MUSIC: Gabba Gabba Hey!
Watched "The End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones" last night, an entertaining look back at the punk rock forefathers' 20-year career. I'm a fan of the Ramones' 1-2-3-4 go! adrenaline-infused punchy songlets, and enjoyed this retrospective of their career. It's definitely tinged with tragedy, though, as three of the four founding members have died in the past five years -- two of cancer, one of an overdose. It's hard not to have the movie feel like a requiem. The directors' main mission is to give some respect and props back to this seminal, but long-overlooked band - you can make the case for everyone from the Clash to Green Day having gotten tips from the Ramones. Testimonials galore in this documentary, which also boasts a lot of nice archival live footage (not as much as there could've been, though).
The Ramones were like a Silly-Putty mirror image of a band like the Beatles, cartoony looking, signing about the KKK and pinheads and sniffing glue, yet professional and hard-working. You've got shy Joey, the lead singer, flaky Dee Dee, hard-assed brains Johnny, and drummer Tommy, who's booted from the band after challenging Johnny's authority and replaced with a never-ending Spinal Tap-esque series of new men on the skins. Lots of interview footage, even of Joey who died in 2001 (Dee Dee died in 2002, at the end of filming, and Johnny just last year). The band is all sharp personalities, the spark that lit the fuse of their uncompromising, raw music. The main focus of the film is their "peak" years of 1975-1980 or so, as the band desperately strove to break big, yet never really did. Like the Velvet Underground, they're one of those groups that became legends much later on. The Ramones puttered along until 1996 or so, but they really made their mark in the late 1970s.
It's a pretty well-done music documentary, although not the best I've ever seen -- the storytelling is pretty straightforward and doesn't dig tremendously deep into what made the Ramones tick musically. One thing I felt was missing from "End of the Century" was a sense of fun -- I listen to the Ramones when I want a pithy kick, a shot of energy, yet you come away from "End of the Century" feeling like the band was a bit of a downer, with Joey and Johnny bitter enemies (over a girl) for years, and Dee Dee lost in his heroin daze (the sequence of him leaving the band in the 1990s and becoming a white rapper may be the saddest/funniest part of the entire movie). The Ramones are a fun band to listen to, but it doesn't feel like actually being a Ramone was any fun (which might well have been the case). Still, "End of the Century" is a nice rocket ride paying well-deserved homage to one of the great unsung bands of our time. Gabba gabba hey!