For me, the friendship between Joey Ramone and Motörhead’s hard-drinking frontman, Lemmy, is proof of how reductive our labelling and categorising of bands into strict genres can be. While The Ramones and Motörhead are often associated with different scenes – one with punk, the other with heavy rock – the two groups adopted incredibly similar musical aesthetics and seemed to hold many of the same values. In an interview on MTV in 1992, just a year after the release of Motörhead’s track ‘R.A.M.O.N.E.S’, the pair explained their mutual affection for one another while revealing the surprising link between their two bands.
Explaining how he came across The Ramones in the first place, Lemmy said: “They came to London, and I thought ‘well they look like me and they play short hair music too. We were the two cross-over bands between long hair [traditional rock music] and punk.” Both The Ramones and Motörhead had managed to form a bridge between the high-octane sound of proto-punk groups (The Stooges, Pink Fairies, and The MC5) and the theatrical zeal of The Alex Harvey band and Alice Cooper. In this sense, their respective groups stood just a little beyond the parameters of the musical categories that writers and fans were so keen to place them in. What’s more, both Lemmy and Joey Ramone seemed quite proud of their outsider status, wearing it as a badge of honour.
As Joey Ramone went on to say during that same interview: “There’s nobody like either of our bands. Both of our bands have gone the distance and maintained their integrity. I mean, Motörhead, never let me down, and I feel like they’re the most exciting band – besides ourselves,” he concluded, chuckling to himself while offering a hand to Lemmy. Those words echo comments Joey had made in a similar interview just a year before.
Opening up about his love of Motörhead, the Ramones frontman explained how both groups acted as an antidote to the college-band mediocrity flooding the airwaves at the time. “Everything is so pretentious nowadays, we just hit the stage and blow you away without any pretension, or crap like half these bands that exist,” Ramone brashly stated in an interview in 1991. “I feel like the Ramones and Motörhead are the only two bands that matter, y’know.”
So, it would seem that the bond between The Ramones and Motörhead, isn’t simply a musical one – rather, both groups bonded because they were fronted by proud iconoclasts, who had spent their careers exploring the pomposity of rock music.