Patrick McCoy's Reviews > Ramones

Ramones by Nicholas Rombes
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Sep 28, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: music

I devoured Nicholas Rombes' book on Ramones from the 33 1/3 series by Continuum Books. It is another standout in the series. Like, Frank Bruno's Elvis Costello Armed Forces book, it takes a look at cultural zeitgeist that was taking place as well as some of the more controversial aspects of the movement from a more academic perspective, which I found though-provoking and enlightening. (You gotta love references to Hemingway, Hammett, and Pynchon, Colin Wilson and Theodore W. Adorno, Pauline Kael, Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus, Bukowski and Burroughs) For example, he traces the use of the word "punk", which can be found as far back as Hemingway, to the present usage of the term. Furthermore, he points out that what was punk when The Ramones emerged has evolved into something else. He presents the precursors to The Ramones, as well as the bands who were part of the legacy. He explores the use of fascist imagery which was more of a reaction to the free-love hippie vibes of the era they were rebelling against, rather than a dogmatic belief system. However, if you've seem The Ramones documentary film, Johnny is a right -wing fascist Republican, but then again Joey is a bleeding hear democratic liberal. But The Ramones were more apolitical than anything else-they were into having fun, watching B-Movies, eating hamburgers, being stoopid, etc.. The writing is alive and doesn't come across as too academic or pretentious, because I think Rombes is emotionally involved in The Ramones and his experiences with the record, when he write that he wanted to open the book by saying that "Blitzkrieg Bop" was the best opening song of any rock record, but knew he couldn't say that but wrote it anyway. According to Rombes:

Here's why: "Blitzkrieg Bop" succeeds not only as a song in its own right, but also as a promise kept. The songs that follow live up to the speed, , humor, menace, absurdity, and mystery of that first song, whose opening lines "hey ho, let's go" offer not so much a warning as an invitation to the listener, an invitation and a threat that the song isn't a fluke or a one-off, but it sets the stage for an entire album that would be fast and loud.

Rombes mentions that the first Ramones song he remembers hearing was "The KKK Took My Baby Away", which he found somewhat troubling. I'm sure my first songs was "Rick-n-Roll High School" I seem to remember seeing it at some point. But I remember the first time I hear Ramones first album driving to Seattle in my old 72 Mustang. It was my fried Chris, his girlfriend Colleen and her older brother Mike. They were becoming arbiters of musical taste turning me onto a bunch of different punk-new wave-underground bands. We were trying to go see Camper Van Beethoven but we got the dates wrong and they weren't playing Seattle that weekend. It was a revelation that resulted in Chris dubbing me a copy of this album with the excellent follow-up "Rocket To Russia"-probably the only two essential records by The Ramones in my opinion. It is a classic album, and a compelling look at the album, what it meant, and what it means today.
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