Johnny Ramone, RIP

by Ted on September 16, 2004

Johnny Ramone died in his sleep last night. Ben Weasel, one of my favorite punk rockers, has a tribute to the late, great pioneer.

Johnny Ramone was never recognized as a revolutionary guitarist. Chuck Berry gave us rock and roll guitar playing. Hendrix showed us what the instrument was capable of in the hands of somebody with the ambition, vision and tenacity to bend it to his will. But what Johnny Ramone contributed to rock and roll guitar playing was just as important – maybe even more important – because he took the instrument away from the rock gods and handed it back to the rest of us. Johnny turned the guitar back into a brutal, primal, stunningly effective tool. He proved that you didn’t need to be a virtuoso to be a great guitarist. He reminded the world that rock and roll was supposed to be fun.



dsquared 09.16.04 at 9:23 pm

I swear on my life that my local branch of Waterstones has in it music section a book entitled “Play All the Ramones’ Hits on Guitar!”. For one thing, what hits? For another, how stupid do you have to be to need a book to tell you what’s going on in a Ramones record.

They even transcribed the guitar solo to “I Wanna be Sedated”. As a tribute to Johnny Ramone, and in bold defiance of relevant copyright law, I reproduce it here in ASCII tablature:



bob mcmanus 09.16.04 at 9:49 pm


Christ, I’m all weepy.


medina 09.16.04 at 10:49 pm

I thought Keith Richards was the guy who rescued lead guitar from the rock gods.


Greg 09.16.04 at 10:59 pm

The image of Johnny that will always be in my mind is him, standing in the shower in full Ramones get up, serenading their #1 fan, Riff Randal, in Rock’n’Roll High School.

“Do your parents know that you’re Ramones?”


Viagra 09.16.04 at 11:27 pm

The Ramones gave all teenage boys hope that being a funny looking, pencil-thin, pale whiteboy was enough to get girls — provided you could do something with a guitar.


BenA 09.17.04 at 12:19 am

Silver lining: that’s one less vote for Bush.


malcolm 09.17.04 at 1:47 am

With the mastermind behind the Ramones gone, it’s worthwhile to remember that they were, in many respects, the second coming of the Beatles. It’s not a coincidence that they took their name from the pseudonym the Beatles used to avoid fans when they travelled. From the uniform look, to the efficient and insanely catchy ditties, they wiped the slate clean of everything that happened between 1966 and 1976. If you listen to their covers of early-sixties hits “Let’s Dance” or “California Sun” or “Do You Wanna Dance,” it’s clear that they intended to take rock back to where it was before rock it became obsessed with the blues (Stones, Yardbirds) and poetic lyricism via Dylan (Hendrix, later Beatles). And like the Beatles in their day, the Ramones have spawned countless bands in the last 20 years — not just the early punk bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash, but bands as diverse as the Replacements and Sonic Youth and Sleater Kinney. RIP, Johnny.


b 09.17.04 at 2:02 am

a prime example of the art of the solo.

see also “copper blue” by sugar.


dsquared 09.17.04 at 2:35 am

Hang about, let’s not get out of hand here. The Ramones were a good band, but a chronically limited one (which a succession of producers tried and failed to make sound interesting after about an hour’s listening), and there is no apostolic succession which has them as reinventors of rock music, keepers of the scared flame and turns them into male-line progenitors of the Clash and the Pistols. Doctor Feelgood’s first album predates “Ramones” by a year, for example.


bob mcmanus 09.17.04 at 3:11 am

Flamin Groovies, late 60’s SF. Best “Louie Louie” ever.

But I do think the Ramones are as important as Malcolm says, and also much much beloved.


bob mcmanus 09.17.04 at 3:18 am

AMG Groovies

For comparison.


malcolm 09.17.04 at 4:48 am

The Ramones certainly were limited, as was Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and the early Beatles. But Joe Strummer and Johnny Rotten and Patti Smith and countless other do not cite Doctor Feelgood as their inspiration, so far as I know.


lazarou 09.17.04 at 10:19 am

God I hate to be pedantic but for that solo you duplicate the E note by also playing the 5th fret on the B string. Clear as day on the record, the two notes are ever so slighlty out of tune with each other. Sorry, I’ll just go and consign myself to geek hell.

