END OF THE CENTURY:
THE STORY OF THE RAMONES
5 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: July 21, 2005
Movie review by David MalschThe Ramones were born out of boredom. Sniffing glue and listen to Iggy Pop and the Stooges and the MC5 fueled their interest, but the New York Dolls fueled their ambitions. Seeing how the Dolls could do it with minimal talents made Johnny Ramone believe he could do it. So the Ramones were born, Johnny on guitar, Dee Dee on bass and Joey on drums. But it didn't work out until Tommy took over drums and they put Joey out in front as singer.
From there, began the three-chord assault dressed in black leather and ripped jeans. From their beginnings at a little club in the Bowery called CBGB's (the only place that would book them) to touring Europe and finally accepting their lifetime membership into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Ramones did it their way without compromise. They paved the way for countless bands even though they never received commercial acclaim themselves. The turned a dank little bar like CBGB's into a legendary music club where Blondie, Patti Smith and the Talking Heads would get discovered. They influenced The Clash and the Sex Pistols and changed the face of music, as we know it. The Ramones were gods!
The film End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones tells it all brilliantly, from they're meager beginnings to the very end of the century when they gave it all up out of frustration. We visit the neighborhood they grew up in, visit the paths they crossed, the friends they made and the legion of fans that were never the same again. Johnny Ramone was a troubled youth who seemed to be in trouble every day and ruled the band with an iron fist. He was a miserable individual that rivaled a dictator. Dee Dee was the dim-witted bass player that experimented with drugs and alcohol and wrote the lyrics for the band. Tommy was the outsider that guided the band along with Johnny and helped claim the Ramones sound and then there was Joey, the shy, beanpole singer that needed the band more than anyone. Joey was a freak of nature in his neighborhood and finally found his place in the world through the Ramones. Without this band, Joey would have never made it and the band would have never made it without him.
Film directors Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia leave no stone unturned in this homage to the forefathers of punk rock. End of the Century is almost like visiting the funeral of the band, a celebration of achievement warts and all. The film features the other Ramones who took over for and/or filled in for the main band. Members like C.J, Marky and Ritchie Ramones are all included in the storytelling. Even Blondie member Clem Burke who had a brief stint as Elvis Ramone until he was fired for not being able to keep up the Ramone pace. Interviews with Debbie Harry and Joe Strummer confirm the influences and the respect due to this band.
Without the Ramones would there have been The Clash or Sex Pistols? Would Green Day be around? Without the Ramones contribution to CBGB's would Blonde or the Talking Heads ever been discovered? The world discovered them in 1976 and after failing to gain the success of everyone that followed and ripped them off, they said "adios" in 1995. Joey died of cancer a few years later just before their induction into the Hall of Fame. Tommy was the only member of the band to acknowledge Joey in their acceptance speech. Johnny mentioned gratitude to George W. Bush instead. It's a heartbreaking scene that shows despite the music how a band can turn into a dysfunctional family. From there Dee Dee overdosed on heroin and Johnny lost his battle with prostate cancer.
End of the Century is most definitely the wake of the Ramones, a glorious and perfect salute to a one of the greatest bands ever in the history of rock and roll. It reminded me of how great they were and how much I miss them. What they created over 30 years ago still stands today on it's own and even in the bland versions that still salute them today. There will never be another band quite like them.
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