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Ramones' 1976 debut album 'Ramones' finally goes gold

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Quietly and without fanfare—and in keeping with a tradition of being overlooked by the mainstream music business through most of their historic career—punk rock pioneers The Ramones’ landmark 1976 debut album Ramones has been certified gold for sales of 500,000 units in the U.S.

Released on April 23, 1976, Ramones went gold this year on April 30, when it was certified such by the Recording Industry of America. Only the group’s original drummer Tommy Ramone survives; frontman Joey Ramone died shortly before the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and guitarist Johnny Ramone and bassist Dee Dee Ramone both died soon after.

Ramones began with one of the band’s most famous songs “Blitzkrieg Bop," which lives on today as a sports anthem and in TV commercials. It included other Ramones classics like “Beat on the Brat" and "Judy Is a Punk," all clocking in at two and a-half minutes or less except “I Don’t’ Want to Go Down to the Basement,” at 2:35. The entire 14-song album ran 29 minutes, four seconds.

To say the least, Ramones was revolutionary.

“The music was so revolutionary, it captured me heart and soul the very first time I heard it,” recalls Seymour Stein, the legendary founder of the Ramones’ label Sire Records.

“I was in a little rehearsal studio with my wife Linda, Danny Fields, and Craig Leon all by my side.”

Linda Stein and Fields managed The Ramones. Leon produced Ramones.

“We were all blown away,” continues Stein. “The deal was done then and there that night, and The Ramones were in the studio two or three days later. In all probability, they would have been there the next day except they needed to buy some new instruments.”

The end result, says Fields, was “in every way, perfection.”

“For what it cost to make--$6,400, according to legend, in a huge recording studio above Radio City Music Hall used for symphony orchestras—it got such amazing reviews,” says Fields. “They took out a page in the Village Voice with blurbs from 50 reviews ranging from ‘It’s the greatest thing I ever heard’ to ‘It makes me want to puke.’”

Stein says that “Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and even Tommy—who was the most realistic—believed the album would go gold, if not in six months, certainly within a year.”

Thirty-eight years later, he says, “Better late than never!”

“The songs then were not radio-able,” says Fields. “They weren’t considered radio singles, and no promotion person could overcome the resistance that came with the publicity that the Sex Pistols were generating in England.”

Fields refers to reports of obnoxious Sex Pistols’ behavior including vomiting in London’s Heathrow Airport, and notes the irony that members of the band saw The Ramones play London in July, 1976, well ahead of the November release of their first single “Anarchy in the U.K.”

“We went to play in Boston, and Harvard people came to interview them [The Ramones] and said, ‘We were at the show, but way in the back because we were afraid you’d vomit on us!’ Right then I knew we’d never have a hit.”

Ironic, too, is that while Ramones’ songs were “too short for radio, now they’re too long for anything,” notes Fields. “Seymour and I thought they were hits, but they just didn’t fit the hit format then—even though now, people think they were hits. And now, they generate millions of dollars in car commercials and stadium cheers that don’t use more than a few seconds!”

But besides the music, Ramones remains iconic for its cover art.

“I talked to people who bought it and they said, ‘It looks like a cool bunch of guys,’” says Fields, citing the black-and-white “graphics, the logo, what they were wearing. Everything about it was classic—including the commercial failure and the irony of its being on so many lists of the most important albums of the late 20th Century.”

That Ramones has finally gone gold is “great news for Ramones fans all over the world,” concludes Stein. “Although I loved all their albums, I have to admit this was my favorite. I’m only sorry that they’re not all here to celebrate.”

[The Examiner wrote the first book on The Ramones, Ramones--An American Band.]

Subscribe to my examiner.com pages and follow me on Twitter @JimBessman!

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