Hey Ho Let’s Go: The Story of the Ramones by Everett True
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read and wrote a review of a book called Ramones on November 26, 2013, so much of this is overlapping. With that in mind, I’m going to reprint some of that review here:
“Let me begin by saying I’ve liked the Ramones for a very long time. Since roughly 1980. And while I’ve enjoyed their music, I never thought they were musical geniuses or lyrical geniuses the way Lennon and McCartney were or even Trent Reznor. It was just fun, fast music. This book is about the music, but I’m downgrading it a couple of stars because the author thinks the Ramones are the world’s greatest band, for all intents and purposes. He’s a real fan boy. But since this is an authorized biography, I guess you would expect that.
The band started out in New York in 1974. Four disaffected young people who couldn’t play a musical instrument to save their lives. They couldn’t even imitate their musical heroes, the way Bowie or McCartney did. But they did get instruments and learn a chord. Their first show was a disaster, but soon the new club, CBGB’s, found them and nothing was ever the same again. They’d come on stage and rip through 17 songs in 15 minutes or 23 or 24 songs in 20 minutes. The object seemed to be to get through the songs as quickly as possible, with as much loudness as possible. The chiefs at Sire, a new outfit, heard their demo and signed them, and all of a sudden they had a record. And it got great reviews! All of a sudden, they were the founders and leaders of a new punk movement, and they influenced the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, and many, many other bands. They toured a lot and continued putting out records. That’s pretty much the book. A couple of lineup changes, the only one of which — when bassist and song writer Dee Dee quit — was big. There’s mention of drugs and alcohol, but just barely. This is a PG rated book, unlike other rock biographies I’ve read. A lot of the songs are quoted in the text, or snippets of songs, but it serves, in my opinion, to show just how insipid their lyrics were — not how great they were like the author asserts! While the Ramones never sold many records, they did tour a lot, and I guess that’s what prompted the author to write, “Everyone in the known universe loves the Ramones today.” Huh? They made $400 for their shows. Their albums sold in the 25,000 to 40,000 range. Obviously NOT everyone in the known universe loves the Ramones….”
Well, this book basically echoes that review, but instead of it being PG rated, it’s R rated. We learn of Dee Dee’s heroin addiction, of the band’s affinity for sniffing glue when younger, of Marky’s alcoholism, (and Joey’s too, it seems), and Johnny’s totalitarianism control freakishness and his Reagan/Bush loving Republican loving right wing politics (which is really weird). We learn how Johnny and Joey stopped talking to each other after about 10 years and spent the next 12 years communicating through others while still playing shows together year after year and still recording albums together. Part of that may have been because Johnny stole Joey’s girlfriend and married her.
I used to like the guys, but this book made me feel icky about them. Joey’s like this child-like, tall, skinny praying mantis who’s always in a dream state and doesn’t deal with reality well. Marky is an alcoholic in denial. Dee Dee is in a permanent state of being pissed off and is a drug addict. And Johnny is a right wing nut job penny pinching control freak. Tommy, the original drummer, is the only one who seemed normal. Maybe he got out at just the right time. CJ, Dee Dee’s replacement on bass, seems fairly normal too, but he’s never really viewed as one of the group.
We learn about how the band feels about music and their place in rock, as well as their views of other groups. We learn that they grew bitter about not selling records and not being recognized for starting punk or speed metal or whatever you want to call it (Johnny called it both). We learn that they seriously hated Styx, Foreigner, Boston, and Journey, as well as Yes and Pink Floyd. We learn that they kind of looked down their noses at the Sex Pistols. We learn that they liked AC/DC and Monster Magnet. We learn they hated goths, although they played a festival with Sisters of Mercy. We learn they hated traditional metal, opening for Black Sabbath and having bottles and cans thrown at them by the audience. We learn the author thinks they were bigger than the Stones in South America. Perhaps that’s true, and perhaps it’s true that they played to 50,000 people at a show there, but Queen played to 130,000 people there, so they don’t have the record, sorry. (I like Queen more.) The Ramones wavered on liking The Who and The Stones. Sometimes they did; sometimes they didn’t. They didn’t think too much of Lou Reed. They liked Debbie Harry and Joan Jett, who partied with them.
It was weird reading about them dying at the end of the book. Except for Dee Dee, and perhaps to a certain extent before he got cleaned up, Marky, they didn’t really live too hard. After shows, they wouldn’t have traditional rock parties with groupies, etc. They’d go out in the clothes they wore at the concert and look for a 7-11 or a Burger King. Then go watch cartoons or monster movies.
As stated in the previous review, the author and many of the people he interviewed thinks the lyrics are genius. Personally, I think they’re insipid. But I think that’s part of the fun of the Ramones. You can’t take them seriously. I don’t think they took themselves seriously. How in the hell do you take Beat On The Brat or We’re a Happy Family seriously? As to musicianship, many thought Johnny was the best guitarist ever. I think that’s insane. (Jeff Beck is.) One person interviewed, however, said Johnny sucked, was horrible, couldn’t play his way out of a box. The truth was he was probably somewhere in the middle. I doubt he created a genre, as so many claimed in this book, but he was decent.
Overall, I’m glad I read this book. It filled in a lot of details I didn’t know and was entertaining. The only downside was, it lowered my respect for the band members a bit, which is unfortunate. Nonetheless, I’d still recommend this for fans. It’s chock full of good info which you can’t find elsewhere.
3 thoughts on “A Review of Hey Ho Let’s Go”
Reblogged this on Occult news.
I love bios and autobios…and books about bands are always interesting!
I love some of The Ramones music. I’ve heard them interviewed in the past…it seems they always had trouble getting along. The Partridge Family they weren’t! 😮
Thanks for this review!
Thanks! They were definitely unique. Cheers!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Comments are closed.