I’ve always thought the Ramones were better than The Beatles. I know that they aren’t really even that comparable, aside from the fact that the Ramones got their name from Paul McCartney’s hotel check-in alias, but I just feel like it’s just a really big, important statement that reverberates from the depths of my soul and needs to be said out loud whenever the opportunity arises. I also know that that’s a really dramatic sentiment for a band that writes lyrics like “Buh-buh-ba-da-da/This ain’t Havana/Do you like bananas?/Buh-buh-bananas”, but I don’t care because Tommy Ramone just died so please get off my back.
The Ramones are generally acknowledged as the forefathers of punk, and, while that may be true on a grand scale, they were basically Bowery punk through the filter of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. But that’s their charm! Sure, maybe the Sex Pistols are more authentic because they never would have starred in their own movie, let alone one as campy as Rock ‘n Roll High School, but that’s because they were boring and took themselves way too seriously for a group of guys who probably spent at least 45 minutes spiking their hair every day. “Johnny Rotten” already sounds like the name of a Scooby Doo villain, so he might as well have slapped on a leather jacket and pretended to be addicted to pizza.
Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s seminal oral history of punk, Please Kill Me, might as well have been titled Everybody Is A Trashbag Except For The Ramones. While Iggy Pop and Johnny Thunders were busy dating teenagers, the Ramones were just a bunch of corny goons from Queens trying to pose as “brudders”. Not to say that they were entirely innocent—one of their most memorable songs “53rd & 3rd” couldn’t have existed without Dee Dee’s experiences as a prostitute and mounds upon mounds of heroin. But somehow, through all of the insanity of the Max’s Kansas City and CBGB scenes, the Ramones still managed to maintain a menschy reputation over the span of their career.
This is probably due mostly to the presence of drummer/producer/manager Tommy Ramone. While the rest of the band was off running wild through the streets of New York City, Tommy hung back to take care of business. He co-produced their first three albums and wrote their first press release, in which he stated “The Ramones all originate from Forest Hills and kids who grew up there either became musicians, degenerates or dentists. The Ramones are a little of each. Their sound is not unlike a fast drill on a rear molar.” No matter how hard people have tried to replicate their simplistic force, no one has or will ever fill the hole that the Ramones have left. At least we still have Marky.