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Q: Although the Ramones are considered the first punk band, it is a rarely mentioned concession that they desperately wanted to be rock stars. How should this shape our view of them? How does this shape our view of punk itself since Ramones are the keystone?
A: I can certainly understand that feeling, especially in light of the counter culture, anti-commercialism that is a large part of modern era punk. However, I don't think it's fair to place these morals and standards to The Ramones.
In my opinion, their desire to be rock stars makes them all the more endearing. Their self-titled debut came out in 1976. Looking at the US charts the big albums of that year were from bands like Chicago, The Eagles, Peter Frampton and Stevie Wonder. Pretty much all bands that have absolutely nothing in common with The Ramones. And yet, many critics will list The Ramones' S/T as one of the top/most important albums of 1976.
The fact that they wanted to be rock stars while taking such an incredibly counter intuitive approach to reaching that goal is amazing. And yet, somehow, they did achieve moderate commercial success (and arguably a much large impact in the overall musical landscape through influence). Their single minded devotion to success sort of turned into a reality, despite the fact that they shared almost nothing with huge rock bands of their era.
In a way, that is their legacy on punk music, more than anything else. They went out there and achieved. Not through trying to sound like The Eagles or Earth, Wind and Fire but by simply grinding out the best music they could and doing it over and over again. To me that ethic of grinding it out, trial and error and even showmanship is all a great part of punk and something I'm happy the Ramones helped pioneer.
Also, the desire to be famous gave us DeeDee King...And aren't we all a little richer for that?
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