Rock Rock, Rock and Roll College

by timm carney

The Ramones are icons there is no way around it.  They exemplify Punk Rock.  Everyone knows the lyrics to at least one Ramones song.   If you ask Barak Obama to sing a Ramones song he can.   Perhaps some of the “Christian Right” would be a bit hard pressed by it, but really who cares about them anyway.  The Ramones have entered our society and are here to stay.  Perhaps one day they’ll be thought of the way we think of Mozart today.  The Gershwins of a new generation; they are the classics.  Brown University, an Ivy League school, is offering a course this semester called the Ramones.  They are now the stuff of a University education.  The course is a guided independent study about the Ramones.  I wondered how much is there to study.  The more I thought about it, the more it hit me. The kids studying the Ramones were born around 1988. They were ten and under when the band played their last show.  The Ramones were formed 14 years before they were born.  Suddenly I felt old.  I remember the thrill of buying my first Ramones album, going to see “Rock and Roll High School” when it first came out, underage standing outside of a club watching them load their gear into a van after a show.  These poor kids, I thought they’ll never know the thrill of seeing them live.Joey Ramone rocking forward and backward leaning on his micstand with the rest of the band bouncing behind him.  I still find it hard to believe that Joey is actually dead. I met him a couple of times.  He was a nice guy.  Soft spoken and polite, anyone’s mother would have liked him. He called me once shocking my horrible roommate by actually being him on the phone.  “Some guy’s on the phone claiming to be Joey Ramone.” 

Somewhere in this country is a father paying top dollar for his kid to study The Ramones.  Oh the irony!  They don’t care about history but now they are history.  The Ramones, masters of the 3 chord short fast song are now worth studying.  They are venerable.  How un-punk rock!  I guess the next generation will have to look back and study.  They have no choice, they missed it.  Punk Rock isn’t dead but it isn’t what it once was.  It’s not nearly as outside and controversial.  It’s been done.  The era is over only the genre remains.  Musically punk rock is still as vibrant and energetic as ever but the edginess is gone.  The shock of the new is past.  Today one can look back reflect upon the shock and write college level papers and books about it.  There is a punk rock section in bookstores now.  Semiotexts on Siouxsie Sioux can’t be far from publishing. Critical analyses of the societal impact of Boy George and Jayne County are due out any day.  What had started out as some kids playing guitars at CBGB’s is now an “A” on a college transcript. Somehow I am saddened and elated at the same time.  What had once been my rebellion is now the fodder for someone’s class project.