Everyone Loves The Ramones
“Do you remember lying in bed/with the covers pulled up over your head?/Listening to the radio so no one can see•?” — “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?”
There is no time for remorse, regret or grief. While Joey Ramone may be gone, the music remains. That’s one hell of a legacy. The Ramones represented the basic elements of rock n’ roll. They were raw and primitive, but full of youthful energy that transcended their musical limitations. It’s hard to believe today, but when The Ramones came out, they were a new wind blowing away the stagnant excess of the seventies. Don’t believe me? Go listen to Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Center of the Earth or some of James Taylor or even Cat Stevens’ music. Now play The Ramones’ first LP or Rocket To Russia. See! In an era when music was a cultural wasteland, The Ramones broke up the barriers. They broke the barriers in a way that made it fun. They had no time for The Pistols’ nihilism or The Clash’s pseudo-Marxist leanings. This was a band that remembered what rock n’ roll was about: girls, music, fun, and girls. That’s it, the holy grail of music that had been lost, they recovered. The Ramones brought all that back, and inspired legions of leather jacket-wearing imitators. It’s impossible to turn on the radio today without hearing the reverberations of what they accomplished.
“I give what I got to give/I give what I need to live/I give what I got to give/It’s important if I want to live” — “I Wanna Live”
I can’t honestly say that The Ramones changed my life, because they didn’t. What they did do was open another world where the geeks, dorks, and losers were accepted. By the time I discovered them, The Ramones already had a substantial back catalog to explore. Their music was about fun and acceptance, unless you were one of the characters in their songs. But their songs were never cruel or derisive; one has a feeling that the pinheads, the cretins, and the lobotomized were all present and accounted for by The Ramones. Listening to them was about having a good time, whether I was out with my friends learning how to skate, playing video games, or doing a hundred other stupid things that teenagers do when they’re learning their place in the world. The Ramones were a very cool part of this world. In fact, as I remember, The Ramones were the lingua franca of my teenage world. Anyone you met for the first time, you go out, “Whattya wanna listen to•?” “Hey, you got the Ramones?” Everyone liked The Ramones. Whether you wanted to start the party or just needed some good music to relax to, The Ramones provided the soundtrack.
“Gabba Gabba/We Accept You/We Accept You/One of Us” — “Pinhead”
I’ve heard it said that some music fans go through a Led Zeppelin stage or Rush stage, other people go through a Pink Floyd stage. For me, it was a Ramones stage. The white hot flame of the power chords, the lyrics of trash culture and girls, the covers of songs my parents knew but I rejected, all these were elements of my life. I don’t know if the kids today have it as good as I did. Living in an area that lacked cable TV, decent radio stations, and above all, cool people, The Ramones and the music they provided were like messages in a bottle to a person stuck on an island. These were messages for teens and misfits, cryptic reassurances that all would be well and that you would get the girl. This was a time when music was on LPs and you listened to them like a seer would view esoteric smoke rising from their crucible. My friends and I would end up at each other’s houses after school, invariably talking about girls, homework, and girls, and listening to The Ramones. This isn’t to idealize a youth without regrets; we all suffered our beatings at the hands of the rednecks and queer-bashers, but with The Ramones and other bands, we knew we would win. We did win.
“Hanging out all by myself/I don’t want to be with anyone else/I just want to have something to do, tonight•” — “I Just Wanna Have Something To Do”
I lost my Ramones tapes and LPs several years ago. Tapes fade and break apart, so do friendships. LP’s get scratched and lost. Moving away to college and in and out of dorms and apartments, sharing houses, getting jobs and losing jobs, gaining girlfriends and losing them, all these things take a toll on your collection. However, I never lived anywhere that didn’t at least have Ramones Mania. Although it doesn’t contain all the tracks, it’s a good starter kit for someone new to The Ramones. One of my strangest memories during this time involved visiting some friends in Tallahassee and flipping channels on their TV. It was a weeknight and they had to work. Trying to find something entertaining, we landed on MTV, but all they were playing was their game show crap. We accidentally landed on CNBC, the cable business channel. For some reason they were airing a cultural program, and it was the RAMONES!!! That’s right, I sat there in awe watching Joey (and Johnny or Marky, I believe) discuss their life in music. CNBC was more punk rock than MTV.
“Now I guess I’ll have to tell ’em/That I got no cerebellum/Gonna get My Ph.D/I’m a teenage lobotomy” — “Teenage Lobotomy”
Anyways, I could write more about this band. I am sure we’ll have testimonials regarding the power of the Ramones. The talking heads will blah, blah, blah and the fakers and phonies will blah, blah, blah about how much the band meant (even if they never listened to them). But you and I, we’ll know the truth. The Ramones came and conquered. The testament they provided is larger than the life that was lost. The music affirms all that is sacred and holy about life: youth, innocence, restlessness, and creativity. The music is larger and greater than anyone or anything and nothing can take that away. Joey may be gone, but the music•s still here.
Hey Ho, Let•s GO!