RIP Johnny


Doug 09.17.04 at 11:40 am

Saw this somewhere else in blogland:

Twenty-twenty-twenty-four hours to go
I wanna be cremated
Nothin to do nowhere to go ho
I wanna be cremated…


MCarson 09.17.04 at 1:14 pm

I love the Pistols (to death?) and the Clash have great stuff. There is at least something I like about nearly every form of music I’ve heard, from hip-hop to Gregorian chant. But the Ramones grab me in my soul. That’s important. Thanks, guys.


dsquared 09.17.04 at 5:54 pm

But Joe Strummer and Johnny Rotten and Patti Smith and countless other do not cite Doctor Feelgood as their inspiration, so far as I know.

Strummer’s band before the Clash, the 101ers, played support to Feelgood a number of times. Wilko Johnson, lead guitar player of Dr Feelgood, played at the memorial service for Joe Strummer. So now you know. The Ramones played in London for the first time in 1976, and it’s true that members of the Clash, the Damned and the Sex Pistols were there, but that really just goes to show that there was already a scene in London (btw, I’m not sure that Johnny Rotten cited anyone as an “inspiration” other than himself, and I’ve heard him say some fairly nasty things about New York punks over time).

I don’t want to be nasty at anyone’s funeral – I liked the Ramones as much as anyone – but it’s pure revisionist history to claim that punk wouldn’t have happened without the Ramones, that the Ramones were “the second coming of the Beatles”, or indeed that they were really ever capable of making an album that you could listen to from start to finish without getting bored.


philspectorno1fan 09.17.04 at 6:37 pm

someone please plot a network graph
showing influence of ramones on
popular music, giving stronger weights
to non-ramones songs that sound like
ramones songs.
more songs today follow the ramones
formula than the beatles formula.
i applaud their commitment to
schtick, and resiliency against
music critic intellectualization.


mick 09.17.04 at 6:43 pm

The Ramones were not the first punks (even Joey credited the Stooges), and perhaps not the greatest. But I still think Joe Strummer was right in calling them the “daddy punk group of all time.” They didn’t invent punk, but they metastasized it.

Dsquared: True punks cared about great singles, not coherent albums (which was a mid-sixties invention of the Beatles, among others). But I never get bored of their debut, anyway.


dsquared 09.18.04 at 12:50 am

lazarou: I swear to you that what you’re hearing there is a phaser pedal and my tabbed version is as it was played on the record.


bob mcmanus 09.18.04 at 3:13 am

First Punks?

The Monks!! GI’s in Germany with tonsures and habits, circa 65!


Paco 09.20.04 at 2:32 pm

The Ramones were the first punk band, at least for Joe Strummer:

“(The Ramones) are the daddy punk group of all time.”
Joe Strummer (R.I.P.)

PSF: So what actually happened?

The first I heard about the punk rock movement is reading about the New York scene. That’s where I remember, especially in NME through Nick Kent, hearing about CBGB’s and the Ramones. It sounded very exciting, talking about things in a new way. There was connections to Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground- that was interesting. Patti Smith, her stuff about her lyrics and the French existentialists. Then the Ramones album come out, first album and it was on import. Nick Kent reviewed it and it sounded interesting. I went and bought the import copy before it came out in Britian. I was just blown away. It was like… fucking hell, what an exciting album! They had the edge over Doctor Feelgood for me. This was something special, their whole attitude.

PSF: Is that what led you to start Sniffin’ Glue?

Yeah, that was it really. It was the Ramones coming over was why I decided to do the fanzine. They came over supporting the Flamin’ Groovies who were doing the ‘Shake Some Action’ tour and they were on Sire as well. They played the Roundhouse. It was damn rock and roll, feet on the monitors. Fantastic! Within a week, I got the fanzine out. (Mark Perry of Alternative TV and creator of Sniffin’ Glue the legendary and first London Punk Zine).

Or you could go to The Damned official website and read what they’ve written about Johnny and The Ramones:


jill 09.22.04 at 2:17 am

i must say johnny ramone has been a fabulous guitarist and he has shown me the light to trying to play guitar. you dont have to be great you just have to go with it. being a guitarist isnt half as great as being in a band. the ramones were one of the best bands of all time.

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