In the video for the song itself that comes at the end of ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, there’s a shot of Joey Ramone in front of a blackboard that the director cuts into and away from over the duration of the song. There’s a phrase written on the blackboard, drawn from the lyrics of the song:

“I don’t care about history”

Joey, of course, points to the words with a pointer as he sings them.

However, as he shifts his stance back and forth during the rest of the song, his body occludes most of the phrase such that for most of he time he’s on screen, the black board actaully, in a literal sense, reads:

“I do care”

So. I should have titled my post about American Hardcore and Please Kill Me “I don’t care about history” instead of the lame paraphrase of the Clash’s “I’m so bored of the USA” that I chose.

I stand by much of my thinking in the earlier post. I’ve grown pretty jaded with rock literature over time, because it seems, mostly, to tell the same story over and over again. That story is almost always tragic, which, in my opinion, is because of the terrible working conditions people who choose to pursue careers as rock and pop musicians are exposed to. Whether you’re on the road or you stay close to the base, you don’t get paid very well, there’s no health insurance, and you’re encouraged to drink and do drugs, etc., etc.

But I’m not here to crab about how fucked up the industry is. I’m here to say it loud:

The Ramones are the greatest rock band of all time.

After reading the books I mention above, I started thinking about the Ramones a lot, partly because of my flip dismissal of Dee Dee. Well, there was the rap thing, but what about the Ramones material? The answer is, he contributed some great songs; frequently they are kind of dumb. This is a part of the genius of the band.

Let’s hit the books, shall we?

1975: Ramones
1976: Rocket to Russia
1977: Leave Home
1978: Road to Ruin
1979: It’s Alive *
1980: End of the Century
1981: Pleasant Dreams
1983: Subterranean Jungle

I stop here becasue I never really cared for any post Subterranean Jungle recordings – the urge to speed of hardcore entered the mix, and understandably enough, the musicians began to explore more diverse sonic textures (translation: keyboards and synths, ick). All in all, as the sound becaome more commercially palatable, my interest in it declined.

* I only just learned that this was a European release that did not become available in the US until 1995. I bought it in Switzerland in 1982, and it is ESSENTIAL – the later live recordings of the band are simply not as good, as perfectly executed as the performances on this record, a 2-LP set when orginally released.

Look at that track record! Until Pleasant Dreams and Subterranean Jungle, there’s not a bad record in the bunch, not even a bad song! (YMMV) Pleasant Dreams was my first Ramones Record; then I got the first record, and eventually picked up all of the records listed above before Subterranean Jungle came out (so, like over a year or so).

Because Pleasant Dreams introduced me to the sound of the band, in some ways it is the record I’m most intimate with; however, it’s not my favorite: that’s definitely It’s Alive. And my favorite songs are from all over the map, but nothing surprising: I can still spontaneously sing every word to “Danny Says”, “Sedated”, “Needles and Pins”, “California Sun” and probably more that I haven’t thought of.

So why are these guys the best? It’s hard to say, really; consistency is a part of it. My other candidate for best rock band of all time is LA’s X, who have a much more varied, and in some ways more ambitious catalog. Their two best records, “Los Angeles” and “Wild Gift”, contain some incredible songwriting, both lyrically and structurally. Doe and Cervenka deliberately set out to transcend rock songwriting by ignoring conventions of structure and meter while mantaining the brevity and intensity of the form; however, this sort of approach is difficult to maintain over time, and their most critically acclaimed album, “Under the Big Black Sun”, consistently disappoints me even today.

Stupid critics.

The Ramones’ work, however, deceives via its apparently ambition-free design and execution. Of course, having an LP produced by serious nutcase Phil Spector gives the lie to that: however much that record may have been slagged in the press at the time, it was an act of heritage, a statement by the Ramones that they were the inheritors of Motown, of the Beach Boys, of all the great American pop and rock produced prior to the AOR era.

This assumption of that mantle is wholly accurate on their part. These albums represent the apotheosis of American postwar pop. Long may it wave. Dee Dee and Joey, I’ll see you soon enough, and thank you.

6 thoughts on “I DO CARE

  1. Hey Mike

    I am STILL pissed at Mike Hurtt for snatching the copy of “Its Alive” from the vinyl collection Gabe Z. sold to Karma records in B-ton circa ’89. Beat me to it by mere seconds, I tell you! And paid a whopping $3! I found one at long last – actually here in L-ville – so, finally, all is well. And its a Belgian (!) pressing. Go figure.

