by Michael Goldberg
Monday January 14, 2002
Why The Ramones Really Belong In The Hall Of Fame
One of the world's great bands gets its due.
The Ramones will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, and it's not a moment too soon! But of course, you may be thinking. That's old news. Why are you making a big deal about it now?
There's a simple answer. Recently, a rock critic/historian I greatly respect wrote a column bemoaning the fact that The Ramones were to be inducted. Frankly, I couldn't believe it. How could anyone who loves rock not want to see The Ramones get credit for both the amazing music they made and the enormous influence they've had and continue to have on popular and not-so-popular music?
My first reaction, reading his column, was anger. But as time has passed, the anger is gone. Now I just want to write about why The Ramones deserve to be inducted this year.
First I'll tell you a personal reason. My son was born in January of 1977, not so long after the release of the group's debut, The Ramones. My wife and I loved The Ramones. We'd read about the group in the Village Voice, and couldn't wait to hear their first album. As soon as we got it, we put it on. It was (and remains) one of those epic greatest albums of all time. (But more on that later.)
After our son was born, we could roll his bassinet back and forth in the kitchen of our Mission District apartment (which also served as our writing room at the time) and play The Ramones. And the movement of the bassinet and the Ramones' glorious, joyful, life-affirmative sound would put him to sleep.
Later, when he was older, I took him to see The Ramones on several occasions. The Ramones were a rock 'n' roll band that a kid and his dad could dig!
The Ramones immediately became one of my favorite bands. I loved everything about them: Joey's voice, Tommy's drumming and production, Johnny's guitar work, Dee Dee's bass playing. The music was deceptively simple just as important as what you heard was what you didn't hear. The Ramones knew what didn't make sense in a rock 'n' roll song, and they didn't include it. They stripped rock to its core. Their lyrics were often hilarious, yet there were serious messages beneath the humor. Their range was broad, from songs expressing anger and fear ("Beat On The Brat," "I Don't Wanna Go Down To The Basement") to amazing romantic ballads and rockers ("I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," "I Remember You") Their music was (is) so good, and listening to it is always such a rush. The idea of the four of them adopting the last name "Ramone" was just brilliant. They were one of the coolest-looking bands. Period.
The Ramones embodied everything meaningful about rock 'n' roll as an anti-establishment statement. Gum-chewing Joey Ramone, in his black leather jacket, a cool T-shirt, ripped jeans, Converse sneakers, long hair and shades, was a total fuck-you to the suits. The Ramones said, in effect, we play by our own rules. We don't buy into any of the bullshit. We do it our way. We don't care what you think. And there are plenty of others just like us.
Few other bands deserve to be in a museum that has "rock and roll" in its name more than the Ramones.
If the Ramones had released only The Ramones, that would be enough. But they didn't. They released four absolutely classic albums, and then many more that each included many wonderful songs.
You could count on The Ramones. For over 20 years they played live, eventually performing in many parts of the world. And that leads to another big reason for their inclusion. The Ramones influenced punk musicians everywhere. In fact, one could argue that punk as an international phenomenon would not have happened without The Ramones. The story has been told over and over how The Ramones played London and in the crowd were the future members of The Clash and the Sex Pistols.
The list of bands they influenced is long. Nirvana. Pearl Jam. Blink 182. Weezer. Sonic Youth. Rancid. Soundgarden. U2. The Clash. The Sex Pistols. Black Flag. Hüsker Dü. The Pixies. The Minutemen. Bikini Kill. Sleater-Kinney. I could go on. There's no need.
I don't know why the hundreds of critics and experts in the area of rock music (including myself of course) voted for The Ramones. I don't think it was because of Joey Ramone's death last year. I think it was because those critics and music experts understand what I understand, that it is rare that a band makes such a powerful statement, such amazing music, and has such a profound influence on other musicians for (to date) over two decades.
Sleater-Kinney wrote a song called "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone." That one of the world's greatest current bands would write a song with Joey Ramone's name in the title is quite a tribute. To tell you the truth, if it were that or inclusion in the Hall of Fame, I'd take the song. But, luckily, the song will live on, and soon the group will take its place in the Hall of Fame.