Skin tight pants, grungy t-shirts, leather jackets, Converse sneakers, sunglasses and long shaggy hair – this was trademark Ramones, a uniform which only varied slightly in a long career that stretched from 1974 to 1999 – although Joey Ramone did once swap his skin-tight jeans for skin-tight leathers and once or twice the t-shirts became sleeveless and the hair got shorter. The Ramones performed literally thousands of concerts around the world in their famous short, sharp, ear-splitting style accompanied by lots of banging guitars – averaging songs of less than two minutes duration and less than 30 minutes a concert with pause breaks for loud arguments between the band members in between. They were America’s answer to the British punk rock scene that was sweeping Europe with the likes of the Clash at the forefront. The name ‘Ramone’ came strangely enough from an attempt to emulate the Beatles; even the hairstyles were originally Beatles style ‘mop tops’ and in fact they have been compared and contrasted often to the Beatles – a juxtaposition that seems inexplicable in the extreme – but even their name ‘The Ramones’ came from an early idea of Paul McCartney’s when he briefly styled himself Paul Ramon during his days with the Silver Beatles.

Like The Who the numbers and playing positions of the band members changed frequently over the years and also like The Who all that remained in the end were two. Unfortunately for the Ramones although they retained and amassed a loyal following of millions and inspired many other bands to follow in their footsteps over the years they never quite achieved the worldwide success that they were looking for. Even Phil Specter was unable to garner them top chart billing although they did become part of the indelible Specter legend when he pulled a gun on them one night and ordered them to play the same guitar riff over and over again for 8 hours straight until they got it just right.

The double live album “Ramones – It’s Alive” [title from an old black and white horror movie], charts their career from the early days right up until the end – which was literally the end when three of the leading band members died within a few years of each other – two from cancer and one from the traditional rocker’s cocktail of booze and heroin. The album contains every concert that they ever gave – or rather, it feels like it does because it’s literally exhaustive as well as exhausting – not only in content but in viewing time – but it’s a true collector’s album which no Ramone die-hard could do without. From grainy black and white footage of the stick-thin Joey Ramone trying out his punk moves on tiny stages to colour footage of slightly less than stick-thin Joey Ramone trying out his punk moves on bigger stages each mini-concert blends into another, enlivened from time to time with scenes from such UK television classics as Top of the Pops with swooning pre-pubescent girls as part of the floor decor. I myself came to the Ramones a very long time ago not from a love of garage band punk but from screaming “I wanna be sedated” at the top of my lungs with a chorus of friends on long drives in the car with the stereo turned up to 11.

The 2 DVD set comes in 5.1 sound, includes interviews, rare music videos and more, but is geared more towards avid collectors and aging punk rockers rather than aficionados of Britney. Rating [with those caveats] = 10

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