They were an effort to capture the spirit of rock n’ roll that — sorry — didn’t quite cut it. Oh, I was always a fan, in that I was always with ‘em in spirit. But since it was after all Lester Bangs, the man most responsible for the mistake that was punk rock, that said you had to be “brutally honest,” that’s what I gotta do here, even on the occasion of Tommy Ramone’s passing.
If you want to know Why the Ramones Mattered, that Ricochet post by Jon Gabriel will give you the standard reasons why, reasons which I largely accept. He also has a fun photo of those all-American boys dissing the usual leftist tedium. But Gabriel doesn’t really deal with their partial responsibility for punk, or of punk’s more negative-than-otherwise impact upon music and the culture at large. If you wanna walk around with me ’spoutin on about what I think the real deal is, go to Carl’s Rock Songbook No. 13, The Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop.”
Compare the dumb fun of, say, “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, with the dumb fun of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The former positively swings , and will accommodate young and old, male and female, good dancers and poor ones. It only seeks to be about dumb fun, but was only produced by apprenticeship in Afro-American music methods. The latter has energy, and to spare, but it only suits simplistic moves and young rushes of enthusiasm — it leads less to dance than to the macho (and fight-prone) mosh-pit. Both invite you to indulge your simplistic side (and both get played at baseball games), but the similarity ends there.
RTWT. I mean it, man.
You might also wanna check out why I say hard-rock ain’t rock n’ roll either, in Songbook No. 12, although unless you’re prepared to ditch the common idea that we can meaningfully define rock n’ roll music by its attitude, and/or its zest for hedonism, you’ll think I’m 100 percent wrong. Of course, if you’ve got your head dunked deep in the soup of common democratic opinion, you’ll be outraged that I think we can define anything about pop music. In any case, you’ll see from number 13 that I’m much fonder of their music than of standard-issue hard rock.
So it’s two hearty cheers for The Ramones, and a sincere thanks for plenty of fun. More on all this later this summer when I get around to talking about the movie CBGB.