According to most critics, the Ramones were the first important punk rock band. They formed in 1974 in the Forest Hills section of Queens, New York. Originally, they consisted of Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman) on vocals and drums, Johnny Ramone (John Cummings) on guitar, and Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin) on bass, with Tommy Ramone (Tom Erdelyi) as the manager. Tommy soon took over the drumming chores to let Joey devote himself to vocals.

Ramones songs were typically short, stripped-down, fast, and kitschy, with roots in 1950s rock and lyrics like something out of a '50s teen exploitation flick--"The KKK Took My Baby Away", "Teenage Lobotomy", "I Wanna Be Sedated", "Rockaway Beach", and "Somebody Put Something in my Drink".

Within months of their debut, the band was playing regularly at CBGB's, earning a devoted cult following, and inspiring other musicians to form punk bands. They signed their first record contract in 1975, recording their debut album ("Ramones") for just over $6,000. The record and its followup ("Ramones Leave Home") were much more popular in England than it was in the U.S., inspiring bands like the Sex Pistols.

Tommy left the band in '78; he was replaced by Marky Ramone (former Voidoid Marc Bee). The Ramones' album that year was "Road to Ruin", which significantly softened their sound, adding influences from surf music, '60s pop, and even girl groups. The band was also featured in the 1979 Roger Corman film "Rock N' Roll High School". Their fifth album, "End of the Century", produced by the legendary Phil Spector, was released in 1980 to mixed reviews.

The band's next two albums ("Pleasant Dreams" and "Subterranean Jungle") were commercial and critical disappointments, and their fan base began to decline as fans and critics lost interest. Marky quit the band after the release of "Subterranean Jungle"--he was replaced by Richie Ramone (former Velveteen Richard Beau). The band turned more hardcore in 1984's "Too Tough to Die", which was produced by Tommy Ramone.

The rest of the Ramones' albums were more streamlined and commercial--including "Animal Boy", "Halfway to Sanity" (after which Richie quit and Marky rejoined), "Brain Drain" (after which Dee Dee quit and C.J. Ramone (Christopher John Ward) joined), "Loco Live", "Mondo Bizarro", and "Acid Eaters".

After the release of "Acid Eaters", punk rock finally hit it big in America, and the Ramones released "Adios Amigos", claiming that unless the new record sold well, the group would disband--the record stayed on the charts for only two weeks. After a lengthy farewell tour, they toured with Lollapalooza before finally calling it quits in 1996.

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