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for March 11, 2003

Gabba Gabba Hey
by Stiffy Biceptz

The Ramones were my first and greatest alternative love. Everything about them was cool, if not The definition of cool. Most everyone in music these days agrees, and even SPIN had them ranked as the number two most important band of all time behind only the Beatles. That's some serious company.
Recently, the Ramones tribute album came out, with various and sundry bands each covering a Ramones original. It was produced by Johnny Ramone and Rob Zombie, and has some high profile bands doing their best to add something to their favorite Ramones track.
Personally speaking, I have never been one for tribute albums. Why would you buy a bunch of other artist's versions of the original, especially when you likely already own it? Covering other bands songs, especially tunes that have made an impact, is a dicey endeavor. Ask yourself this: Would you go out and buy a CD of covers of the Beatles? Remember, the Ramones were number two, so your answer has to be the same.
What the Ramones did was so original, so identifying, no band could do anything other than diminish one of their tracks. Needless to say I will not be buying the tribute album. I honestly can't imagine any Ramones fan doing so either.
Having said that, I find it immensely ironic that Johnny Ramone himself was a major force behind this project. Of the four original Ramones, and of pop music personalities in general, Johnny Ramone is one of the most enigmatic of characters. This guy is so authentic, so immune to any outside influence as to leave me in awe. When the Ramones retired in '96, Johnny simply said, "I'm done." When asked what his plans were, he said, "I'm retired. I'll never touch a guitar again." There was no sadness in his voice, no regret, remorse, nothing. Mission accomplished, next. Those were the words of an artist, not a musician. No musician could ever say that. They'd likely die without playing. His view was that the whole Ramones period of his life was a journey, and that the final product was the journey. Now that the journey was over, there would be no need to pick up the paintbrush again. The guitar just happened to be the brush, and the music the device by which the creation, the art, was delivered. Can you think of any other artist who just retired? He just amazes me. He went on to say, "I have no problem leaving the applause behind. Its time to go. I plan on going to baseball games and doing nothing." Who is this guy??? There is no question we'd be better off if more popstars just came and went. Mick, Keith, Hellllooo?
Getting back to the tribute album, a few more ironies to dissect. Considering who the Ramones were, what they stood for and against, some of the bands on the album just don't make sense to me. Kiss? Rob Zombie? As far as I'm concerned these two couldn't be any farther from who the Ramones were. It would make perfect sense to have Green Day and Rancid give tribute, but having Kiss do it seems to me like having Hillary Clinton sing "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to Ronald Reagan. Hmmm, perhaps this is Johnny's way of making them look like the fools they are.
And one band who doesn't even belong being recorded EVER is the Offspring. Forgive me, but they are so horrid. For all the Ramones' wisdom, Joey was wrong when he included the Offspring in a list of bands who would carry on their spirit. They have to be the worst band of the 90's. See, he wasn't perfect after all.
The point about the Ramones is they weren't celebrities. They weren't anti-celebrities. They weren't non-celebrities. They were un-celebrities. They weren't musicians or anything else. They were just the Ramones. It was as if being in the Ramones was a job, or a duty. It was job that had to be done, and they just happened to do it. Just like taking out the trash. Or cutting the lawn. For the life of me I can't think of another pop genre entity that fills the same shoes. Fascinating.

©2003 Stiffy Biceptz

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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