On Easter Sunday afternoon,
while punk godfather Joey Ramone was breathing
his last breath in a NYC hospital, I was
sitting by myself in a movie theater watching
AND THE PUSSYCATS. Now, you'd think
that these two things have nothing to do
with one another. And that's where you'd
be wrong bucko.
In this media-savvy, pop-punk
JATP, lead singer / head sex-kitten Josie
(Rachael Leigh Cook) is shown wearing a
number of punk rock tees including one that
simply says "Sid," a Black Flag
tee, and one featuring Joey, Johnny, Dee
Dee, and Tommy from the cover of the first
Ramones album. No wonder it was a bona fide
box office disaster.
And when Josie and Co. launch
into one of their manic, punk-influenced
tunes -- and the soundtrack's full of 'em
kids -- they're being fronted by an honest-to-god
indie rocker (Kate Hanley of Letters to
Cleo) and some of the lyrics come courtesy
of Fountains of Wayne songwriter Adam Schlesinger.
In other words, these kittens have more
than a little indie-rock cred behind them.
None of which would be possible without
the revolution that Ramone and his cohorts
helped kickstart 25 years ago.
In 1976, rock music was a
bloated corpse, wallowing in the excess
of over-indulgent production, pyrotechnics
(all apologies to KISS), schmaltz, and the
dreaded disco. I know, 'cause I was living
in a house where I was forced to listen
to some of the worst offenders. The Ramones
-- four Queens, NY kids whose musicianship
could scarcely be called "competent"
-- burst upon the NY underground scene that
had already given birth to such acts as
The Dictators, Jayne County, and the heralded
New York Dolls. Their two-minute songs and
insipid lyrics were anti-art in an era when
major label musicians were trying to spread
dopey messages with their insulting "concept"
The only concept Joey and
the Boys had was how many songs they could
cram into a 30-minute set at CBGB's.
Despite my older brother's
best efforts, I wouldn't truly discover
the Ramones until entering high school in
1980. Along with the Misfits and aforementioned
Dolls, they were one of the first bands
I got into in a big way. I loved their repetetive
lyrics ("Second verse, same as the
first!") and their entire persona
from the matching outfits, common last name,
and dancing pinhead -- really appealed to
my comic sensibility. They weren't just
a band, they were a way of life. A fact
driven home by ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL,
surely one of the greatest rock movies ever
By the time I reached college,
going to see the Ramones was like a celebration
of the changing seasons. They frequently
played the Chestnut Cabaret and City Gardens,
headlined a few shows at local colleges
-- including a memorable 'Animal Boy'-era
gig at Temple -- and we even caught them
on their NYC stomping grounds on more than
a few occasions. In fact, looking back,
I've probably seen the boys more often than
any other band.
Not to say that all the shows
were memorable or even worth the $12 I would've
paid had I not scammed onto the guest list.
In fact, there were more than a few instances
where Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee were under
the distinct impression that a different
song was up on the set list. Then there
was the night I spent watching my friend
Stan grow weak from the blood that was pouring
out of the bottom of his foot courtesy of
a floorful of broken glass. It wasn't a
But, as the years went on,
Joey grew up, sobered up, and became a legendary
icon in a world of here today, gone tomorrow
punks. Unfortunately, while Joey goes to
that great punk band in the sky, Henry Rollins
continues to pop up on every VH1 special!
Where's the justice in the world?!
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