The Ramones have been an integral part of punk rock since the Queens foursome first exploded on the scene with their self-titled debut record in 1976. It has been 43 years since then, and while none of the Ramones’ albums ever reached Platinum status during their career, there’s no denying that they’ve left a deeper mark on pop culture and music than most of their award-winning counterparts. Just take the rallying cry “Hey! Ho! Let’s go”, for example. People who’ve never even heard of the Ramones know how it goes.
Chalk it up to an unfortunate hand dealt to them by fate, but it’s truly a shame that the leather-jacket-clad lads didn’t receive the recognition they deserved in their heyday. If you already count yourself a part of the rambunctious, dysfunctional Ramones family, then you know exactly what we’re talking about. If you don’t, then allow us to take you on a tour of the Ramones’ five best albums to get you acquainted.
1It’s Alive (1979)
The Ramones were a well-oiled rock ’n’ roll machine by the time they played the New Year’s Eve show in 1977 at the Rainbow Theatre in London. This was the first of their many live albums, but it is undoubtedly the best. It features the original line-up blazing through 28 songs from the first three albums, kicking off with Rockaway Beach, Teenage Lobotomy and Blitzkrieg Bop. Aptly named after a horror movie, this lightning-paced live album will get your heart pounding.
2Road To Ruin (1978)
Road To Ruin was the Ramones’ fourth studio album and their first outing with new drummer Marky Ramone. Tommy had decided to leave the line-up but stayed on to produce the record. With Road To Ruin, the pretend brothers recognised that the combination of powerchords and satire which they’d leant upon heavily for the previous three albums was not going to score them a hit.
So switching gears, the band threw in some uncharacteristic guitar solos, ballads and acoustic guitar into the mix. Commercially, Road To Ruin didn’t achieve much success, for the fans, melodic tracks like Needles And Pins, I Wanna Be Sedated and It’s A Long Way Back demonstrated the band were not one-trick ponies.
3Leave Home (1977)
The Ramones’ sophomore album may have been bookended by two of the band’s greatest records, but it was in no way a pushover. Leave Home saw the band pick up right where they left off with their debut, leaving the formula intact: buzzsaw guitar tone, lightning-paced riffs and rolling hooks. From Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment to Pinhead and You’re Gonna Kill That Girl, the record is full of Ramones classics, but did not produce the one thing the band craved for at the time: a hit.
4Rocket To Russia (1977)
Rocket To Russia was the band’s third studio album, and the final one with the original line-up of Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Tommy. The album’s lead single and arguably the most seminal Ramones track of all time, Sheena Is A Punk Rocker, arrived in the summer of ’77, not long after Leave Home.
It had an unmistakable surf-rock sound to it and would serve as a precursor to a balance that the foursome were seeking between old-school rock ’n’ roll and their fresh punk sound. They nailed it of course, along with boisterous covers of Surfin’ Bird by The Trashmen, and Do You Wanna Dance? as performed by The Beach Boys, but originally by Bobby Freeman.
In 2019, it’s hard to believe that an album with songs that make references to male prostitution, serial killers and Nazism would get mainstream popularity, let alone become revered. But since its release in 1976, Ramones has gone on to become a cornerstone of punk-rock history. Despite only costing Sire Records $6,400 to record, the album charted a course for punks to follow. Songs such as Judy Is A Punk and I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend became rock ’n’ roll classics, while Blitzkrieg Bop gave the world a rallying cry that has become immortalised. Hey! Ho! Let’s go…
Check out our picks of the best punk rock guitars here.