Nowadays the Ramones are a group that collects endless signs of approval from a music industry that shunned them throughout the group’s original run. Back in 1977, only a small, select group of people bothered with the punk rock pioneers. But, many of these admirers would go on to form their own, often short-lived bands. On such a group was the Sex Pistols, those charming nihilists who nearly pushed Britain on the verge of civil unrest.
It’s hard to quantize the influence the Ramones had on modern-day rock n roll. But, in 1976, the New York group was described by the majority of the music press in the US as a cartoonish parody of a tough guy-rock band.
With two, soon to be landmark, albums under their belts and little attention being provided outside of the outskirts of CBGB, the Ramones set off on a tour of England. They were promoting Leave Home and getting ready to release their third record in 18 months, Rocket to Russia.
The Ramones hit the British shores
England took to the Ramones quickly, with the group always seemingly fated to enjoy greater success abroad than in their native United States. Joey, Johnny, Tommy and, especially, Dee Dee Ramone were the toast of the town down in London.
Their shows attracted a composite of future punk luminaries all in awe of the songs, speed, and image possessed by the band from Queens, New York. Allegedly, the Ramones further helped instigate the punk zeitgeist in Britain by giving direct encouragement to future band members of The Clash and the Sex Pistols.
In the documentary End of the Century, an episode is recalled in which Johnny Ramone boosted the confidence of underachieving guitarists Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, telling them it wasn’t the technical skill that had made the Ramones what they were, but rather work and inventiveness. Learn 3 chords and start a band may have well started with the Ramones.
The message rung loud and clear and by 1977 punk rock had become the biggest musical trend in Britain and, to conservatives across the country, a threat to their very way of life. And, here Sheena is a punk rocker was a bonafide hit, not just a novelty as back in NYC
The Sex Pistols begin their short reign as punk rock’s biggest band
Did the Ramones acknowledge their influence on punk? Yes. More so, they initially felt cheated, sensing just how much the punks over the pond had liberally borrowed from the New Yorkers’ first albums.
According to Ed Stasium, audio engineer for the Ramones, Johnny instructed him to focus on creating a more stinging production that could compete to that of the Sex Pistols who, according to the guitarist: “ripped us off and I want to sound better than this.”
Of course, the Ramones and many of the bands back in Britain enjoyed very different commercial fates. While the UK was both repelled and enamored by punk rock, making it a national sensation, the Ramones’ records largely failed to chart in the U.S.
Yes, the Ramones did enjoy some success over in Britain and in places like South America. There was also heightened interest for the CBGB bands back in New York once punk rock started dominating the headlines in the UK.
The influence of the Ramones and the Sex Pistols on popular music
But, according to many in the know, including Legs McNeil author of Please Kill Me: An Oral History of Punk, the nihilistic spirit of some of the punk rockers killed any commercial potential for records like Rocket to Russia.
History has set some things right, of course, and, today, few bands claim not to have been influenced by the Ramones, as well as the British bands that followed in their footsteps.