In Parts One & Two, we heard from members of Radio Birdman, Skyhooks, Ol’55, Babeez/News, Hoodoo Gurus, Scientists, Victims, Fun Things, Limes Spiders, God, Cosmic Psychos and others and looked at reactions to the Ramones on the Australian music scene in the ‘70s and ‘80s. We discussed the ongoing influence of the Ramones on Australian music over the years and presented some great videos. We pick things up for our final installment as the ‘80s start drawing to a close, and the world has had a decade to get used to what the Ramones brought to the table…
By the late ‘80s and early ‘90s the influence of the Ramones was felt across a number of underground/alternative scenes. Hardcore punks, following in the Hard-ons footsteps, were of course influenced by them. There was also a poppier side of things – punky indie pop bands like the Plunderers, Hummingbirds out of Sydney, and Nursery Crimes – who we heard at the end of Part two – out of Melbourne. And of course Sydney’s Ratcat, who were one of the first “indie” bands to cross over to substantial commercial success.
“As a very young teenager living in America I loved punk rock. My older brother had the Ramones records and he wouldn't let me play them. So I had to sneak into his room when he'd gone out, to put them on to enjoy them. Loud fast and bratty, what better to inspire a young angst ridden kid.
I promised my friends when I left The States I would go back to Australia and start a band. That I did and amazingly got to support The Ramones on a number of occasions. At Selinas in Sydney they dedicated "Mummy's Boys" to Ratcat. I thought this was hilarious.
After the gig I banged on their band room door, Joey answers, I say "thank you, I love my mum." Joey says, "so you should" and slams the door in my face. It was classic in all the punk ethic, I loved it."
- Simon Day, Ratcat
AFTER THE HARD-ONS – SPLATTERHEADS, MEANIES, FRENZAL RHOMB
On the punk front there were also bands who liked the kind of melody that the Ramones had long dealt in. The Splatterheads – also from Sydney, and originally the Lompoc County Splatterheads – were label mates with the Hard-ons and Ratcat on Waterfront and played an emotionally intense style of punk rooted in a slightly older style but with a hardcore attack. The band’s horror shtick (more visual than lyrical –the Splatterheads were actually very heartfelt and profound lyrically), their big chorus hooks and the melodious vocals of their two lead singers – Sly and Big Guy – were at times reminiscent of the Misfits, who were themselves very influenced by the Ramones. Although he would leave after their second album Bot - The Album, Splatterheads drummer Micky Scott has never stopped loving the Ramones:
“D-U-M-B my arse. Anyone who thinks the Ramones are dumb is a fucking idiot. What they did is distilled, calculated, artistic genius. Pure and simple. Like other great art… a Rothko painting… you see it, or hear it, and think to yourself “shit, I could do that”… but you didn’t. And you haven’t. And you can’t. Too many pale imitations. So don’t go there!! But they planted a fertile seed, far and wide, and we grew it with love and affection - a direct and hearty lineage straight back to da brudders. It moves me, and I will never tire of it"
- Micky Scott, the Splatterheads
By the turn of the decade, a new generation was coming though. Down in Melbourne, the Meanies all took ‘Meanie’ as their surname in tribute to how the Ramones named themselves; their guitarist called himself D.D., and their singer Linky Meanie seemed to have cloned Joey Ramone’s adenoids. Early on they recorded a very Ramonesified and self-dedicated adaption of the theme to early ‘70s cartoon The Groovie Ghoulies.
The Meanies became massive on the burgeoning all-ages punk scene with great tunes and a hardcore-meets-Ramones sound that won them countless fans worldwide, including in Seattle. The band was personally invited by Eddie Vedder to support Pearl Jam on their debut Australian tour, and played all 10 shows with them!
“I had heard ‘Rock’n’Roll High School’ as a kid and loved it but they disappeared off the radar until my mid-teens when I heard the first album for the first time. The thing is the stereo I heard it on had a faulty speaker connection and as the guitars are panned hard left and right all I got was bass, drums, and vocals. I thought it was a really unusual mix but you know what, it still captured the essence of what made the Ramones great and made a huge impression. It got even better with guitar ha ha. It was a sonic contradiction. This frantic buzzsaw attack with cardboard box drums yet amazingly romantic and beautiful at times. Kind of what the Jesus and Mary Chain would later do with Psychocandy. And it was like the repetitious, insistent beat was hooked directly in sync with my heart beat. I didn't want it to change with each consecutive album. There are not many bands I can say that about. It’s like when you hear about people not liking the new style of a minister in a church. They want the same delivery and style statically forever. Am I saying the Ramones were/are a quasi-religious experience to me? Not sure. It's definitely up there with the most blissed out music has made me. It’s probably as close as I'll get (apart from love).
