AKA End Of The Century: The Story Of The Ramones.
I don't often select documentaries to review here because it can be hard to discuss them at length without simply regurgitating a lot of the information contained within them. But this is one I have loved since I first saw it, over a decade ago, and it's worth highlighting.
As you would expect, it is the story of The Ramones, the punk band made up of Joey Ramone (real name = Jeff Hymnan), Johnny Ramone (real name = John Cummings), Tommy Ramone (real name = Thomas Erdelyi), and Dee Dee Ramone (real name = Douglas Colvin). These are the names that you see on the t-shirts. You know, those t-shirts that pop up in photos accompanied by people stating that if you're going to wear it then you should be able to name at least five songs by the band. I tend to agree with that statement, although it's fair to say that The Ramones, arguably more than any other band, effectively nailed the balance of punk rock attitude and raucous guitar swagger that felt more like a lifestyle choice than a musical one. But if you watch this documentary and find yourself not recognising many of the tunes then you really need to dive into their discography, because you're missing out on some cracking tunes.
It quickly becomes clear how things worked within the band, with interviews and archival footage blended together to paint an accurate portrait of people who almost stumbled into a position that saw them idolised by many others in the music scene. Predictably enough, those influenced by the band often managed to smooth off the rough edges and find mainstream success, which is just another reason to love the unlikely heroes (?!? yes . . . heroes).
Like all of the best documentaries, this gives you great insight into the subject matter, while also encouraging viewers to delve deeper. I can't imagine anyone watching this and not immediately wanting to then get their hands on some albums from the band. Directors Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia know that there are two main things people love The Ramones for, the music and the attitude, and this presentation keeps both of those things present and correct for most of the runtime, and even interspersed throughout the end credits.
Fans may not learn anything new here, it was always quite common knowledge that Joey was the singer and figurehead of the band, while Johnny tried to exert more control and Dee Dee was, well, busy being Dee Dee. But it's still an absolute joy to see the band working, see them squabbling, catch snippets of live performances, and hear them talked about with reverence by the likes of Joe Strummer and Blondie.
I won't be leaving it so long until the next revisit of this. It's one of my favourite music documentaries, and always reminds me to get more Ramones tunes stuffed into my ears.
You can buy a shiny disc here.
Americans can buy it here.