Johnny Ramone, the most contradictory punk musician and the love betrayal that bled the Ramones to death

johnny ramone

“Rage begins in adolescence and never completely leaves you,” he said. johnny ramone in Commando, his autobiography, published several years after his death. Anger was a natural state for John William Cummingsraised in New York by a working married couple who ran a tavern in which the immigrants went for a few beers every night. In the midst of boxes and bottles, his parents brought him closer to what would be his great passion: music. Not that they were music lovers, but there was a jukebox in the bar and every night there came out the sounds that, years later, little Johnny would want to play on his guitar.

Estelleof Polish and Ukrainian descent, and Frankof Irish origin, were working class and very believers. Both Catholics, they instilled religion in Johnny until he the nuns went too far with physical punishment. “Like so many children, I didn’t get along with the nuns, who were always hitting me. I don’t think I did anything to deserve it, but I still got hit with a stick. I stopped going to religious school when I taught my mother the marks, ”said the guitarist as an adult. Although he did not attend mass, he remained a believer until the last of his days.

As a teenager, the taste for music from John William Cummings (born October 8, 1948 Long Island, United States) by music became more intense. Although he wore his hair long (for the time a shy mane) he hated hippies. “I never liked all that peace and love shit”, has known how to confess without shame. Before playing the guitar he was already involved in fights, he used drugs of all kinds, he sniffed glue and went too far with alcohol.

Street fights and senseless robberies earned him several confrontations with the police and when he was almost 20 years old he was a mess: his mother discovered heroin in his pockets and he was in a fight to the death with his father.

johnny ramone
johnny ramone

The call

In those days, if he saw discarded televisions on the street, he would go up to the terrace and “throw them at the feet of people passing by, just to scare them.” His parents couldn’t stand him anymore, life had no meaning, until a signal made him change course. “I was walking to the corner of 99th and 66th Avenue in Forest Hills, not far from home, and I heard a voice. I don’t know who it was, God maybe, but it was something that I had never heard before and that said to me: ‘What are you doing with your life? Are you here for this?’ It was a spiritual awakening and I left everything immediately: a cut that cleared everything up. I came home and left drugs, alcohol, everything bad”, he recounted in his autobiography, explaining that only a year later he was able to drink a beer every once in a while, but never again in excess.

After this radical change in behavior, Johnny asked his father for a job in construction, an area in which he worked for five years. By then he already knew Tommy Erdelyi (first drummer and co-founder of ramones) and had had a rapprochement with dee dee. They all liked music, but they were not determined to form a group.

His first concert as a fan had been in 1964 when he saw the Rolling Stonesthen they would come The Who, Black Sabbath, The Doors Y Alice Cooper. In addition to the Beatleshis head band, the influence that came to change his life was that of New York Dollsa group of guys who didn’t seem so virtuous but who struck a chord with Johnny that drove him crazy and made him think about going on stage one day.

The day after his 23rd birthday, he married his first wife, rosena, with whom he shared outings to see bands and who waited for him at home when he continued working in construction. At that time he met Joeywith whom he would share a band from its foundation until the last day they said “Goodbye friends!”. The conflict was always there, latent: “Me he was the neighborhood bully. Once, before we formed the group, I even hit Joey, our lead singer, back in our neighborhood. I was 21 years old and he was 19; We had arranged to go to the movies, but since he was late I punched him hard, because he had no excuse to be late”.

The Ramones live in London, in 1977, singing “Blitzkrieg Bop”

With the Ramones they found a unique way of playing and transmitting music, without the search for virtuosity of the bands of the 60s, but with a speed never seen before. Many guitarists tried to copy Johnny’s way of playing, few succeeded. His relationship with his classmates was always rough, he was not an easy guy. “Marky, our second drummer, and I could go months without speaking to each other over some stupid thing, like who had to sign this or that. We were in Japan, a cymbal had cracked and I thought we could all sign it and sell it. The anger came for that; he insisted that only he should sign it because he was the drummer, and I said that for a fan a cymbal signed by everyone was better. We all signed it and sold it”.

intimate enemies

By 1981 the Ramones already had their good number of followers and with a line-up that included joey ramone in the voice, johnny ramone on the guitar, Dee Dee Ramone on bass and vocals, and Marky Ramone on drums, the group was preparing to release their sixth album until a bomb exploded inside them. Linda Danielle, Joey’s girlfriend, decided to leave him without much explanation. The singer entered a kind of depression and never met a stable partner again. But not only had that relationship eroded, his work circle was also beginning to become intoxicated.

