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The Ramones. (long essay for college)

March 6, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that everybody thinks of the Beatles as the most influential rock and roll group of the 20th century. And as there were no rock and roll groups in the 19th century and there aren’t any as influential or universally beloved as the Beatles in the 21st century, it feels safe to call them the most influential pop band of all time. Indeed, it was John, Paul, George and Ringo who invented the self-contained band–a handful of musicians who would write, sing and play their own songs exclusively. During the 60s, the Fab Four were the biggest thing since sliced bread, but after their dissolution and into the 1970s, rock music took increasingly more theatric and ludicrous turns. Acts like Led Zeppelin opened the door for progressive rock (prog rock henceforth) and heavy metal, two genres less focused on songs and more focused on performances. These genres took skill and years of practice to get into, and were only amassing global popularity in the early 70s.

It was into this musical landscape that the second most influential rock and roll group of the 20th century was born. It was a time of guitar virtuosos and organ solos. When performers took to the stage, it was frequently in elaborate outfits. Rock music became less about rebellion and more about hobbits or satan. This was the environment surrounding four “middle class” New York boys determined to make their impact on the world. And to think, all Tom Erdelyi wanted to do was start a band. When he met John Cummings, Douglas Colvin and Jeffry Hyman through their mutual fandom for The Stooges, the pieces were in place for the Ramones to take over the world. Tommy had found Johnny, Dee Dee and Joey. All that was left was for them to convince him that he should play drums instead of being the manager. (He’d stay on as producer for their first four albums.)

Their passion came out of the New York Dolls, the Stooges and a rebellion (at least on Johnny’s part) against the idea that excessive displays of skill were a necessary part of being a rock band. Unlike their primary influences’ focus on clothing and makeup, the Ramones played strictly in jeans and leather jackets with outgrown Beatles haircuts. Their first shows were at a hole-in-the-wall bar in a New York abandoned by young urban professionals headed for the suburbs. CBGB was the only bar that would have them, and even then, their audience at their first shows was mostly comprised of the members of Television, Blondie, the Talking Heads. Being entirely unique in their style, there was no competition with the Ramones. Read more…