The Ramones

Gabba Gabba Hey! End of The Century

In 1974 films like Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Godfather Part II and Roman Polanski‘s Chinatown were big hits at the box office but you also had films like Jack Hill’s Blaxploitation film Foxy Brown blasting out onto the screens of Drive ins and Grindhouses. There was definitely a big change taking place in cinema during the 70s. In the world of music, a big change was happening as well. The state of pop music was getting very watered down and consisted mostly of dull jam bands that would play for hours while the masses listened like zombies. This wasn’t going to go on for long though. A revolution was about to begin that would trash the boring AM radio BS that was being force fed to youth across the nation. Four freaky outcasts from Forrest Hills, Queens had got together and formed a band. They were all fans of wild rebels like Iggy Pop, David Bowie, The MC5, Alice Cooper and The New York Dolls. They found their signature sound in simple, but heavy and catchy anthems, and when they finally played onstage at small clubs, audiences went absolutely nuts for them. The Ramones (no, its not really their last name) were born in the Bowery section of Manhattan, in a small little club called CBGB’s owned by a guy named Hilly Kristal. The group consisted of Johnny Ramone (Lead Guitar), Dee Dee Ramone (Bass), Tommy Ramone (Drums) and the Joey Ramone (Lead Vocals). These guys were feared as a gang of “punks”. Clothed in black leather, torn jeans and shag haircuts, noone knew what to expect from them, as they often violently argued on stage about what they were going to play. The tall, uber-lanky Joey Ramone would knock the mic stand over, Johnny Ramone stood at the side brooding, Dee Dee with his Keith Richards-esque loose, loopy attitude would be standing by. Tommy was behind the drums, creating that signature Ramone’s beat, also he was the most mature member of the group. He wrote many of the bands songs and produced the music. Joey Ramone might’ve roared on stage as the lead singer, but offstage he was a soft spoken, introverted guy. Johnny was the right wing, conservative member. It was a truly A strange combo for a wild outlaw bunch of musicians.

Watching End of The Century: The Story of The Ramones (2005) was a really great experience for me. I have always loved The Ramones and punk rock in general. To finally get the real story from the members of the band and their friends was something special. I got to find out all the information on how the group got together, their influences, their perspectives on the bands career, the bands THEY had influenced and inspired. One thing The Ramones never did was compromise their vision as a band. They always stayed together even in the face of adversity, new music trends and just the overall bullshit that seems to saturate the music business. This documentary answers the questions fans have been asking. From quarrels in the band over women, to being held at gunpoint by Phil Spector at his mansion while he was producing The Ramones’ album Chinese Rocks. We also see firsthand when the band toured the country, they made such a huge impact on the audiences that saw them. They really started the entire punk rock genre of music. Every town they hit, when they’d return later on, there would be new bands that had formed because of the influential effect The Ramones’ DIY attitude and style had on them. American Punk and alternative bands like Black Flag, The Replacements, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Rancid, Green Day all owe The Ramones.

The Ramones also sparked off the punk music that came from the UK. When they traveled to England for the first time, the clubs were packed with kids. Waiting outside were guys who would later become some of the most famous punk rockers ever: Joe Strummer (The Clash), Johnny Rotten (The Sex Pistols) and Captain Sensible (The Damned) and many others were in attendance, crazed fans trying to meet the band from NYC. The punk kids had embraced The Ramones as their own group. The Ramones lit a fire in them and changed them forever. The music was so intense and satisfying to their current state of living. Now, there was only one thing for them to do: form their own bands. A year or so later The Ramones had a kind of competition in this thing they started. The Clash released their first album and The Sex Pistols knocked the music industry over with their “Nevermind The Bollock’s Heres The Sex Pistols”. Punk Rock ruled….for awhile.

In Hollywood, there were many fans of the punk rock scene and in 1979, The Ramones agreed to co-star in an New World Pictures film called “Rock N Roll High School. The film starred P.J. Soles as The Ramones #1 fan and audiences got to have fun watching The Ramones play their music and become general pop stars on the big screen. Although the film did well, The Ramones still didnt become all out superstars. They never really had that one smash hit single that put them over the top in the music industry. “I Wanna Be Sedated” was probably their most MTV friendly song. One thing Ive learned from The Ramones is that integrity and staying true to yourself is often more important than selling your soul. The Ramones seemed to always blur that line between underground and pop music. The ironic thing is, their music was so catchy and pop, but they still never fully crossed over to the mainstream. One of their producers, Seymour Stein actually stated that The Ramones were basically a heavier version of The Beach Boys.

With the advent of new wave and “alternative” music, The Ramones seemed to fade into the background. Although they never ever changed their distinctive sound to fit in and looking back, as a fan, I’m glad they stayed in that timeless “bubble” as Rob Zombie called it in the documentary. There were only ONE Ramones, and they changed rock n roll music forever with their ultra-catchy sound.

For fans of The Ramones, End of The Century is a must have for your collection. Its a great archive of the bands personal history and their story about coming from Queens and taking the world by punk storm with their music. Yep, we still have the music and the punk spirit in our hearts. Whenever you want to rebel, its only a record or CD away from us. I know somewhere up there Joey is knocking over a mic stand, while Dee Dee sounds off “1,2,3.4!”. Roaring away as the angels chant along wiith them, fists in the air:

“Gabba Gabba Hey! We accept you, you’re one of us!”

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