Greatly Appreciated

The Ramones  were an American punk rock band that formed in the New York City neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens, in 1974.  They are often cited as the first band to define the punk rock sound.  Despite achieving only limited commercial success, the band was a major influence on the 1970’s punk movement in both the United States and United Kingdom.  All of the band members adopted pseudonyms ending with the surname “Ramone”, although none of them were related.  On March 18, 2002, the original four members and Tommy’s replacement on drums, Marky Ramone, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In 2011, the group was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  (More from Wikipedia)
As it turned out, three competing and complementary strains of music arose seemingly overnight by 1974:  In addition to power pop, they were what most of us know as “punk rock” – e.g., RamonesSex PistolsPatti Smith Group (with Lenny Kaye on lead guitar), Dead Boys – and “new wave” – e.g., Elvis Costello, BlondieTalking Heads, the Runaways – the latter band, the first successful all-female rock band, is now the subject of a major motion picture.  
(April 2010)
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Somewhat surprisingly, the first single by the Germs, “Forming” b/w “Sex Boy” – which was released on July 7, 1977 – is regarded as the very first punk rock single to come out of LA, even though it was released nearly 18 months after the landmark first album by Ramones came out on the other coast.
(July 2010)
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Back in 1973, that was about as unfashionable as it got; but the world would soon catch up with them, and the Poppees found themselves right in the thick of one of the most exciting music scenes in rock history, playing clubs throughout the City, including CBGB, the epicenter of New York’s punk/new wave scene.  At the weeklong Easter Rock Festival in April 1976 at the equally storied Max’s Kansas City – with a line-up that makes me salivate just looking it over – the Poppees opened for Blondie and Ramones on Easter Sunday
Bomp! Records released a single for the Poppees in March 1975 (just the third single for Bomp), “If She Cries” b/w “Love of the Loved”.  The young producer for the 45, Craig Leon, who also played piano on the “B” side, was the producer for the seminal first album by Ramones the following year.
(December 2010)
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Sam Ugly (who was only 16) and Tony Torcher had played together in a Anglophile band called the Markeys that played a lot of early Stones, Yardbirds, AnimalsKinks, and Who songs.  After they heard the first Ramones album, and after several of the early punkers came through town – Patti SmithTalking Heads, and Iggy Pop – a new direction was clear; and the band brought in lead singer Mike Nightmare and his brother Raymi Gutter (when original Markeys guitarist Brian Vadders wouldn’t cut his hair) – good thing, too, because it is Gutter’s guitar that really stands out here.  The band started out with the name Rotten and changed it to the Ugly when they heard about Johnny Rotten.  
  (November 2011)
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My general stance in writing these posts about Under-Appreciated Rock Bands and Artists has never been to say to my readers:  What you listen to is crap – here is what is good.  I have always enjoyed mainstream rock and still do.  What I am trying to do is to say instead:  Here is something else that is good.  Also, I have tried not to put down even artists that I don’t particularly care for; as someone who finds equal pleasure in the music of Carpenters and Ramones (just to give one example), my musical tastes are hardly average, so I am not about to pass judgment on someone else’s. 
(August 2012)
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Writing for the Rolling Stone Record GuideDavid McGee states:  “To get an idea of his indelible contribution to rock & roll, consider the critic Lester Bangs’ citation of [Ritchie] Valens as the prototypical punk guitarist whose signature ‘La Bamba’ riff links Valens to a hard-edged, no-frills style of rock & roll later advanced by the Kingsmenthe Kinksthe Stoogesand the Ramones.”  The thrilling Ramones call “Hey Ho, Let’s Go” – from the opening song Blitzkrieg Bop” on their first album, Ramones – might have been lifted directly from Ritchie Valens’ Come On, Let’s Go

(June 2013/1) 
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The frontwoman for Fur is Holly Ramos, a musician and actress from New York City.  As revealed in a 2003 interview with Glitzine – a glam/punk/pop online fanzine that has evidently been around for 40 years – Ramos was into the New York punk scene at an early age:  “In grade school I started to get interested in 1977 type punkthe RamonesBlondiePatti Smith.  And in high school I got into hardcore (Black Flag/Bad Brainsetc).  I am interviewed for the book American Hardcore, a book about the history of that music.”  The book was written by Steven Blush and was the basis for an acclaimed 2006 documentary by the same name, American Hardcore that was directed by Paul Rachman


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Fur was founded in about 1991 and featured Holly Ramos (guitar and vocals) and Danuta Gozdziewicz (bass and backing vocals).  Evidently there were a succession of drummers but never more than three bandmembers; on the CD, the drummer is Michael McDermott.  About the CD, Ramos continues from her 2003 interview:  “We had a CD on Blackout Records and singles and some college radio attention.  It was poppy Ramones style, melodic and aggressive, had a lot of great press and terrible distribution.”  


