Credit: Masao Nakagami

From The Clash to Black Flag: Johnny Ramone's 10 favourite punk bands

Ramones may well be one of the most influential acts of rock music history. The group inspired countless other acts with their back to basics approach and DIY ethos, an effort which propelled both them and the idea of punk rock into the mainstream. They were, in many ways, the archetypal punks. With that in mind, it seems fitting that the group, or at least Johnny Ramone, should have his say on the greatest punk bands of all time.

The creative force behind much of the imperious work with the Ramones, the controversial guitarist Johnny Ramone created a career by thrashing out three chords to his latest moment of adolescent discontent revisited. It was a sign of things to come and, following the band’s rise out of the murky depths of New York City, the group flourished under the spotlight of punk—something that Johnny Ramone had a huge hand in.

He, along with his adopted family of bratty brothers, in many ways, invented the punk genre in the bowels of New York’s underground rock scene. It was under his tutelage that the group grew and gave birth to many of the copycat acts that flourished alongside them. So, when we stumbled across his top ten lists with New Yorker Magazine, we were keen to see who, in his opinion, were the best bands of the genre he had a big hand in helping to spawn.

The lists, of which there are many, are comprised of a host of different interests for the guitarist. While the lists are varying, some make more sense than others. For example, while one is a list of Johnny’s top 10 ‘Eighties Ball Players’ witch Ricky Henderson coming out on top, there is another solely dedicated to books on Elvis and the scholars who delved deep into the life of The King. It’s an interesting gauge on a turbulent character.

Johnny also gives his top 10 singers, a collection which results in Elvis coming out on top. While his affection for Presley may not comes as a surprise, perhaps the most curious of opinion listicles from the Ramones man comes in the shape of Johnny’s political leanings, an opportunity for him to list his top 10 Republican politicians in which former President Ronald Reagan receives the emphatic “hey-ho” of approval. The latter list is the reason for most people’s turmoil when it comes to the polarising figure of Johnny Ramone—that and his treatment of lead singer Joey. But it’s hard to deny the guitarist’s nous for a punk tune.

The above may be fun for a giggle or two, but what we were really concerned about was how the emancipated Godfather of punk ranked his underlings. The list, perhaps in accordance with our previous sentence, is headed up by Johnny’s own band the Ramones, a choice which is actually hard to argue with considering their groundbreaking movements for the genre and also expected given punk rock bands inability to be humble when faced with their contemporaries. Next up are the British parentage of the punk sound with spots for the Sex Pistols and The Clash — arguably the only two acts to stake a claim on the bratty snot-nosed child of punk rock.

Ramone also picks up Buzzcocks, an underrated influence on the rock scene, as well as a doff of the cap to shock rock giants The Cramps, little known lunatics The Dickies and the hardcore heroes Black Flag. Completing the list with New York uber-cool stalwarts Dead Boys and The Heartbreakers and you have yourself a top 10 that is hard to argue with. In fact, it’s a top ten that have arguably had more influence on music than any other collection of groups.

It’s a comprehensive list for which we have created one hell of a playlist. Taking each of the bands mentioned’s first album, this could well be one of the brattiest playlists around and it is certainly one of the best foundational punk playlists you will ever be lucky enough to stumble upon.

Johnny Ramone’s 10 favourite punk bands:

  1. The Ramones
  2. The Clash
  3. The Sex Pistols
  4. The Heartbreakers
  5. The Dead Boys
  6. The Damned
  7. The Cramps
  8. The Buzzcocks
  9. The Dickies
  10. Black Flag