By Jack Evans
In the Ramones’ first press release, which was written by Tommy Ramone and resurfaced after the legendary drummer’s death last week, Ramone writes that “the Ramones are an original Rock and Roll group of 1975.” It is true that the Ramones, along with the rest of the first wave of punk in both America and Britain, were unlike any other groups around, with only a handful of earlier acts like MC5 and The Stooges as easy points of comparison. But that “original Rock and Roll” has another significance: unlike the era’s other early punk bands, which – especially the British ones – were highly reactionary against the old guard of rock, the Ramones’ work, especially in their early days, shows a reverence for the pop and old-school rock and roll of the late 1950s and early-mid ’60s. The group’s early aesthetics – shaggy black hair, tight pants, phony British accents – even reads as an actualization of Thomas Pynchon’s satire of 60s American bands in The Crying of Lot 49. The Ramones may well have been the world’s first pop-punk band, and while the Ramones songs that most influenced my early punk development (namely, the anti-Reagan pop of “My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)” and the group’s foray into hardcore, “Warthog”) were part of the band’s 80s catalog, it’s their mid-to-late 70s work, with the original lineup intact, that finds them at their best and shows how they influenced everything from Black Flag to the Blue Album to Blink-182. “Rockaway Beach,” from the 1977 classic Rocket to Russia, is one of their best songs, an upbeat, 3-chord burst of harmony-stuffed joy. And Tommy Ramone’s stead floor-tom grooves anchor the whole thing, a prime example of how he influenced every drummer to ever play punk. RIP.