The Ramones’ debut album begs the question: can we determine greatness without looking at influence? If the Ramones released this album, and it didn’t influence half the rock musicians alive today (maybe a slight exaggeration) would we still consider it great?
However, that is a stupid question. Albums are indeed released publicly in time and I personally wholly reject the idea that the most perfect music (art, literature, etc) is the music that is never heard by anyone but the creator. (That is so retarded.) Music (and all art) is social. So we have to look at importance and influence when considering greatness. Yes, there are overlooked masterpieces that barely anyone knows about, but those are almost always the rarity. (Obviously they increase with frequency with the age of the work.)
So it is silly for me to to claim this album is mediocre because I don’t particularly like the style. I might think the whole thing is rather juvenile – as I feel about pop punk, as this style became known after hardcore necessitated it be known as pop punk – and lacking in much musical interest, but that doesn’t really matter. The fact of the matter is that there are few albums made since 1975 as important as this album. Probably 5 or 10. And if this doesn’t hold up quite as well, well that’s essentially because it was first. The Ramones honed their style before punk grew into the other things it became.
Sometimes when you do something right, you don’t really want to change it. And so the Ramones are to punk what AC/DC is to (hard) rock. Their first (and presumably best) album is essential to any kind of thorough understanding of music since 1975, but that’s it.
And yes, I think that makes it great, even if I am in no rush to ever listen to it again.
PS I have revised my opinion. I like it more than I used to.