The Ramones: An American Band

The Ramones: An American Band

Jim Bessman, in association with the Ramones
St Martin’s Press New York 1993
Copyright Date:
Review Date: 2002

An early review of the Ramones once said “The Ramones don’t waste their time, they waste yours.” That pretty much sets the tone for this book. The Ramones are one of the greatest under-appreciated bands of the last twenty years. The most famous band that never made it big. If you’re thinking in terms of money and number of records sold, I guess you can’t argue. Here’s the hard part. Do you really want a bunch of frat guys walking around in Ramones jackets, well any more then there are now? The Ramones have always been a bit of an enigma. On one hand they write pure all-american songs about girls, cars, and surf and sun in California. Their logo is based on the seal of the presidency. On the other hand, they look like thugs, write cartoon songs about drugs, violence, and facisim. Don’t write to argue, these are obviously generalizations made for the sake of brevity, and yes they have changed over the years. The Ramones, An American Band chronicles the band from their inception up until right before the release of “Mondo Bizzaro,” and is good quick reading for any Ramones fan or young punker who is interested.

Hardcore Ramones fans are probably not going to find any earth shattering revelations here. There are no discernable attempts at censorship, nor are they trying to candy coat facts to preserve the band’s image. If you’ve ever trolled the newsgroups or caught Joey and Johhny on Howard Stern, you already know that it wasn’t exactly a Halmark atmosphere regardless of who does or doesn’t wear a wig. “Please Kill Me,” seems to give a more in depth view into the Ramones as individuals, even though in much smaller doses. Actually, there are some minor discrepencies between the two. Both claim to be straight from the horse’s mouth, so your guess is as good as mine. On the whole, it makes for enjoyable reading, even though you may know alot of it already. It’s refreshing to have it written down in one place and in chronological order. The cover is a no-nonsense affair that closely resembles the t-shirts that have burned the Ramones logo indellibly into the retinas of anyone who’s even slightly dabbled in the joys of punk.

Reading “An American Band” is a bit like watching the Titanic in that you know it’s not going to end well. It’s like there was an eternal carrot of mainstream success hanging in front of the band. The Ramones are the greatest band that never could have hoped to achieve stardom yet were constantly struggling for it. One setback after another, success always right around the corner, building towards the climax of the release of Mondo Bizzaro, which the author predicts should finally put them over the top. Somewhere in the wind I hear the voice of Nelson Muntz. Ha HA. Crap… You pull hard for them while you’re reading and you take some solace in the fact that you can remember what your life was like at the time you bought the particular album being discussed, and at least you did your part. In the end it’s hard to imagine what aspect of success eluded them. They did play huge sold out stadium tours in latin America. Maybe it was just respect from the mainstream music press. I suspect that deep down, Joey just wanted to be on top 40 radio, in the best way, if that’s at all possible.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 pinheads

202 pages perfectbound.

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