Ipodshuffle.com has been operating as a music blog since 2003. We have no connection with Apple or the new iPod Shuffle - we simply liked the Shuffle function. Of course, we're as curious as everyone else, so here's some appropriate links:
If there was a film director more influential on independent and underground rock I can't think of one off the top of my head. The film titles give a first clue - Mudhoney ... Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill ... and of course Beyond the Valley of the Dolls...
Nothing against Tommy (who changed his name back and started producing records well before the end of the 70's), or Marky (whose tenure was long enough to almost qualify as an original member) or those other later drummers or bassists, but those three guys in front were the Ramones. Each had a clear role in their ritualized concerts, and apparently each one had as key and well-defined role behind the scenes.
My overall response to the music has been well documented here, and originally here when Joey died - but beyond that, Johnny's death has got me thinking of the nature of fandom (and for that matter, band-dom too). The band's feuds have become increasingly discussed and documented - with the RRHOF induction, the movie opening, and this week's news - but at the time they weren't a particularly important factor. Sure I had a few friends who'd pass along the occasional disquiting tidbit, maybe something they'd read in Creem or NY Rocker - the guys didnt speak to each other, Johnny was a Republican; but at 11 pm and age 18 when I cranked Rocket to Russia, none of that really mattered.
These days at 11 pm, an obsessive 18 year old fan might just as likely sign on to a bulletin board about their favorite band, where they can spend hours deconstructing and arguing about every bit of public news and rumor about the band. Sure that's great right? Information should be free etc. But it puts the bands under such a microscope to have every move and emotion scrutinized, it's a wonder any of them stay together. A lot of bands are made of highly emotional and needy people to begin with, and the pressure run high as they cram themselves in a rolling star chamber with each other for months at a time; then this scrutiny from their audience just adds to the situation.
All of which I guess makes me appreciate Johnny's role, perhaps in retrospect more than at the time. Onstage, the other two guys up front were more accessible - Joey was lanky and cuddly, and Dee Dee got to go 'OneTwoThreeFour.' But the core of the band's sound was rooted in Johnny's unrelenting barre chord attack. And apparently behind the scenes, Johnny was the taskmaster, the drill sergeant who held it all together. That role isn't going to win you too many friends, but it's absolutely necessary if you're going to keep such an insane and amazing venture together for a quarter-century.
My friend Ben Liemer, longtime record guy and magazine editor (and still somehow a music fan) writes:
For a band that was virtually indestructible during a 20+ year career on the road, the Ramones have not fared very well in retirement. Dee Dee was expected, Joey not. And Johnny?
Johnny was the heart and soul of the Ramones and to this day remains my favorite rhythm guitar player of all time along with Keith Richards (Pete Townshend, Malcolm Young, & Tony Iommi have to be up there too).
Quick flashback: Summer, 1976, Bowery & Bleecker, on a humid summer night in The Big Apple a 19 year-old Ben Liemer visits CBGB for the first time for their Underground Rock festival. On the bill: Ramones (w/ Tommy on drums for sure) & the Cramps (w/ Bryan Gregory looking like an escaped psych ward patient on gtr.). Alcoholic bums are staggering on the sidewalk outside their cheap flophouse hotel rooms--there's garbage in the streets and junker cars parked nearby. The Bowery Bar isn't even a dream yet and neither are the other restaurants & upscale lounges. All over the radio at this time are the slickly singles of the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, and the precursors to disco, etc. I pay my money and step into the shithole alternate universe of CBGB hours early. No one has safety pins, spiked hair, torn clothes yet. Except Richard Hell, who was inventing the look due to a severe lack of funds...but I have no idea if he was in the house that night. Few people were wearing all black yet, long hair and bell bottoms were abundant. Some black leather motorcycle jackets could be seen, but it was hardly the live in, on-the-road essential article of punk clothing it would become. My friend and I find a corner against the wall by the left side of the stage and watch as the crowd fills in. Someone says Lou Reed is in the house and it's a bfd because "Rock & Roll Animal" is a classic just a few years old and besides I had the original album cover poster on my wall in college. It's fucking hot and hard to breathe. The rest you know about if you've heard the first album--"Blitzkrieg Bop", "Beat On The Brat" "I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You" just about rip our heads off with perfect minimalism and maximum Marshall stack n Mosrite distortion. The entire set of what?.... 12-14 songs took like 25 minutes. To quote Emeril: BAM!
In the next two months, I saw Talking Heads, Television, and a lot more, bought Patti Smith's "Horses" which was the first major punk release along with "Ramones," and a whole new set of alternatives outside of the mainstream media that I had never imagined existed opened up to me. And remember, there was no MTV, there was no internet, no file sharing, no daily download or watch the video, there was no alternative club touring circuit before the Ramones, Blondie, etc. established it, New York Rocker, Boston Rock and Punk Magazine hadn't been created yet, there were no commercial stations playing this kind of music--hell none of these bands were even signed, except for Patti. To quote "Road Runner" by Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers: "I'm in love with rock & roll and I'll be up all night...." that's exactly how juiced I felt. And that's why I am in the music business to this day.
The Ramones were the saviours of rock & roll--when they played London on July 4, 1976 future members of the Clash, Sex Pistols, Siouxsie & The Banshees and Billy Idol were in the crowd. They all looked at each other and said, "hell, we can do that." Almost overnight a 100 bands formed in the UK. Many were good, some were great, but there will always only be one Ramones. "There's no stoppin' the cretins from rockin" Johnny!
Apropos of nothing, except it just came up on the player and I really *listened* walking home from the train. And what a f**king amazing song. Such a distillation of their incredible live power - joyfully stripped-down and sloppy, but a true Wall of Sound consisting of one fuzztone rhythm guitar, one piercing semi-lead guitar, and some no-friils drums. Plus of course, the inimitable wail of Mr. Lux Interior. If it wasn't recorded live, the producer (Alex Chilton if memory serves) did an amazing job of recreating their live sound - all on a studio budget of about $22.50, one presumes. Listen and learn, kiddies... .