There’s an anachronism at the heart of this excellent, engrossing documentary. Few people will argue The Ramones’ influence on punk and post-punk rock, and the footage here from their heyday at CBGB and other venues is a time machine back to the early-’70s punk explosion. Simply put, the Ramones made some great noise.
The anachronism is in watching old-time punkers – still wearing their battered black leather jackets, now surrounded by a small fortune in fancy recording gear – tell their tale, as if this was all ancient history.
We all get older, and punk rockers are no different. And sure, we all dream of making it big, and again, punk musicians dream the same dreams. But punk was about a youthful rebellion against the musical establishment, and it’s hard to see it grow up. And perhaps no one feels that aging more than the Ramones in the interviews here, reminiscing wistfully about the good old days.
The film starts with the bad old days: DeeDee, Johnny, and Tommy remembering the vapid musical atmosphere of the 1970s, when disco, glam, soft pop, and orchestral rock ruled, and how these Forest Hills, New York, teens hooked up, through a shared fascination with the Stooges, to spark their own band.
Joey was the mastermind. A lanky teen geek, he was dismissed by high-school teachers as an introvert at best, a loser at worst. Yet his brother describes, in touching terms, the transformation Joey experienced when he started singing in a band. It’s a simple story that’s the soul of the punk movement.
Watching the band bang out their two-minute manifestos on stage is the best part of the disc; Mosrite guitars slung low, furiously bobbing their noggins like prodigy headbangers, and Joey kicking and strutting like Mick Jagger gone wrong. It’s all great stuff, bringing alive the attitude that made the band famous.
As Johnny said of his own film story, “It’s accurate. It left me disturbed.” – MD
This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.