:: Friday, October 28, 2005 ::

Most. underrated. guitarist. Ever.
Now that a certain kinsman/commenter has slit his wrists and died after discovering my number two pick (no doubt he was hoping the Edge would be numero uno), I have no fear of reprisals for picking a sloppy, Stone Age-style, pure rock'n'roll guitarist as the number one most underrated guitarist ever. So off the deep end I go...

Johnny Ramone, the lead (?) guitarist of the seminal punk band Ramones, was truly a hero to me. Johnny Ramone showed me and the many other teens with dubious talent but a lot of dreams that you didn't have to be a great guitarist to achieve greatness. Guitar greatness doesn't necessarily come from a kickass guitar solo. It can come wrapped up in three simple chords, played with amazing speed and urgency.

To my way of thinking, Johnny's stripped-down, buzzsaw approach to the guitar defines the essence of minimalism. The Ramones were all about getting back to basics. The punk rebellion that Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy and Joey helped ignite was a rebellion against the complexity and elitism of '70s prog rock. They boiled rock and roll down to three primal instincts that are now firmly etched into rock'n'roll's genetic makeup:

  • "I Wanna" -- the credo of the cretins. Almost every Ramones song carries as its theme this basic urge of the id: I wanna (be your boyfriend, sniff some glue, have something to do, be sedated, etc.) or its opposite, I don't wanna (walk around with you, go down to the basement, etc.) Expressed in Joey's emotionless, nasally, forgot-to-take-my-Nyquil vocals, the sentiment resonated with a lot of bored teenagers. Still does.

  • 1-2-3-4! Get the beat back. Tommy (on drums) and Dee Dee (on bass) took care of that.

  • The three-chord rock song. This was Johnny's most recognizable contribution to the Ramones sound. Is there anything more powerful that the simple, pounding A-D-E power chords that open "Blitzkrieg Bop"?

    While Johnny Ramone claimed that he stopped listening to anything in order to create "pure, white rock'n'roll," his influences are obvious: Dick Dale, Bo Diddley, and yes, even Jimi Hendrix. But in his inimitable style, he opted for simplicity over complexity.

    Simplicity is underrated. Ergo, Johnny Ramone is, too.

    An aside about Johnny: He was an arch-conservative politically, which set him at odds with other members of the band. When the Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago, Johnny grabbed the microphone to tell the audience of liberal, Hollywood-style weenies: "God bless President Bush, and God bless the United States of America." Now that, my friends, is punk rock.


    Ramones Radio (streaming)

    Ramones - I Wanna Be Sedated (mp3)

    Ramones - Beat on the Brat (mp3)
    My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg) (mp3)

    , , , , ,

    :: Andrew 07:18 + ::
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