The Ramones were just as important to American Punk as the Sex Pistols were overseas, becoming pioneers of the genre and also having a long and successful career that unfortunately marred by personal tragedies. Formed in Queens, New York, the members of the band adopted all took Ramone as their stage surname (a similar model adopted by The Donnas and others). The band wanted to take rock and roll back to their roots and played an upbeat, stripped down kind of music. Influenced by 60s pop as much as harder rock styles, the group’s music is somewhat tame by comparison today. But in the day, it was loud, brash, and very much within the Punk genre. ¬†None of the band members were photogenic, but had a decided image as they all wore jeans and leather jackets, and had long black hair (a much different look than the fashion-inspired London Punk scene).

The Ramones’ first album was issued in 1976 and featured the single “Blitzkrieg Bop“. The song opens with the catchy “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go” which is still used at sporting events to get fans excited. The song was inspired by WWII tank battles, but otherwise the lyrics are non-specific (gang violence was one topic of speculation). What’s certainly clear is that the power chords are upbeat tempo were the weapon of choice for The Ramones.

Though never a Gold-selling group, The Ramones carved out a fine career including the music for the film Rock and Roll High School (1979). The group also performed the theme song for Pet Sematary (1989), which was the group’s highest charting song on the Rock Singles charts (#4). ¬†Other key tracks include “I Wanna Be Sedated”, “Beat on the Brat”, and “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”.

The years on the road took their toll, and the group announced their retirement in 1996. Sadly, nearly every member of the original lineup has died, all before age 60. The only surviving member is Marky Ramone, the group’s second drummer who joined in 1978. Dee Dee Ramone (bass) died of a heroin overdose in 2002, Johnny Ramone (guitar) died in 2004 of prostate cancer, and Joey Ramone (lead vocals) died in 2001 of lymphoma.