WHY THE RAMONES
by Donna Gaines
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018)
Music Matters Series
Reviewed by Dr.
April 14, 2020
the original Ramones are dead now: Joey (Jeffrey Hyman) succumbed
to lymphoma in 2001; Dee Dee (Douglas Colvin) overdosed on heroin
in 2002; Johnny (John Cummings) died of prostate cancer in 2004; and
Tommy (Thomas Erdelyi) perished from bile duct cancer in 2014. The
punk icons existed as a band from 1974-1996, played 2,263 shows, recorded
fourteen studio LPs, released such unforgettable anthems as "I Wanna
Be Sedated," "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg," "Rockaway Beach," "Beat on the
Brat," and "Sheena is a Punk Rocker," and were deservedly inducted
into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Journalist, academic, sociologist, and devout Ramones fan Donna Gaines
has produced an incisive, personal, heartfelt examination of the New
York musicians. What are some of the questions her book addresses?
Gaines inquires: "Who were the Ramones? How have their individual
and collective biographies intersected with us, with history? What
did they stand for? What great gifts have they left for us?"
"I'm here to testify," she declares, " that the Ramones' music matters--culturally,
historically, sociologically, creatively, and profoundly." Dr. Gaines
divides her study into four chapters: "The Mission," "Ministry," "PAF,"
[Punk as F--k] and "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." Their Mission,
of course, was to reenergize and redeem rock and roll, to save it
from such acts as Kansas, Journey, and Styx. "God gave rock and roll
to you," she passionately asserts, "and when it was lost in the wilderness,
the Ramones were sent to earth to reclaim it. In order to be successful,
rock and roll must scare the shit out of adults, cleanse the psyche
of everyday bullshit, and energize the spirit." Can I get an Amen?
WHY THE RAMONES MATTER belongs to the Music Matters Series, edited
by Loyola Marymount University's Evelyn McDonnell and published by
the University of Texas Press. Other volumes in this commendable collection
include WHY THE BEACH BOYS MATTER (2018) by Tom Smucker and Karen
Tongson's WHY KAREN CARPENTER MATTERS (2019).
On a personal note, I saw the Ramones perform at the Arcadia Theatre
in Dallas in 1990; it was one of the most entertaining (and deafening)
concerts I ever attended. I'll never forget that experience. "Hey!
Ho! Let's Go!"