The Ramones’ loud, fast, straightforward musical style was influenced by pop music that the band members grew up listening to in the 1950s and 1960s, including classic rock groups such as The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Rolling Stones; bubblegum acts like the 1910 Fruitgum Company and Ohio Express; and girl groups such as The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las. They also drew on the harder rock sound of The Stooges and the New York Dolls, both now known as seminal protopunk bands. The Ramones’ style was in part a reaction against the heavily produced, often bombastic music that dominated the pop charts in the 1970s. “We decided to start our own group because we were bored with everything we heard,” Joey once explained. “In 1974 everything was tenth-generation Led Zeppelin, tenth-generation Elton John, or overproduced, or just junk. Everything was long jams, long guitar solos…. We missed music like it used to be.” Ira Robbins and Scott Isler of Trouser Press describe the result:
|“||With just four chords and one manic tempo, New York’s Ramones blasted open the clogged arteries of mid-’70s rock, reanimating the music. Their genius was to recapture the short/simple aesthetic from which pop had strayed, adding a caustic sense of trash-culture humor and minimalist rhythm guitar sound.
As leaders in the punk rock scene, the Ramones’ music has usually been identified with that label, while some have defined their characteristic style more specifically as pop punk and others as power pop. In the 1980s, the band sometimes veered into hardcore punk territory, as can be heard on Too Tough to Die.
On stage, the band adopted a focused approach directly intended to increase the audience’s concert experience. Johnny’s instructions to C.J. when preparing for his first live performances with the group were to play facing the audience, to stand with the bass slung low between spread legs, and to walk forward to the front of stage at the same time as he did. Johnny was not a fan of guitarists who performed facing their drummer, amplifier, or other band members.
The Ramones’ art and visual imagery complemented the themes of their music and performance. The band members adopted a uniform look of long hair, leather jackets, t-shirts, torn jeans, and sneakers. This fashion emphasized minimalism, which was a powerful influence on the New York punk scene of the 1970s and reflected the band’s short, simple songs. Tommy Ramone recalled that, both musically and visually, “we were influenced by comic books, movies, the Andy Warhol scene, and avant-garde films. I was a big Mad Magazine fan myself.”
I saw them as the ultimate all-American band. To me, they reflected the American character in general—an almost childish innocent aggression…. I thought, ‘The Great Seal of the President of the United States’ would be perfect for the Ramones, with the eagle holding arrows—to symbolize strength and the aggression that would be used against whomever dares to attack us—and an olive branch, offered to those who want to be friendly. But we decided to change it a little bit. Instead of the olive branch, we had an apple tree branch, since the Ramones were American as apple pie. And since Johnny was such a baseball fanatic, we had the eagle hold a baseball bat instead of the [Great Seal]’s arrows.
The scroll in the eagle’s beak originally read “Look out below”, but this was soon changed to “Hey ho let’s go” after the opening lyrics of the band’s first single, “Blitzkrieg Bop”. The arrowheads on the shield came from a design on a polyester shirt Vega had bought. The name “Ramones” was spelled out in block capitals above the logo using plastic stick-on letters. Where the presidential emblem read “Seal of the President of the United States” clockwise in the border around the eagle, Vega instead placed the pseudonyms of the four band members: Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy. Over the years the names in the border would change as the band’s lineup fluctuated.