DVD released: September 28, 2004.
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The Ramones, in their hey day, were one of, if not the, finest rock and roll bands in the world. They’re widely considered one of the pioneering punk bands and their influence on modern music is undisputable. The Ramones left their mark on music history and their ‘1-2-3-4’ countdowns, buzz saw guitar riffs and short, fast songs are almost instantly recognizable by anyone who has ever been even remotely interested not only in punk rock but in rock and roll in general.
In short, these guys are legendary.
Ramones – Raw, the
first official Ramones DVD release, provides fans with a ‘fly on the
wall’ look at the band spread out primarily over their last eight years
or so of existence before they finally called it quits with the release of
Adios Amigos. This documentary is assembled from a lot of
the band’s personally shot private footage, a lot of which was hot on
handheld video cameras by Marky Ramone, who shot over two hundred video
tapes worth of material during his stint as drummer, and this footage
shows a lot of the good with the bad.
Highlights from the over one hundred minute running time include the band running from a mob of screaming fans in Brazil (odd, considering how celebrity status seemed to elude them their entire career in North America, at least by comparison), some footage from a European tour shortly after the Berlin Wall came down, and a whole whack of great live performances, television appearances, odd little cartoons and claymation bits, and everything else you can think of.
Sadly, as this footage progresses over
time, so does the disintegration of the band members’ friendship and you
can see in certain scenes how their interaction with each other turned
from jovial and fun to cold and almost spiteful.
While this sounds great in practice,
the task of editing down and making something coherent out of two hundred
video tapes worth of amateur home video footage is a daunting one.
Director John Cafiero does a good job of making sure that some truly great
moments are shown the light of day but with the mammoth amount of material
that he had to work with, not surprisingly the documentary is a bit of a
mish mash rather than a coherent band history or biographical documentary
of any kind. It simply is what it is – a lot of interesting home movie
footage spliced in amongst some pro-shot TV footage resulting in an uneven
There’s a lot of great casual backstage footage, interaction with fans, and in the end it feels almost like looking through an old picture book – the lack of coherency backs this up and the little vignettes do really almost feel like moving snapshots of the band in decline.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is just as all over the place as the video quality is, and for the same reasons – once again it all boils down to the source material. Most of the time you can hear what’s being said without any problems, but in a lot of the older footage there is some tape hiss, there are some drop outs in quality, and there are some audible background noises that prove mildly distracting. Given the basis of the documentary though, these flaws are forgivable and none of them are so major as to really take away from the material.
First up is a full length commentary
from Johnny and Marky Ramone, joined by director John Cafiero (who more or
less plays mediator here – keeping the discussion on track). The two
band members sound about as enthusiastic as a lump of mud to be on this
track, but that doesn’t stop Cafiero from trying his best to get them to
loosen up a bit and spill the beans about their life and times. The track
does a pretty good job of giving a basic run down of the history of the
band, and while at times the two Ramones are eerily silent here, there are
other times where they do chime in to clear up some issues relating to
what may be happening on screen. They don’t have a lot to say about late
front man Joey Ramone, for some reason, leading on to speculate that they
may not have been on the best of terms when Joey passed on.
Aside from the commentary, there’s a
lot of great bonus footage on this DVD as well. There are eighteen deleted
scenes available, some of which repeat what we’ve already seen in the
documentary, just with a slightly different take. These aren’t
particularly revelatory but they are moderately interesting and worth
checking out once or twice. There is a scene were Eddie Veder introduces
The Ramones into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame that is rather touching,
bust most of this footage is just the band goofing off.
The highlight of the extra features is
a thirty minute set recorded live in 1980 for Italian TV featuring The
Ramones live in Rome. While the text that appears on the screen
introducing the songs is messed up, they performance is great and the show
is of pretty decent quality. They play through as man of their instantly
recognizable songs as fast and furious as they can and seeing them live
here is a nice way to offset some of the less than ideal documentary
Next up are TV appearances from Space Ghost: Coast To Coast, The Howard Stern Show, The Uncle Floyd Show, Up All Night (with Gilbert Godfried!) and 120 Minutes. These are all worth checking out and there are some funny moments contained in each of them.
Despite some of the issues with the editing, and the a/v quality, the good certainly outweighs the bad on this release and Ramones – Raw is an essential disc for Ramones fans or music fans in general.
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