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It's Alive
The Ramones
A lot of Ramones fans aren't old enough to remember when punk was the red-headed stepchild of the music industry and the Ramones were pretty widely regarded as a joke -- one that got old about three songs into the second album.

But there were some who really heard what the Ramones (and others, let's be fair, though the Ramones' indelible stamp is all over punk) were doing -- or trying to do.

Younger Ramones fans may not realise just how stultifying all too much of the music of the second half of the Seventies was; there's a reason that Mojo Nixon wrote a song titled "Don Henley Must Die". Between prog-art rock and cookie-cutter corporate bands (and the looming horror of mousse metal), most of what you might find at your local record shop was pretty dire. (Notice, i avoided mentioning the ultimate musical abhomination of the period, D*sc*, so as to not offend those with delicate digestion.)

Oh, there was a little bit of fresh air getting in, even then -- "Rocky Horror Picture Show" was released in 1975, and there was the beginnings of what would eventually become alt.country, with people like Commander Cody & His Lost Planrt Airmen, but the mainstream was BORING.

And then the Ramones came out of nowhere and hit those of us who were listening like a runaway subway train; they brought a refreshing breath of good old stale smog to what had become an all-too-clean music scene. They reminded us how to SWEAT.

And then they went to England and created the Sex Pistols (not exactly an immaculate conception, and not quite that simply, but the influence was huge). With regard to a similar disproportionately influential musical event, John Cale said of the Velvet Underground's "Banana" album -- "Only five thousand people bought it, but they all started bands."

I don't know how many people who saw the Ramones on that UK tour started bands, but the legacy that they left behind still reverberates to this day.

And, in much the same manner that the music of Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochrane and so on had to cross the Atlantic, suffer a sea change, and come back to us in the form of the English Invasion of the Sixties, the punk music of the Ramones was suddenly much more respectable -- or at least marketable -- when vermillion- haired singers with safety pins through their noses were barfing on their audiences than it had been when it was a bunch of long- haired geeks from Queens.

And Everything Changed.

Except, of course, as we can attest from this end of the telescope, it all pretty much Stayed The Same, and the big labels still dictate what kind of music the majority of people are even going to hear, much less like. Abhominations like n'Synch and the Spice Girls are periodically visited upon us like scourges, all because not enough of us learnt the Ramones' basic lesson.

And that lesson, brilliantly attested to by this album, is that you don't HAVE to have a million dollars' woth of gear and a 64-track studio to produce brilliant rock'n'roll; you have to WANT to make nusic that's actually worth listening to, and you need a modicum of talent... but most of all you need determination, and you need to not accept what the blanderisors tell you... You need to be able to stand up and say (as Joey does, on another album) "We need change and we need it fast, before rock's just part of the past; 'cos lately it all sounds the same to me..."

And it helps if at least one of you can count to four REALLY fast.

Ironically, this, the album that documents one of the most important steps in the transition of a fringe American musical form to a world-wide phenomenon was, for years, unavailable in the US -- Sire, the Ramones' label, released it only overseas; if you were a USAn Ramones fan, you had to shell out the bucks for an import (i did).

All i can figure is that they were leery of it because it was a different lineup than the later more (comparatively) successful band who broke through a lot wider in their home country on the basis of the hit single "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" and their appearance in Roger Corman's "Rock'n'Roll High School".

But, up until the CD era, if you wanted this album, you bought an import.

It's good to see it available domestically.