  2. indeed one can’t forget about dee dee. Even after he left the Ramones, the band still commissioned him to write new songs. And as for that rap album, i’m sure that with time it will be revealed for the work of brilliance that it is…. (or maybe not)

  3. The Ramones are one of the very few bands that I’ve been listening to since Frosh year in High school (20!! yrs ago!) and still are a daily staple on the home turntable, right in there with Booker T., Question Mark, and Buck Owens. (and they fit in with them! you can play the Ramones back to back with any 60’s rock or soul and the transition is effortless–I do it all the time when I DJ and the kids (and geezers like us)-go WILD. We’ve been Hammering “Sheena” into our heads for 20 years!! and I tell you when I see it on a juke box at a bar I play it and either dance and/or just stand there and wonder “How the F#@&# did these guys pull this off??” I mean it sounds PERFECT. it IS PERFECT. you could not do it better. wierd. it sends chills down the spine.
    on a different track, your post made me think of the “punk/newwave” bands I listend to and the ones a do now…there are the ones that I cannot listen to and haven’t really for ten years or so (social d, oi bands, JFA, AOD, DRI, Suicidal, contortions, No wave bands, post 2nd lp clash, P.I.L., dils, nuns, ) ones I recognize as important and good but more recently in last few years realized I cannot listen to any more (Minor threat, Talking heads,Minute Men, avengers, Husker Du, Replacements, squeeze, big boys, dicks, kennedys, ) then there are ones I still listen to but once every couple of months or so and somtimes just for nostalgia(Flag, elvis costello, Circle jerks, Fear, Mistfits,
    suicide, X, Xray spex,clash, pistols)the ones I listen to once every coupla weeks(dictators, zero boys, wire, gizmos, bad brains, wreckless eric, dead boys, devo, suicide commandos)
    then there are the ones i listen to daily…RAMONES, Lyres, DMZ, undertones, penetrators, haha I guess it’s the more 60’s sounding bands I like…no surprise there because 60’s rock/country/soul is what I listen to 95 percent of the time, and these are the bands that fit with all that. BTW I just watched DECLINE for the 1st time in more than ten years and geez what a great movie! ANYWAY on another subject that concerns what we listend to in high school/college etc. back in tha 90’s I would get really bummed out when I would be in a bar in the french quarter and a person our age with mohawk, combat boots and ripped black jeans would come to the juke box and play somthing off of combat rock…so much so that I stopped going to those type of bars altogether about 4 years ago. I mean it’s just as or MORE depressing than seeing a hippie “jamming” to “magic carpet ride…” I can’t hang with people that have stagnated into nostalgia/hero worship for Costello/clash/pistols/Discord whatever…it’s sickening. just as sickening as the “hippies” worshiping jim morrison or whatever.
    I mean the people that are living in thier own past…and they’ll still buy the newest joe strummer lp or costello lp or lydon VH1 behind the punk or whatever even if it’s the biggest load of crap you’ve ever heard (and it IS). I mean I love the stones and kinks etc. but I’m not going to buy thier latest lp (or even one after 1966!!) I mean listening to stuff you did in high school or college is great (it’s what I do basically) but you gotta expand…you gotta also weed out some things…am I making any sense? Probably Not! HA HA!! on another subject there are so many punk/new wave powerpop goups from the 70’s 80’s that I am getting turned onto all the time that were not available to me in tha day…via the internet, through friends, compilations, etc….it’s just endless…speaking of waffles, the BLOODSTAINS across belgium vol one and two are two of my fave punk comps and I listen to them quite a bit…pure power-punk-pop!

  4. Oh yeah I forgot…the ZEROS, REAL KIDS, Chesterfield Kings (who I like more now than I did then!!), Radion Birdman, Kraftwerk, the dickies, rezillos, the JAM (my favorite of the “Major Label” english punk bands.) you can see that your post has got me blasting the turntables while I cook some dinner. HA HA

  5. Aside from the “Complicated” postings…
    I just wanted to say that your deconstruction of the Ramones scene to wit, is very, very bright, and all my friends have been pissing themselves with laughter.
    “Recognize the Sub-altern “Twist”, might be the “Name that Tune” of our Future.
    Very funny.

  6. Thanks Michael!

    Believe it or not I was watching the movie with Matt Uhlmann, the locquacious commentoer above, one beer soaked night long ago, when I noted the “I do care” thing.

    I’d not thought of applying the technique to other videos. I could be highly amusing, I agree!

Comments are now closed.