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Monday, 16 April, 2001, 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK
The musical misfits
Joey Ramone (back) with Johnny Ramone, CJ Ramone and Marky Ramone
The Ramones 'changed the world of music'
Joey Ramone, who has died aged 49, helped usher in a musical scene in America to lift the staleness of post-war rock and roll.

He was born Jeffrey Hyman on May 19, 1951, and his music career began in the glam rock era of the 1970s.


When we started out, we were our own island

Joey Ramone 1999
He played in a variety of bands, often under the name Jeff Starship, before settling into a collaboration with Dee Dee, Johnny and Tommy Ramone.

The band's first album - a mix of two-minute, three-chord songs, was released in 1976, and their music and style quickly attained a cult following.

The band's four members - Joey Ramone, Marky Ramone, CJ Ramone and Johnny Ramone - adopted the common last name after forming the band in 1974.

Musical skills

They all hailed from Queens, New York, and had limited musical skills.

Joey became the lead singer only after his drumming proved too rudimentary to keep up with his band mates' thunderous riffs.


The Beatles really did it to me

Joey Ramone

"When we started out, we were our own island. There was us and Fleetwood Mac, or us and Journey, or Disco Duck," Joey Ramone told Rolling Stone magazine in 1999.

"They changed the world of music. They rescued rock and roll from pretentiousness and unnecessary adornments," said Arturo Vega, the Ramone's long-time artistic director.

Their loyal fan base was built on the back of mammoth tour schedules. Live they were a frenetic mess of music, often playing 30 songs in 90 minutes.

"The things that we sang about were dealing with ourselves, our own frustrations and things that we found amusing and things dealing with TV or radio or life," Joey Ramone told Amazon.com in an interview.

"We were all friends living in the same neighborhood, basically; we were all kind of outcasts. And we shared a lot of the same musical tastes.

"And the music that we loved was kind of dying out, so we played for ourselves, more or less," he told Amazon.

Gangly appearance

He added: "I remember being turned on to the Beach Boys, hearing Surfin' USA, I guess, in 1960. But the Beatles really did it to me."

Joey was known for his tall, gangly appearance, hair over his face, hiding behind dark glasses, singing the band's repertoire of 3-chord songs such as I Wanna Be Sedated, Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue, and Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.

In 1980 they had a bizarre collaboration with legendary producer Phil Spector, which went down in rock and roll history.

The producer famously pulled a gun on the band while inside his Beverly Hills mansion.

Joey sang a bizarre version of Spector's classic Baby, I Love You while the Spector-produced End of the Century became the Ramones' best-selling record, reaching No. 44 in the US charts.

Despite their influence and critical acclaim, the Ramones never broke the Top 40.

Hungry heart

Bruce Springsteen, after seeing the Ramones in an New Jersey, club, wrote Hungry Heart for the band but his manager convinced him to keep the eventual hit single.

Since the band broke up, Joey Ramone kept a low profile - seen briefly at Manhattan clubs, or making occasional radio show appearances, and working on a solo album that was never released.

Despite the lack of commercial success, the band's influence still echoes today in hugely-successful US bands such as Green Day and the Offspring.

See also:

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16 Apr 01 | Music
Punk legend dies
22 Sep 99 | Entertainment
The Clash on film
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