Johnny Ramones Top 10 punk bands
Credit: Masao Nakagami

Johnny Ramone’s 10 greatest songs of all time

Ramones may well be one of the most influential acts of rock history. The group inspired countless other acts with their back to basics approach and DIY ethos. They were, in many ways, the archetypal punks. The leather jackets and ripped jeans were one thing but the band needed tunes to pull it all together. For that, they often turned to their empirical leader, Johnny Ramone.

Johnny was the creative force behind much of that imperious three-chord work with the Ramones, the controversial guitarist created a career out of thrashing through razor blade riffs to his latest moment of adolescent discontent revisited. He, along with his adopted family of snot-nosed bratty brothers, in many ways invented the punk genre as we know. Alongside a few others that emerged from the depths of New York’s underground scene, the Ramones were pioneers. Below, in celebration of Johnny’s birthday, we’re bringing you 10 of his best tracks.

Joey Ramone may well have been the voice of the band and, in turn, a generation, but Johnny Ramone laid the groundwork and provided the stage and the microphone with which to speak. Simply put, Johnny Ramone’s riffs are what makes punk the buzzing, spewing and violent genre we all love to this day, it can be heard in all of the band’s songs and is certainly present in the ten tracks below. 

Ramone wasn’t exactly a wholly-loved figure in music. His brash style, uncompromising attitude and right-wing conservatism (the man had a list of his 10 favourite Republicans) have made him a punk pariah of late but if you can remove the man from the music then you’re left with a pile of three-chord thunder that not many can match.  

If there was any reason to stick on the Ramones, turn it up to eleven and thrash around your home with reckless abandon, then this is it. Here are Johnny Ramone’s 10 best songs. 

Johnny Ramone 10 best songs: 

10. ‘I Don’t Want To Grow Up’ 

Taken from the band’s 1995 album, and their final album ¡Adios Amigos! ‘I Don’t Want To Grow Up’ could well be the Ramones’ defining number, albeit a defining track written by someone else—but that never really mattered to the Ramones anyway.  

Luckily, that someone else wasn’t some schmuck but none other than Americana crooner, Tom Waits. The track remains as a shining reminder of how effortlessly, the Ramones could use Johnny’s guitar to turn anyone’s song into their own. 

9. ‘Psycho Therapy’  

When the Ramones first began in the bowels of underground New York, they were the frontrunners of a brand new sound. Call it punk or call it heavy metal bubblegum, the fact remains that at the time, the Ramones were the cutting edge.

By 1983 things had certainly changed. But while the music world around them was spinning off in more make-up drenched areas, the Ramones returned to their roots and churned out this thumper. 

8. ‘Do You Remember Rock N’ Roll Radio?’ 

Though the Ramones may well be the bastion of punk, the leather jackets, ripped jeans and snarling attitude was about as close to an archetypal punk as you could get in the mid-seventies. That said, it didn’t mean they still weren’t driven by money. Despite what you may think, the Ramones wanted to be rich. 

It was this drive that sent them to connect with Phil Spector and record the frightening record End of the Century with the infamous pop producer. While the mismatch of producer and band was clear for all to see, they did manage to find one or two good songs in the pop pile of Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’, most notably this gem, ‘Do You Remember Rock N’ Roll?’ which has a curious combination of ageing nostalgia and effervescent youth.   

7. ‘Teenage Lobotomy’ 

Right in the heart of the punk battle, the Ramones released their seminal album Rocket to Russia, its fiery lyrics and ferocious speed made it an instant hit. It’s the kind of song which shows the distillation of the band, deranged lyrics, lunatic riffs and a pace like no other.

Starting off the LP’s second side was the powerful ‘Teenage Lobotomy’. Ed Stasium, who worked with the band on the album told Rolling Stone of the song: “It has every element of what’s great about them, in one song – the big drum intro and the ‘Lobotomy’ chant; the little background-harmony ooohs; the subject matter.” 

6. ‘Pet Sematary’ 

The eighties were a crazy decade for the Ramones, ending with Dee Dee leaving the group. However, before he did. the acclaimed novelist and supreme Ramones fan, Stephen King, asked if the group would write a theme song for the film adaptation of his bestselling horror novel Pet Sematary.

What transpired is one of the band’s few commercial hits and added as a nice ending note to finish the hellish decade for the group. Still, though it may not have been a great time to be a Ramone, it’s hard to ignore the punch and the push of this classic punk track. 

5. ‘Warthog’ 

In the eighties, as the world changed around them and the Ramones struggled to align their trademark sound with a brand new audience, the group weren’t afraid to try new things. One of those new things was making a hardcore album. Titled Too Tough to Die, the album falls rather flat in total. 

But that doesn’t stop it having the odd spark of brilliance. Overall, one song shines out from the LP, ‘Warthog’. It’s a simple ditty with a heavy dose of backbone and crunches through the airwaves as soon as you drop the needle. The whole song feels like a snort of derision as the group satirise the 1977 punk sound.  

4. ‘Rockaway Beach’ 

In the slew of three-chord, three-minute gut punches that the Ramones call songs, there aren’t many bonafide ‘hits’. Except, of course, this classic vision, ‘Rockaway Beach’. The surf-punk pioneer is full of summer in New York joy, featuring cheap hot dogs, cheaper beer and sunburnt bodies. 

It was the band’s ability to seamlessly weave in the visions of the city they were surrounded by that always added extra weight to their songs. It made them not only attainable for those in the know but for punks on the other side of the Atlantic, it also offered an extra degree of mysticism.  

3. ‘Blitzkreig Bop’ 

The first song of the Ramones self-titled debut album was, undoubtedly, the first powerful notes of a band determined to make an impression. The song rattles out at just over two minutes and was a firm fan favourite from the very beginning, proving itself as one of the ultimate punk anthems.

Played at pretty much every Ramones gig over their 22-year career, if there was one song to symbolise their undying influence it is this punk number’s infiltration of the mainstream. Who can resist the “Hey, ho, let’s go!” whenever they hear it? Truly, there isn’t really a ubiquitous punk song like it. But that doesn’t mean it is Johnny’s best. 

2. ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’ 

If you weren’t “in” the punk scene in the mid-seventies then chances are, ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’ may have been your very first introduction to not only the Ramones but punk itself. It scraped the top 100 in the pop charts and found itself some airplay on rock radio. In 1977, it was positively revolutionary.  

It not only took the melodies of the 1960s and turned them on their head to more easily kick them in the teeth, but it also put Sheena, a leftover from the pulp magazine days, and made her part of the gang. Sheena wouldn’t be swayed by rhinestone disco. No, she wanted to be in the muck and the mire of CBGB’s sweating and thrashing with the rest of us. 

1. ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ 

If ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ is the mainstream hit that even your grandmas would throw her fists up into the air for, then ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ was the reason the band were still the kings of the underground.

Though the track was a rather autobiographical affair (Joey suffered severe burns to his face in 1977 and was recovering when he penned the song), the way Ramone sang the lines, with sardonic disenchantment, endeared him to a mass of disengaged youths.

He was the epitome of it all; tall, awkward, gangly, ugly hair, ripped jeans, a stinking old leather jacket, and as stubborn as a mule. Joey Ramone was the archetypal punk and he will be forever sorely missed.

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