Ramones - Raw (DVD)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 6, 2004
Review by Tony BonyataDespite the recent deaths of original band members Dee Dee, Joey and Johnny Ramone over the last three years, fans of the Ramones finally have a reason to rejoice. That's because a new DVD entitled Ramones Raw has recently been released and features over five hours of rare live performances, home movies and various television appearances throughout the band's career.
Not since the release of Led Zeppelin's DVD late last year has there been a collection of unseen rock music footage this monumental for fans. But unlike that DVD, which featured both impeccable sound and picture quality, the overall quality of this DVD is less than perfect and (as the title implies) quite raw. This, not so surprisingly however, fits this particular band almost as perfectly as their tattered leather jackets and frayed jeans did back in the '70s.
Formed in 1974 in New York City, The Ramones played a major role in jump-starting the punk rock movement. Their blistering shows at CBGB's in the mid to late '70s proved to be exercises in how far three bar-chords could be maximized to their fullest potential. With loud guitars, ridiculously short songs and lyrics as dumb as they were hysterical, this rag-tagged foursome seriously raised the bar by lowering the standards of rock music.
What fills the main feature of this release is an in-depth documentary that toggles back and forth from live performances throughout Europe from 1979 to 1996 to home video footage of the band offstage, primarily shot by drummer Marky Ramone. This very personal insider's vantage point offers fans a true fly-on-the-wall perspective into the Ramones' lives - both on and off stage, where they're visited backstage and in hotel lobbies by celebrities such as Debbie Harry (Blondie), Bono & U2, Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Carly Simon and even "Grandpa" Al Lewis (of TV's The Munsters).
Besides the main feature - which on its own is enough to send Pinheads (the affectionate term for Ramones fans) reeling - the DVD is chockfull of additional bonus material, such as a full 27-minute long concert performance from Vatican City previously broadcast only once before on Italian television in 1980, eight performances on U.S. television (including the insanely wacky New York cable program The Uncle Floyd Show, as well as Space Ghost and The Howard Stern Show) and scads of other crass, hysterical home movie footage of the band.
Many personal discoveries about the band are also revealed, such as the admitted, yet surprising, inspiration they all got from The Beatles during their youth. Mirroring that early inspiration, Marky's video footage of large mobs of rabid European Ramones fans invading their hotel rooms and climbing on their cars is, oddly enough, more than reminiscent of the hysteria caused by Beatlemania in the early '60s.
For those who've ever had a curiosity of where punk rock originated, then this DVD documenting one of the most important American bands of all time is the perfect textbook. For Pinheads, however, it's nothing short of the rock & roll Book of Revelation. Gabba Gabba Hey!
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