-Link, The Meanies
Following the Meanies’ ratbaggy punk lead and appearing a couple of years later were Sydney’s Frenzal Rhomb, who arrived in time to ride the wave of a new generation coming out of the States and riding high on the charts – The Offspring, Pennywise etc. Triple J loved Frenzal so much they gave a couple of them jobs!
RAMONE-ROCK ROCKS THE WORLD – AND THE LIVING END
If 1991 was the 'Year Punk Broke' (which it was, according to Sonic Youth), it didn’t take long for punk sounds to be dominating the charts and influencing all manner of rock. The Living End started literally as a Stray Cats cover band, so they recognized the strong 50s & early 60s rock influences that were inherent in the Ramones sound, and that of other Ramones inspired favourites like the Clash. Indeed the Living End got a helping hand early on by Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, who had themselves just caught a worldwide wave of success with a style and sound heavily indebted to the Ramones. Other popular bands of the era who no doubt had Ramones albums in their collection include Spiderbait, Grinspoon, Regurgitator; indeed pretty much every young band on the scene.
"4 skinny dudes all sporting the same goofy haircut, wearing matching black 1950s Brando biker jackets and ripped blue Levi jeans playing powerful pop songs that sound like they were written by the Ronettes through 100 watt Marshall Stacks?
And every song played at break neck speed as if the world was about to end?
What's not to love about that.
Genius in its simplicity.
There is only one Ramones.
P.S. I met Joey on the street in New York once and spoke to him. Really nice guy, 8 ft tall, super kooky but he was very friendly. “
-Chris Chaney, The Living End
THE PUNK REVIVAL – THE ONYAS & THE SPAZZYS
As punk was becoming increasing mainstream (or the mainstream was becoming increasingly punk), a new punk underbelly was becoming apparent worldwide. This stuff was rawer and was in many ways a return to mid-70s punk rock. Once again, the Ramones were one of the key templates.
Brisbane’s the Onyas followed LA’s The Lazy Cowgirls, New York’s the Devil Dogs and Cleveland’s New Bomb Turks out into the world and became an internationally influential group themselves with a style that also incorporated Cosmic Psychos-style ockerisms.
Melbourne’s Spazzys caught the tail end of the ‘70s punk revival in 2000 with a very simple premise – what if the Ramones were female? And they did it great – all three sang beautifully so harmonies came into play and they wrote some great tunes. Unfortunately for the Spazzys though, a heavier/bluesier/rawkier rock revival was just around the corner; with the arrival of the White Stripes, Jet etc, the Spazzy’s seemed to many a tad quaint. Their records stand up great though – check out a great early single and a fabulous Everly Brothers cover below.
“The best thing about the Ramones is that they are freaks and misfits. That’s what made them so cool. It's the perfect thing for a teenager with no friends in high school. Their songs are so powerful, you can feel it in your bones. They strike the perfect balance of fun and a bad attitude, making you glad to be a misfit too. They are so cool.”
MURRAY COOK A/K/A MURRAY WIGGLE!
When mega-popular kids band The Wiggles formed in 1991, all members came from the Sydney inner city rock scene, meaning they all knew their ‘60s pop and rock. And the Ramones. (Indeed, ILYOS swears that, even though the skivvies were inspired by Peter Oxley of the Sunnyboys, the different colors were inspired by the sleeve photo on the Ramones’ End of the Century album.)
Most famously, a bunch of the Wiggles guys came from the popular Sydney band the Cockroaches, who were like an ‘80s pop version of the ‘60s Rolling Stones. Murray Wiggle – whose Wiggles’ persona was always strumming a guitar - came from little-known outfits the Transistors and Finger Guns, but later on, at the peak of the Wiggles’ success, Murray would get back into the pubs in a new band that also featured former Hoodoo Gurus Clyde Bramley. The band was named Bang Shang A Lang after an Archies’ tune (like the Ramones they loved their bubblegum), and you can certainly hear the influence of the Ramones on their sound just check out this fab mash-up of Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” and ensuing cover of the Equals “Baby Come Back”.
My Ramones' Story by Murray Wiggle.
In December 1985, after a relationship breakup, I made a trip to New York City for the first time, to lick my wounds and check out the great city. I went for four weeks with my best mate, Mark Mulligan. We were both in our mid-20s, looking for an adventure.
One of our first stops after settling into the Chelsea Hotel was the street newspaper stands to pick up the Village Voice. Mark flipped through the pages to see what live music was playing during our stay. Suddenly, his eyes widened. "What is it?", I asked. For a few seconds, he was speechless but turned the paper around. At the bottom of the page was a small ad which read;
"A New York Tradition.New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve
At The World
Special Breakfast Performance
the Beastie Boys"
I was a somewhat casual fan of The Brudders at this point but Mark was and is a massive fan. We scurried about and secured tickets.