Linda Danielle with Joey Ramone and with Johnny Ramone
Linda Danielle with Joey Ramone and with Johnny Ramone

Johnny was no longer with Rosana and for a while he hid from Joey that he was seeing Linda. The worst thing was that the couple lasted and together they were one, until the end of the days of the guitarist. Dee Dee understood Joey’s pain, Marky minimized it, and together they moved on for the common good: the Ramones. Urban legend tells that Joey sang “The KKK took my baby away” to Johnnyas a metaphor for being xenophobic, racist, sympathetic to the right and for, precisely, having “stolen” his girl. Joey’s brother, in an interview he gave a few years ago, categorically denied this version, which many still have fun believing.

The Ramones live in London, in 1977, singing “Blitzkrieg Bop”

The truth is that the guitarist and the singer no longer spoke to each other and if they had to communicate something (they played together for another 15 years!) they did so through another member of the group or the staff. No one ever gave Joey an explanation for the matter and those close to him knew what he had suffered. In 2001, Joey died of lymphoma, and neither Johnny nor Linda came to see him off. Hard as a rock, when asked why he was absent, Johnny said that he just wanted to see his friends and Joey wasn’t one of them. At that time, the guitarist knew that he was also sick and finally on September 15, 2004 it was his turn. Johhny Ramone died at the age of 55 next to Linda, due to prostate cancer.

The Ramones had stopped playing in 1996 and in his autobiography (on which he had been working and which his widow finally edited in 2012) he said, not without a little guilt: “I imagine that the fans would not be amused to know that those of their favorite band despise each other”. He also hinted that, although it was difficult to materialize, he might have returned to the band, but that any possibility disappeared in 2001: “There was no Ramones without Joey, he was irreplaceable as unbearable as he was.”

The personal and political differences between one and the other were irreconcilable. While Joey was progressively inclined and was known to be of Jewish origin, Johnny was a right-wing Catholic. That sympathy became explicit when the day they entered the Rock and Roll Hall of FameJohnny said, “God bless President Bush, God bless America.” At that time, many musicians rejected the Republican politician for his role in the war in Afghanistan, but the guitarist did not care. Johnny was a punk who started out hating the system and ended up as a member of the National Rifle Association worshiping Ronald Reagan..

Dee Dee Ramone, Tommy Ramone, Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone (Photo: Magnolia Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Dee Dee Ramone, Tommy Ramone, Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone (Photo: Magnolia Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock)

The polarization from within made being a Ramone (a nickname they borrowed from Paul MCCARTNEY, who used to stay with that false surname in the hotels) became a declaration of principles in itself, it was to be part of the crudest gang in New York, without having to give explanations to anyone. In Commando, as Johnny himself tells it: “You had a terrifying time with the Ramones, and the more intense the better. In our performances there was violence: there were fights, there was blood. I would have been savagely bored if there hadn’t been any savagery. One day in the early 1990s, a tear gas spray fell into my hands, courtesy of a former New York cop who worked with our crew during a concert in Washington, DC (…) I told him to be prepared to spray people at a certain moment of the performance. So he got behind the loudspeaker column and started spraying.”

Complex, difficult, Johnny made the Ramones an extreme experience and his life, what he wanted. This is how he closed the pepper spray anecdote and opened a door to the Ramones universe: “It was tremendous, wonderful, as if a bomb had fallen: the beers flew and everyone ran with their heads soaked. That was a performance by the Ramones” .

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Johnny Ramone, the most contradictory punk musician and the love betrayal that bled the Ramones to death