigh
It feels slightly odd that punk was supposed to clear the way from all the old bands and rock music as we know it, ridding us of the self indulgent, over the top excesses that brought. Yet there's the early punk pioneers admitting their inspiration from two huge rock legends from that background.
It was the live energy of The Who which captured Joey's mind, the band being full of energy and playing true rock and roll. The Led Zeppelin track though has since been referred to as proto-punk, even if the band were at the other end of the rock band music scene back then. Listening to it again there's certainly a punk feel about it, perhaps it is not a shock that Johnny followed their lead after all.