For 100 nights a year over three decades, punk-rock guiterrorist Johnny Ramone stood with his head down, face in an intense scowl of concentration, legs shoulder-width apart, hammering at his blue Mosrite with a blurry right hand. The cacophony was pure bliss, a white noise ringing that punched holes in all that was peaceful, shards of the power chords busting into little aural stars, like the lights you see when you smack your head, only in your ears.
It was such good, loud pain.
Johnny dropped his job as a construction worker in 1974 and held down stage right for 22 years as the guitarist for the most influential rock band of the last 30 years. The Ramones fertilized the punk-rock scene first in their hometown of New York City, then in England. Eventually — who knew? — that sound would form the chassis for what the corporate rock industry later dubbed “alternative” and, eventually, infiltrated top 40.
He was a rebel in a rebel’s world, though. Johnny Ramone was a fiercely Republican-voting, NRA-supporting musician in a milieu that is remarkable for its embrace of all things left.
Johnny went worldwide public with his partisanship in 2002, when the Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the microphone to give props to the people who made it all possible, he offered his own version of a Michael Moore moment.
“God bless President Bush, and God bless America,” he said, clad in his trademark T-shirt, ripped blue jeans and leather jacket.
“I said that to counter those other speeches at the other awards,” Mr. Ramone says in a phone interview. “Republicans let this happen over and over, and there is never anyone to stick up for them. They spend too much time defending themselves.”
Johnny Ramone is at an easy point in his life, where “Blitzkrieg Bop” can be heard at sporting events as rev music and where the Ramones are widely cited as one of the most influential bands in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.
They never had a hit single, and none of their 14 original studio albums ever went gold. The Ramones did it because they loved it and had something to say.
“It was a job, and I was just doing my job,” Mr. Ramone says now.
The Ramones were so far ahead of their time that Johnny Ramone makes more money each year, thanks to Ramones tunes used in advertisements, discerning record buyers paying their debt to history and the increasing number of Ramones reissues.
“I’m just honored that people still like us and people are still nice to me,” he says, 55 years old and very retired in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife, Linda, and their three cats.
He sold his guitars and amps when the Ramones finally got out of the van after 2,263 live shows.
L.A. is 3,000 miles from Queens, N.Y., where he was raised as John Cummings, but he is never far from his legacy. People still know him when they see him, even though he disputes his own celebrity.