(June 2013/2)


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Several years back, I picked up a cool album released in 2006 by a Spanish band called Suzy & los Quattro called Ready to Go!; I guess you could call a tribute to Suzi Quatro and the Quatro family.  As with the Ramones and the Donnas – where, respectively, the last name of all of the bandmembers is given as “Ramone”, and the first name of all of the bandmembers is “Donna” – the bandmembers are shown as having the surname “Quattro” with the exception of bandleader and vocalist Suzy Chain


(October 2013)


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Patti Smith Group was signed by Clive Davis to a major-label contract with Arista Records; and their debut album Horses was one of the first punk rock albums, being released in December 1975 (four months before the Ramones’ first album came out).  Actually, through most of the 1970’spunk rock was mostly found on 45’s and an occasional EP; except for the biggest punk rockers, LP’s were pretty rare. 


(February 2014)


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Allmusic gives The Richmond Sluts 4 stars and says of the Richmond Sluts that “they explored the glam-slam-thank-you-ma’am side of punk”.  Jo-Ann Greene comments about their inventiveness on the album in ways that are a little beyond my capacity to figure out:  “Since categorization is a necessity in this age of overspecification, punk rock will do nicely, but doesn’t begin to encompass just how cleverly the group churns other genres through its blender.  The Sluts connect the dots between ’60s garage punk and old school ’70s style, then toss just a dash of new school into the mix.  Variations on this recipe reverberate across the album, and answer a slew of niggling questions along the way.  Ever wonder what the [New York] Dolls would sound like covered by a psychedelic band?  Kept up at night trying to imagine a cross between the Cramps and the Velvet Underground?  Curious what the result would be if a time warp sent Richard Hell circa 1978 a decade into the past?  And what if Eddie & the Hotrods were really the Ramones with English accents?  The Richmond Sluts answer all these brain teasers and more you’ve yet to even imagine, and they do it without an ounce of pretentiousness or braggadocio.” 


(June 2014)
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Phil Gammage is from Houston and went to college at the University of Colorado.  He was walking through one of the classroom buildings early in the school year in 1977 and heard some raucous music being played.  It seems that a fine arts professor at the college, Jerry Kunkel had been to the CBGB club, the punk-rock mecca in New York City; there he had heard RamonesTelevision and some other early punk bands.  He came back to the university inspired to start a rock band himself.  


The practice session that Phil Gammage heard was Jerry Kunkel on lead vocals, his new wife Marsha Vann Kunkel on bass guitar, and Jerry Budwig on guitar.  Phil picked up a guitar and plugged in; by the end of the night, he was asked to join the band.  Drummer Peter Roos was originally from New England and had also seen Television; he joined the band shortly afterward. 


Joey Vain and Scissors played early punk rock classics like the Ramones’ “Beat on the Brat” and Jonathan Richman’s Pablo Picasso” but soon began writing their own songs with titles like “New Tattoo”, “Why Do I Have to Wear This Collar”, and “That’s What I Like”.  They put together a six-song demo and started playing local clubs.  


In early 1978Joey Vain and Scissors had the good/bad fortune to play as the opening act for Elvis Costello on campus at the Glenn Miller Ballroom.  This was the biggest crowd they had ever played for, but the audience evidently was expecting Ramones clones and were hostile during their set.  The discouragement from that experience soon led to the band breaking up.  Jerry Kunkel would shortly be appointed head of the Fine Arts Department at the University of ColoradoJerry Budwig moved to San Francisco, and Peter Roos became the drummer for the Nightflames, whose first concert was opening for Joey Vain and Scissors at their final performance in March 1978


(March 2015)


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Detroit and the surrounding suburbs also had several important punk rock bands and included one of the first hardcore punk scenes in the nation. One of these short-lived but talented punk bands was the Ramrods that was formed in 1977. Bandmembers were Mark Norton (vocals), Peter James (guitar), Dave Hanna (bass), and Robert Mulrooney (drums). According to Wikipedia, the last official Ramrods show was on January 28, 1978. Before the band broke up, Ramones manager Danny Fields and Seymour Stein of Sire Records had been interested in signing them.
Surprisingly little is available on the Internet about the Ramrods (and also the Lovemasters for that matter); I cannot find so much as a 45 that was released during the band’s brief history. The best information that I have found is in a November 2014 post by John Perye on a website called berlinlovesyou.com; it includes a quote from drummer Robert Mulrooney: “The Ramrods were the first band in Detroit to play in the style of the Ramones.” Perye also writes: “I have heard countless stories from many Detroiter’s who argued that during the 1980’s there was no better soul-funk-party-new-wave band than the Lovemasters.”
(March 2016)'

