dimanche, septembre 19, 2004

Johnny wasn't good...

As another punk icon dies, what became of rock's angry brigade?

Johnny Ramone, founder and guitarist of The Ramones, died of cancer on Wednesday, aged 55. He is the latest of the key players in punk to have died at a relatively early age. Report by Terry Kirby

The Clash

Who were they? Joe Strummer, vocals, Mick Jones, guitar, Paul Simenon, bass, Topper Headon, drums.

Those who fell by the wayside: Strummer died in December 2002 from a heart condition; he had suffered from hepatitis, contracted, he claimed, from phlegm spat at him by fans during the band's peak.

The whole gory story: The west London squatters were, in the view of many, the best thing to emerge from the era. Guided by Bernie Rhodes, a strong visual image - stencilled slogans and urban guerilla chic - was matched with three minutes blasts of pure energy. Less anarchic and more political than the Pistols, their best early songs - "White Riot", "London's Burning", reflected the times. Despite the street image, Strummer was a boarding school boy and the band signed with CBS, seen as a sell-out.

The highs: As the Pistols imploded, a series of critically acclaimed singles and albums, culminating in 1979's double London Calling made the Clash the key band of the late 1970s. By then, they had moved on from pure punk and began to incorporate reggae.

The lows: The triple album Sandinista was criticised by purists for its sprawling self-indulgence. However they returned to form with Combat Rock and had a hit with "Rock the Casbah". The band fell apart in 1983 after Strummer fired Headon due to his heroin problem and then Jones amid personality clashes.

Where are they now? They never reformed, despite a belated UK No 1 hit "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" in 1991. Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite and is producer of The Libertines as well as performing in a group; Simenon concentrates on his painting;Headon, thought to have overcome his heroin addiction, became a taxi driver; Strummer worked with the Pogues before The Mescaleros.

The Sex Pistols

Who were they? Johnny Rotten (Lydon), vocals, Paul Cook, drums, Glen Matlock, bass, (later Sid Vicious), Steve Jones, guitar.

Those who fell by the wayside: October 1978, Vicious was accused of killing his girlfriend Nancy Spungen; released on bail, he overdosed in February 1979.

The whole gory story: Moulded by Malcolm McClaren from the youths hanging around the King's Road, they were part of a movement that tore apart what they considered to be the complacent and bloated nature of rock 'n' roll. McClaren put them on in small clubs and they spawned a fan base. While their ultimate musical influence is debatable, there is no doubt they created a pivotal moment in popular music..

The highs: For a short career, there are so many to choose from: swearing on television when being interviewed by Bill Grundy made them household names; the chaotic Anarchy in the UK tour, with only three dates not cancelled, signing for and then being sacked by EMI, "God Save the Queen" being played everywhere except the BBC during the Silver Jubilee summer of 1977.

The lows: Matlock, a musician and the key songwriter, was fired and replaced by Vicious, who was neither. Vicious descended into heroin addiction, recorded the appalling "My Way" and Rotten left in the middle of the first US tour.

Where are they now? Rotten made several records withPublic Image Limited. Since 1996, the Pistols have made several "reunion" tours, playing to more people than they did in the 1970s.

The New York Dolls

Who were they? Johnny Thunders, guitar, Rick Rivets, guitar, (later Syl Sylvain) Arthur Kane, bass, Billy Murcia, drums, (later Jerry Nolan) David Johansen, vocals.

Those who fell by the wayside: During their tour of England in 1972, Murcia died from drug and alcohol abuse. Thunders died from a heroin overdose in 1991 and Nolan from a stroke the next year.

The whole gory story: Formed in 1971, they were, for some, the original punk band and their influence, particularly in Britain, went far beyond their recorded work. Their style owed more to the glitter rock movement of the early 70s - David Bowie, T-Rex , Sweet - coupled with Rolling Stones raunch, drug abuse, cross-dressing and make-up.

The highs: Despite a cult following, record companies were wary. After being signed by Mercury, both their albums were well-received but failed to sell. Dropped, they linked up with pre-Pistols Malcolm McClaren, who made them dress in red leather and perform in front of the hammer and sickle.

