Everyone knows that, even the poor, blind saps who never loved the band. But the Ramones were many things, and gloriously so, from the moment of their inception in Forest Hills, New York, in 1974, until their final concert, #2,263, in Los Angeles on August 6, 1996.
They were prolific - releasing 21 studio and live albums between 1976 and 1996 - and professional, typically cutting all of the basic tracks for one of those studio LPs in a matter of days. They were stubborn, a marvel of bulldog determination and cast-iron pride in a business greased by negotiation and compromise. And they were fun, rock n' roll's most reliable Great Night Out for nearly a quarter of a century. Which seems like a weird thing to say about about a bunch of guys for whom a show, in 1974 or '75, could be six songs in a quarter of an hour.
The Ramones were also first: the first band of the mid-'70's New York punk rock uprising to get a major-label contract and put an album out; the first to rock the nation on the road and teach the British how noise annoys; the first new American group of the decade to kick the smug, yellow-bellied shit out of a '60s superstar aristrocracy running on cocaine-and-caviar autopilot.
Above all, the Ramones were pop: stone believers in the Top 40 7-inch-vinyl songwriting aesthetic; a nonstop hit-singles machine with everything going for it - hammer-and-sizzle guitars and hallelujah choruses played at runaway- Beatles-velocity - except actual hits. According to an August 1975 article in England's Melody Maker about the crude, new music crashing through the doors of a former country-and-bluegrass bar in lower Manhattan named CBGB, the local press was already hailing the Ramones as - get this - "potentially the greatest singles band since the Velvet Underground." A peculiar compliment since the Velvets' own few 45s were all crushing radio bombs.
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