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Paul Fischer reports about their debut album:  “Ravales’ debut album Barrio Chino has just been released [2012] and is a fierce collection of 17 punked-up rocky gems.  At its best it really does sound like Steve Jones and Paul Cook [of Sex Pistols] playing a Ramones set, albeit mostly sung in Spanish!”
(September 2016)
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The emergence of punk rock in the 1970’s was in large part a reaction to progressive rock and also the tamer musical styles of that time. Punkers felt that rock music had strayed far from its roots and wanted to bring back the energy and excitement of the earlier years of rock and roll. As quoted in Wikipedia, drummer Tommy Ramone of Ramones summarized these feelings in a January 2007 interview: “In its initial form, a lot of [1960s] stuff was innovative and exciting. Unfortunately, what happens is that people who could not hold a candle to the likes of [Jimi] Hendrix started noodling away. Soon you had endless solos that went nowhere. By 1973, I knew that what was needed was some pure, stripped down, no bulls--t rock ’n’ roll.”
The debut Ramones by Ramones is a landmark album released in April 1976 that initially went nowhere, peaking at #111 on the Billboard album charts. In retrospect, all of the ingredients of punk rock were there, and its influence was enormous. Stephen Thomas Erlewine states flatly in his article on the band in Allmusic: “The Ramones were the first punk rock band. . . . By cutting rock & roll down to its bare essentials – four chords; a simple, catchy melody; and irresistibly inane lyrics – and speeding up the tempo considerably, the Ramones created something that was rooted in early ’60s, pre-Beatles rock & roll and pop but sounded revolutionary.” Rolling Stone lists Ramones as #26 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time; while in 2002, Spin magazine named them the second best band, behind only the Beatles.
(December 2016)

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Mick Farren starts his liner notes for Destroy All Music by noting:  “On August 16th, 1977, at least two events occurred of major rock & roll significance.  Elvis Presley died on his Graceland toilet, and the Weirdos cut three songs for Bomp! Records, ‘Destroy All Music’, ‘A Life of Crime’ and ‘Why Do You Exist?’.  The session – in a home studio in Tujunga – was produced by Craig Leonwho had overseen the Ramones’ first album.  It was a hot damp night in Los Angeles, and, by all accounts, the weather was much the same in Memphis
“Even the Weirdos copped to the fact that the death of Elvis was fractionally more important than their first record.  ‘The King Is Dead’ was scratched into the metal stamper of the Bomp release Destroy All Music that became a classic of late 1970’s L.A. punk, and prompted critic Mark Deming to call the band ‘one of the best and brightest American bands of punk’s first wave’.” 
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Allmusic says about this bunch (courtesy of Steve Huey):  “The Dickies were the clown princes of punk, not to mention surprisingly longstanding veterans of the L.A. scene.  In fact, by the new millennium, they’d become the oldest surviving punk band still recording new material.  In contrast to the snotty, intentionally offensive humor of many comedically inclined punk bandsthe Dickies were winningly goofy, inspired mostly by trashy movies and other pop culture camp.  Their covers were just as ridiculous as their originals, transforming arena rock anthems and bubblegum pop chestnuts alike into the loud, speed-blur punk-pop – basically the Ramones crossed with L.A. hardcore – that was their musical stock in trade.  As the band got older, their music slowed down little by little; but their sound and their sense of humor stayed largely the same, and they were an avowed influence on new-school punkers like Green Day and the Offspring.” 
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Mark Deming says of the band for Allmusic:  “If the Ramones had been a road-tested biker gang instead of pop-obsessed cartoon speed merchants, they might have sounded something like the Lazy Cowgirls.  Merging the buzzsaw roar of first-wave punk, the sneering attitude of ’60’s garage rock, the heart-on-your-sleeve honesty of honky-tonk, and the self-assured swagger of the Rolling Stonesthe Lazy Cowgirls play raw, sweaty outlaw rock and roll at its most furiously passionate and physically intense; like a Harley gunned up to 95 mph, the Lazy Cowgirls may not sound safe, but they sure are fun.” 
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The next outing by the Lazy Cowgirls was a live album; as fine as their studio recordings are, where the band really excelled was on stage (they tell me).  The first album released by the esteemed record label called Sympathy for the Record Industry was Radio Cowgirl (1989), recorded live at a local radio station, KCSB-FM.  Mark Deming writes of this album for Allmusic:  “A promo spot advertising the broadcast that kicks off this album proclaims that the Lazy Cowgirls will play ‘loud, fast, hard rock & roll music’, and it’s hard to disagree.  There are a few sloppy moments here and there (be warned:  This is real rock & roll, where not everything is supposed to be perfect), and the sound is a bit thin (like the un-retouched two-track recording it is); but all four Cowgirls are clearly audible and pouring their heart and soul into every moment of the show (even on the joke cover of the theme from Green Acres).  Besides, how many bands can cover the Ramones and the Saints alongside Larry Williams and Jim Reeves and actually do justice to all of ’em?” 
(March 2017)
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Anyway, here is what and who I talked about last year:
December 20161960’s garage rock band THE IGUANAS; Story of the Month on the Muddy Waters song Rollin’ Stone; also, 1970’s music and proto-punk music, RamonesNuggets, Pebbles Series, the Sonics, New York Dolls, the Modern Lovers, MC5, the Stooges, Iggy Pop.
(Year 8 Review)
Last edited: March 22, 2021