We had several adventures in the weeks leading up to New Year's Eve. But nothing was to match that night.
We arrived around 10pm and there was a queue down the block. The World club was on the Lower East Side, still a scary neighborhood in those days. We made friends with people in the queue but it wasn't long before we were inside the cavernous club. When inside we discovered that The Ramones weren't on till 1am and the Beastie Boys (who we'd never heard of) were scheduled to hit the stage at 5am!
A few hours passed (and quite a few drinks) and it was time. I became so much more than a casual fan in those opening minutes. Dee Dee was still in the band and he called off 1,2,3,4 and we were on the wild ride. There was crowd surfing and stage diving which I'd never seen before. But mostly that relentless sound; Johnny and Dee Dee's right hands a blur of downstrokes. And those great songs. Hit after hit (well, in my mind, they should have been.) There was an unseen cue and they removed their leather jackets. It was theatre but at the same time authentic. So much power but so much melody. I rarely us the term but they were awesome.
There's much more to tell about that wild night but this story is about my encounter with The Ramones: the night I became a true believer and, 32 years later still one of the greatest nights of my life.
-Murray Cook, The Wiggles
These days Murray plays in Sydney’s ‘60s soul inspired outfit the Soul Movers. Featuring singer Lizzie Mac, the band was originally formed by Radio Birdman’s Deniz Tek – Murray replaced him on guitar - and still features Birdman’s Pip Hoyle on keys. Check them out here.
AND ANOTHER PUNK REVIVAL OR TWO – THE 00’S AND BEYOND
The Ramones influence just keeps on giving. Every time there’s some sort of punk revival, they’re part of it in spirit. And there’s been so many punk-slash-garage movements/revivals so far this decade that they’re all starting to overlap and it’s getting messy to figure out who’s connected to who. Sydney’s super-fun Straight Arrows have been around for about a decade now and mix colorful reverb-drenched ‘60s-style garage rock a la the Black Lips with great pop tunes. They’re pals with American garage scene trend setters like Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall, Henry Rollins in a big fan, and I don’t have a doubt that they would’ve been Joey Ramones’ favourite band if he was still around.
“The Ramones meant that you didn't need pretentious lyrics, over-laboured chord changes, or more than two fingers on a guitar to make incredible music. No more bullshit. Anyone can do it, and they should.”
- Owen Penglis, Straight Arrows
The great “Something Happens” from the Straight Arrows’ must-have first album It’s Happening has what it takes to charm any old school Ramones fan.
Down in Melbourne, Clowns started off seeming to owe a pretty big debt to Aussie hardcore antecedents like Frenzal Rhomb, and went so far as to get skate punk artist Ben Brown, who fronted Sydney’s Hellmen in the late ‘80s and famously did artwork for them and Mass Appeal, to do the cover of their first album.
Clowns’ guitarist on that first album, Joe Hansen, now plays in a new band named Private Function, who specialise in full throttle, big chorus punkers, hilarious Z-grade videos and the sort of good taste that the Ramones once fostered in tracks like “Beat on the Brat” and “Every Time I Eat Vegetables It Makes Me Think Of You”.
“Ever since I've been listening to music and playing bands I've always gravitated towards punk rock. Stripping back rock 'n roll to its core elements and reinforcing those even further has always just been what's made the most sense to me as a listener and as a writer of music. While first hearing the Ramones at age nine or ten after I pulled the double LP out of Ramones Mania from my mum's record collection wasn't exactly a pivotal life changing experience - I'd already heard popular bands like The Offspring and Green Day that had been influenced by them - I immediately loved the what I heard and every song immediately became stuck in my head and my heart. I don't know if I really understood at that age what they were doing as a tribute to the pop music they loved while adding a harder edge, particularly in contrast to the bloated and vapid 1970s pop and rock at the time, but the beauty and power of their music rests in the fact that I didn't need to. To me, the Ramones represent pure rock 'n roll and deliver the perfect balance of economy and intelligent melody in songwriting. If you can't strip a song back to the bare essentials like they could it's not a good song.”
-Joe Hansen, Private Function
Similar but different are hyperactive stoner punks Dune Rats out of Brisbane, who have amassed a huge following with their goofy odes to various substances and indulges, something that the Ramones opened the door to with the likes of “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” and “I Wanna Be Sedated”.
And that about brings us up to date. We’ve come a long way since 1976, but in some ways not so far. Although rock’n’roll really is no longer the main thrust of pop music as it was from 1956 through to the accession of R&B and EDM, as long as there are kids or oldies cranking out a few chords and a catchy tune and playing something resembling punk rock, the influence of the Ramones will continue.