A couple weeks ago the preacher at the church I was attending quoted theologian Karl Barth as having said “The angels listen to Bach, but God listens to Mozart.” That may have been true when Barth said it, but that’s only because it was before January 10, 1974 when four angsty young New Yorkers donning black leather jackets and shaggy hair decided to become the Ramones!
Now that Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee have moved on from this life, I can’t help but believe that the heavenly host and all three persons of the Trinity are all doing the pogo in a much more awesome Heaven!
There’s a shit-ton of debate out there about the significance of the Ramones in the history of popular music and culture such as if they were the first punk band and so forth. I don’t intend to weigh in on that as I don’t really have facts and research to say anything authoritatively (although whenever people say “So-and-so was the first musician/group of this or that genre” I think it’s really, really, really silly). But I will write a few sentences about what the Ramones mean for me.
I find the Ramones boldness to be quite inspiring. They were four guys without a lot of musical training or technical ability, but they were passionate as can be. They wrote music that was a huge departure from the wanky orchestral rock that was being churned out at the time by bands like Styx and Elton John, and rejected all the silly theatrical special effects that were being used by Kiss and David Bowie. Having decided not to be all that stuff, what were the Ramones?
Four guys playing catchy, aggressive songs in dimly-lit smoky basement clubs like CBGB. They might not have had any pyrotechnics, but they got people out of their seats and restored to rock and roll the element that had been sorely missing for years at the time: FUN! Rock had lost its sense of fun and was taking itself too damn seriously! Thank God for the Ramones!!!!
And, when I was a teenager and heard “Blitzkrieg Bop” for the first time, I knew I’d discovered something special. I had been listening to all the shitty California punk that was popular in the 90’s, but it always felt a little uninspired. The Ramones changed all that, and I saw that there was a whole lot more to punk rock than I’d been aware of.
And so, I say again, Happy Birthday, Ramones! I hope someday to be rocking out to you in a heavenly mosh pit!