"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> RAMONES Mania
By: Jimi Lalumia
I have just spent one hundred dollars on the newly re issued,first four albums from The Ramones: Rhino Records has released limited edition, 180 gram vinyl albums with the original album art, inserts, and even special 7 inch 45 RPM singles on colored vinyl ,representing each period of time, with each of the individual albums.It was a no brainer for me to order these immediately; a major flashback is in order for me personally, having been a player in the midst of the New York downtown scene as these albums were being released, in fact, my review of the first album was quoted in an early Sire Records print ad for the album.In a way,these four albums represent the rise and fall of punk,as this band became an emblem of the times for this scene.
I had seen The Ramones at CBGB and elsewhere long before Sire Records signed them: I was friendly with their manager, Danny Fields, who I came to know through a mutual acquantence,the late Gloria Stavers, who was the original editor of the ground breaking teen mag, 16 Magazine.Danny had already been the key element in getting The MC5 and The Stooges their first record deals a few years earlier,so it only made sense that he would be the one to zero in on The Ramones. Joey,Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy didn't just pop out of a vaccum; they were fans of The MC5 and The Stooges,as well as the foundation of the 70's NY scene,The New York Dolls; without The Dolls in play,it's unlikely that The Ramones as we know them would have come into existence.
FM rock radio shied away from the savage,barbaric sounds that were emanating from clubs like Max's Kansas City on Park Avenue South downtown; WNEW FM in NY was all about ELP and Yes,classic rock and prog rock attractions that were musically proficent,but not a lot of fun.It was The Dolls that brought back fun, and they influenced a new generation with a new outlook on rock; The Ramones were the next logical step.
All four wearing leather jackets, blasting through two minute songs that were all cut from the same cloth, but yet had individual identities of their own,although their critics said every song sounded the same(this same arguement was used on Motown records in the 60's,and they have survived quite nicely; so too have The Ramones.)The band's first album took the world by surprise, a love it or hate it proposition,much like the earlier albums from The New York Dolls. The Ramones learned from The Dolls' mistakes,and came on like gangbusters, both in America and the UK,but,like The Dolls, they could not acquire radio airplay support, not on AM(disco and easy listening/Barry Manilow fare) or on FM(the previously mentioned ELP and Yes.);this would prove to be their downfall.The first album, simply titled "Ramones"was the shot heard round the world. It excited many, but failed to sell.
The second album,"Leave Home" was released in 1977, the 'year of punk'; even Good Times Magazine had an issue dedicated to the punk scene,which I contributed heavily to.Once again, great reviews from the in crowd, but no sales.The band's label,Sire, was about to enjoy better luck with the art/rock Talking Heads,who had also emerged from the Max's/CBGB scene,and by the time of the third Ramones album,"Rocket To Russia",the heat was on to come up with 'the hit single', and subsequent big sales that would follow.Sadly, it didn't happen, even though "Rocket" featured two tracks that had every right to be hits,"Rockaway Beach" and "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker"; for a few moments in time,it looked like things would kick in, but ,as with most real punk records, radio and media were resistant; MTV wasn't around yet to turn the tide, nor was the internet.
"Road To Ruin",the fourth album,was released in 1978, and the die was cast; no big sales,no radio airplay, the same amount of people buying the record, not enough to make anything different happen.The NY scene was starting to slowly wind down; bands like Talking Heads were the new, less rocknroll direction,Blondie found a way out via disco,and other scene makers like Johnny Thunders,Wayne(not yet Jayne) County, and Cherry Vanilla made their way to the UK where they found record deals.The Ramones went on to become a popular touring band, but never became the big seller of records that Joey(whom I interviewed several times) had hoped they'd be; he always wanted that big hit single,something he was always a fan of, AM radio type Top 40 success that was never to be. Decades later, a track from "Ruin","I Wanna Be Sedated",became a belated radio and weekend night club favorite,but it never cracked the Top 40 either.
The saga of The Ramones was a constant factor for me, writing about and then participating in the scene that they breathed life into in 1974,and a rabid,loyal fan following continues for them right up to the present moment in time; I just kissed 100 bucks goodbye for these four seminal albums,which I once owned in their original form,and it's been worth every penny to re visit this part of my past. God Bless The Ramones!