With the moppy hair covering the constantly bespectacled eyes, the awkward stance and left-hand mic throttle, not too many iconoclasts of rock history were quite as recognizable as the lanky-framed Joey Ramone. Finally losing his quiet battle with lymphoma on Sunday, Ramone left an indelible mark on the ever-mutating music industry as we know it. Before the Ramones, punk rock in the U.S was about as widespread as a Pauly Shore fanbase. In the quarter-century since four young lads from Queens lit a match to the aging aesthetics of rock n’ roll, the punk scene has evolved into many different hybrids.
For me, though, it was always the old school ’70s and ’80s punk that truly mattered, and although many bands have long since parted by the wayside, the craters left in my mind by bands like The Dead Kennedys, The Misfits, and Black Flag shall never completely close up. But it was The Ramones that began it all with their 1976 debut album, and through band squabbles, drug abuse, and other turmoil, the punk with pop sensibilities that was The Ramones’ music carried on. For me, it started with Ramones Mania, eventually working my way backwards in their catalog, then jumping twenty years ahead to their farewell 1995 album, fittingly titled Adios Amigos.
Short, sweet and always to the point, their music was a rallying punk wail with good time tendencies through most of their songs. Led by the trademark, slightly off-key, but fitting vocals of Joey Ramone, the foursome paved the way for numerous bands such as Green Day, along with making punk rock fun to listen and sing along to. At the center of all the sloppy, fun playing was the tall, leather-clad one himself, who inspired multitudes of vocalists as well as bad imitation haircuts. I only wish I saw them now on their final tour, Lollapalooza 1996. Although a posthumous solo album by Ramone is on its way, the music world seems a bit more sedated with his untimely passing.