Even the average rock fan is aware of the Ramones, which really says something since they never had any hit singles — or received much radio acceptance at all for that matter. But because these mop-headed guys from New York have boasted such a visible presence the past few decades, they’re practically as common as a Starbucks on every corner.
Formed in 1974, the Ramones literally stomped to their own muse. At the hour of their arrival, rock music was widely divided between two extremes, with the progressive persuasions of Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Emerson Lake and Palmer holding court on one side of the room, while the polite pop of the Carpenters, John Denver and America ruled Top 40. Rock had clearly deserted its roots, so what a shock it was for the Ramones to come barreling out of the gate, toting three chords plucked at an astonishingly speedy pace while singing short and snappy little tunes about beating on brats, sniffing glue, male prostitution and other perverse topics not normally reserved for mainstream consumption.
Despite their unconventional approach, the Ramones were actually born at the right time, as punk rock soon happened. A flurry of aspiring musicians took their cue from the deceptively simple songs and devil-may-care attitude of the Ramones, that in turn gave birth to a movement that made a big and vital difference. Not only does writer Peter Aaron’s If You Like The Ramones … (Backbeat Books) name check the many folks influenced by the celebrated band, but it also addresses the artists the Ramones were inspired by. Cartoons, TV shows and films are further linked to the being of the band, which are discussed in the book as well.
Aaron, who plays in the great blues punk band, the Chrome Cranks, is a superb writer. Combining humor with knowledge, he supplies pithy profiles on each entry. From the Beach Boys to Brownsville Station to the Dave Clark Five to Devo to Grand Funk Railroad to Green Day to Iron Butterfly to Iron Maiden to the Kingsmen to the Kinks to the Monkees to Motley Crue to the Ohio Express to Operation Ivy to the Shadows of Knight to Sonic Youth to the Vagrants to the Vibrators, If You Like The Ramones… is a certified rock ‘n’ roll encyclopedia, not to mention a terrific pop culture read in general.
The If You Like… series sports a stellar reputation, and this enlightening book continues their tradition of excellence. The Ramones revolutionized rock ‘n’ roll by hurling fun and energy back into the mix. Forget technical efficiency or having pitch perfect voices. Rock ‘n’ roll was never meant to be serious art. So here’s a book that champions the true believers of the genre, and does so with the same kind of enthusiasm and excitement authentic rock ‘n’ roll elicits.
Impossible to put down, If You Like The Ramones… is so good that you’re sure to track down the seemingly never-ending list of records, movies and books featured within the pages. And, that of course, is the purpose of the book to begin with. Hey ho, let’s go!