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ON THE ROAD WITH THE RAMONES – Monte A Melnick & Frank Meyer (302 pages)
Any new book about any legendary band - and even more specifically THE RAMONES - should be greeted with eager eyes, sweaty palms and nimble, page-turning fingers. When the tour manager, who has supported the band virtually since its inception, writes that book, the sense of anticipation at revelations revealed and antics analysed becomes palpable.
This is the book many fans have been waiting for - the inside story without Dee Dee’s embellishments or any outside journalistic eulogising - the one written from the proverbial ‘horse’s mouth’. On many levels it delivers yet, somehow, it seemed a little half-hearted in hindsight.
The sense of disappointment is, in majority, rooted in the construction of the text. It follows the trend of late where the interviewees are quoted verbatim with little in the way of interconnecting text. Here, we only get a page at the start of each chapter forewarning us of what lays ahead, or how it relates to that which we have already read. What’s more, Monte doesn’t seem to have as much of an in put as the title suggests. That said, you do get in put from everyone who was anyone - DEAD BOYS, TALKING HEADS, DICTATORS, the road crew, every band member, family members, girlfriends - the list is almost endless.
The positives far out-weigh the negatives though. There is a banquet of unseen photographs and several revealing facts about the band, its activity and its infrastructure, along with insightful appraisals of each band member. Everyone knows Dee Dee was a psycho but the book sells him as a misunderstood artist with multiple personality disorder. The same could be said of Johnny, in that we all knew he was a right-wing patriot. The book actually paints him as quite a self-centred monster; a total control-freak with a ruthless streak that spared the lash for nobody. Joey comes out of it particularly shining - there’s hardly a bad word said about the guy (bar from Johnny) and the chapter on his eventual demise is sobering in the extreme. Marky (seemingly the real party animal), Tommy, Richie and even Clem Burke all get their own respective mentions. It’s also good to see CJ getting his credit here with several quotes, a good deal of praise and a chapter dedicated to Dee Dee’s departure and CJ’s arrival.
Another positive, at least for the genuine fan, is the paraphernalia we get to see out of (one assumes) Monty’s own ‘scrapbook’ - tour passes, itineraries, promo posters, rooming lists, stage set ups, pre-RAMONES shots etc etc. For the less-obsessive fan there is plenty to hold the attention too - tales of Dee Dee sticking cigars up his butt and then giving them to the road crew, Marky’s drunk frivolities, inter-band friction (none more so than that between Johnny and Joey), Monte constantly being abused and Joey’s own idiosyncratic foibles.
Ultimately, for any fan of the band - and of Punk to a larger degree - this is an essential and enjoyable read. It may put some people off the band (or off individual band members at least) but it will leave the reader in little doubt of THE RAMONES’ influential place in rock ‘n’ roll history. POISON IDEA may have released ‘Kings Of Punk’, but THE RAMONES represented the real hierarchy; the genuine patriarchal monarchy to generations of degenerate, dispossessed kids who could never, ever get a big enough fix of the ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ and the ‘Cretin Hop’.