Any self-respecting Ramones fan has already cretin-hopped to an art-house cinema to see this superlative documentary, so it’s the DVD bonuses that provide incentive to send more greenbacks to the respective estates of Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee. What you get are 10 interview excerpts that don’t tell the linear story of the Ramones but provide enough anecdotes to cement their real-life cartoon characteristics. Richie Ramone reveals Johnny’s determined 7-11 milk-and-cookies run after every show and that Dee Dee had a pipe apparatus that allowed him to smoke and shower at the same time. A childhood chum of Johnny’s reveals that the Moe Howard of the Ramones was no less peaceful in his earlier band Tangerine Puppets, where he beat up the lead singer onstage. And despite Ramones comparisons to the Fab Four, you find out how deep Johnny’s dislike for the Beatles ran.
Tommy gives a fascinating rundown of who wrote what on the early albums, confirming Dee Dee as the most prolific. Joe Strummer provides the most scholarly insights as to why the Ramones worked on both a psychological and gut level. Chris Stein and Deborah Harry tell the lone Dee Dee- fucked-up-with-Johnny Thunders story. In a thoughtful moment, Dee Dee wishes the persistently sick Joey got as much out of the Ramones as he did. And, as if to prove Joe Strummer’s claim that “It took a lot of intelligence to make something like [the Ramones],” Marky plays all the flashy drum fills he was never permitted to utilize within the stamina-straining confines of the group. Then he demonstrates what he played on the hi-hat under Johnny’s downstrokes, coming off like Stephen Hawking brainy-yakkin’ about black holes in space. You’d expect no less from a guy who practices next to a life-sized replica of Robbie the Robot.
Serene Dominic writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].