Learn to Draw The Ramones

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“Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!.”

It was a far cry from the “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!” that horrified grown-ups in the sixties. Then again, in the mid-seventies, the youth was looking for new ways to rebel. Out of Forest Hills, Queens, a quartet came that charged the punk revolution with simple 3-chord songs about things like shock treatment, circus freaks, and beating on a brat (with a baseball bat). With their long bowl-cut hair, leather jackets, tight-pegged tattered jeans, wildly asexual sexiness, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy Ramone probably never knew they were going to take the world by storm.

This was in the years before Punk Rock became a marketing trend. There were no rules about what it took to be punk. The Clearchannel generation doesn’t seem to remember about the band of misfits who inspired countless garage bands over the last thirty years. The Ramones, while spreading the love of punk like a bunch of greasy Johnny Appleseeds, would be obscure to most High School students today; even the ones who shop at Hot Topic.

That’s why the new box set, Weird Tales of the Ramones, is so important. Kids who learn about punk from overproduced bands with million-dollar budgets need to learn about the band that produced one of the greatest rock records of all time, for less than six thousand dollars. If anything the set, including three CDs, a DVD, a sturdy book of comix and one set of 3D glasses, proves an important celebration of the band’s legacy.

“Now I wanna sniff some glue.”

If you’ve never heard the music of the Ramones before, you might not have been paying attention. It’s been featured in films like Stephen King’s resurrection horror flick Pet Sematery and Wes Anderson’s fractured family opus, The Royal Tennenbaums. They even perform a cover of the theme song to another Forest Hills resident, Spider-man.

The sound of the Ramones is an amalgam of sounds that hearken back to the surf-rock legends of the previous decade or the rock ’n’ roll bands of the fifties without those twangy hillbilly sounds or pounding blues beats. The music calls out in a primal way to simple pleasures. It’s alternatively nihilistic, hedonistic, neurotic, paranoid, or utterly tongue-in-cheek.

The band’s line-up changed slightly less than the Fantastic Four’s. The Ramones were heavy on the guitar, played by Johnny Ramone, first, last and always. Joey was the voice that most fans remember. Dee Dee handled the bass until the late eighties when he handed it over to C.J. Banging on a drum was done by Tommy, Markie or Richie, creating rhythms that churned fans’ bowels from the inside out.

“I wanna be sedated.”

The DVD features a interviews, music videos and film excerpts that might otherwise have been lost to the sands of time. Concert footage shows the lanky Joey lunging above his mic like he’s about to swallow it. The band sits around eating cereal, while the world goes mad around them. A group of parishioners worship at the church of The Ramones. The band busts out of a High School detention room. It’s a wacky selection of moods.

The videos are backed up with a range of interviews with band members, musicians, radio DJs, and industry professionals who help to explain the impact that the Ramones had on legions of disaffected punks and closet rockstars.


“I wanna be your boyfriend.”

Drawn by resident comics madman Jim Woodring, the cover to the box set shows a father and daughter discovering The Ramones, sprouting under a bit of fallen tree-bark like a strange form of semi-sentient fungus. The booklet, inspired by those amazingly popular EC Comics covers of the 1950s features work by underground and post-underground comics legends like Bill Griffith, Rick Altergott, Jaime Hernandez and Carol Lay; fresh talents such as Souther Salazar, Jordan Crane and Fly; and work by mainstream humorists Bill Morrison, Sergio Aragones and Scott Shaw.

Homer Simpson makes a brief appearance (“Hey! Ho! Let’s D’Oh!”), but most of the humor works in pretty straightforward parody. One of the pieces, “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go,” by Dr. Shaw, presents the lyrics to some of the band’s most popular songs in the style of a Dr. Seuss children’s book. Wayno mocks those one-panel Archie pin-up gags (“What was your first guitar, Johnny” “A Blue one.”) One remarkable strip features the Ramones in full 3D effect, rising from the grave of Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s a really diverse collection of art, inspired by the infectious (like influenza) energy of those prototypical slackers.

“I wanted everything.”

If you’ve never heard of The Ramones before or if you grew up listening to their tunes, you’ll find something new to enjoy. Lots of tunes for head-bopping fun, lots of bizarre videos and plenty of kool comix, At less than 64 cents per song, Weird Tales of the Ramones is well worth the cost of admission.

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