The 30 Most Badass Guitarists of All Time
Players whose talents, attitude and style have made the guitar the coolest instrument ever.
Born October 8, 1948 (died September 15, 2004)
Band The Ramones
Iconic Guitar Mosrite Ventures II
Coolest Riff "Blitzkrieg Bop" — Ramones
If ever there were a forensic investigation to identify the true biological father of punk rock guitar, all DNA evidence would point clearly to Johnny Ramone. The guitar style that people most associate with punk—briskly downpicked barre chords executed with blinding precision at breakneck tempos and marshaled in service of concise catchy song structures—is the invention, progeny and proud legacy of the man born John Cummings on Long Island, New York.
Johnny was a strange case, a rock and roll outsider who was obsessed with uniformity. And that obsession helped forge the Ramones aesthetic: the identikit leather jackets and ripped jeans worn by each band member, the single surname shared by all four (in the absence of any actual familial kinship) and the terse pacing of the music itself, with not a single excessive note or lyrical utterance.
It all added up to a cartoonish minimalism that struck a vital cultural nerve when the Ramones burst out of Manhattan’s Lower East Side CBGB scene in the mid Seventies. They were the perfect antidote to the bloated self-indulgence of Seventies arena rock and the tendency—a hangover from the hippie era—for rock and rock musicians to take themselves way too seriously. The Ramones were passionate about rock, without ever being pompous.
Their songs cut right to the melodic and rhythmic core of great rock and roll. Johnny contributed song ideas and slashing guitar arrangements, but he also kept the whole thing on the rails. A straight guy in a world of addicts, perverts, weirdoes and psychos, Johnny’s politics were dubious. But, like Mussolini, he made the Ramones’ rock and roll train run on time for more than two decades. John Cummings passed from this life in 2004 after a five-year fight with prostate cancer.
But in the clashing clangor of Green Day, Rancid, Blink-182 and the next bunch of punk rock misfits rehearsing in some basement or garage, Johnny Ramone lives on.
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