The lows: Thunders and Nolan left in 1975 and Johansen and Sylvain struggled on for a couple of years before calling it a day in 1977 - just at the point punk exploded into mainstream.

Where are they now? Their albums and compilations and live recordings continue to sell well. Thunders and Nolan enjoyed success with The Heartbreakers in the 80s. Johansen went solo, calling himself Buster Poindexter.

The Ramones

Who were they? Johnny Ramone, guitar; Dee Dee Ramone, bass; Tommy Ramone, drums; Joey Ramone, vocals.

Those who fell by the wayside: Joey died from lymphatic cancer in 2001, Dee Dee was found dead from a drugs overdose in 2002. Johnny died on Wednesday, having had prostate cancer for five years.

The highs: The Ramones, their first album, a relentless assault of buzzsaw guitars and machine-gun vocals confined to three or four chords - was released in July 1976 and gave new meaning to the word minimalist. It became a huge influence on the British punk scene. But the ironic lyrics, pop culture references and sense of self parody, suggested greater depths. The second album Leave Home which included "Suzy is a Headbanger" and "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment", repeated that.

The lows: By the third album Rocket to Russia, the joke had worn thin and their appeal waned; many were uneasy about the album's title and some of the more right-wing references. However, "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" gave them their first UK hit..

Where are they now? They continued to record and tour until 1996 but, by that time, Tommy had left to go into production and Dee Dee departed to become a rap singer. Two years ago, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

After Road to Ruin and the Spector-produced End of the Century, bigger success continued to elude them. Only with 1984's Too Tough to Die produced by Tommy Erdelyi, the former Tommy Ramone and the following year's single, "Bonzo goes to Bitburg", an attack on President Ronald Reagan was credibility regained. But they fell into the trough again. Dee Dee's attempt at rap failed and he then formed a band called Chinese Dragons. By the early 1990s, Joey and Marky who had replaced Tommy, had treatment for alcoholism. They kept their vow to split after their final album Adios Amigos spent only two weeks in the charts.

The Pretenders

Who were they? Chrissie Hynde, vocals, James Honeyman-Scott, guitarist, Pete Farndon, bass, Martin Chambers, drummer.

Those who fell by the wayside: In June 1982, Honeyman-Scott died from an overdose of heroin and cocaine; in 1983, Farndon also died from a drugs overdose.

The highs: In 1978, their version of "Stop Your Sobbing" made it into the top 40 and "Kid" and "Brass in Pocket", were also successful.

The lows: Hynde was beset by personal problems, which included the breakdown of her relationships with Ray Davies of the Kinks and Jim Kerr of Simple Minds.

Where are they now? Versions of the band under Hynde have continued to record and tour, although her music no longer has the impact it once had.The Last of the Independents in 1994 was viewed as a comeback and then there was a live album, working mainly with session musicians. Another period of quiet was followed by Viva el Amor in 1999 and Loose Screw in 2002.

Ian Dury and the Blockheads

Who were they? Dury was an art student turned singer/writer, firstly with the pub band Kilburn and the High Roads and then the Blockheads. Chaz Jankel, guitar, Charley Charles, drums, Norman Watt-Roy, bass, Davey Payne, sax.

Those who fell by the wayside: Charley Charles died from cancer in 1990. Dury toured into the 1990s despite stomach cancer. He died in March 2000.

The highs: The Blockheads, particularly with his new writing partner Jankel, gave Dury the rhythmic background for a series of lyrically clever songs peopled with characters such as "Billericay Dicky" and "Clever Trevor" which had their roots in a mixture of music hall, East End humour and 50s rock. On New Boots and Panties, Dury's first Stiff album, the mixture worked brilliantly. And the partnership also gave the rock movement its ultimate anthem: "Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll".

The lows: Jankel left in 1980 and although there were many good songs still to come, it was many years before Dury repeated the artistic and critical success.

Where are they now? Dury acted and wrote for the stage. He reunited with the Blockheads for Mr LovePants in 1998. The Blockheads continue to perform.

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