Lifestyles of the Ramones

Lifestyles of the RamonesSynopsis: Features the following videos: Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio, Rock N Roll High School, We Want the Airwaves, Psycho Therapy, Time has Come Today, Howling at the Moon, Something to Believe In, I Wanna Live, I Wanna be Sedated, Pet Sematary, Merry Christmas, and I Believe in Miracles. Plus special interviews with Little Steven, Vernon Reid, Debbie Harry, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and many more. Explicit lyrics.

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Lifestyles of the Ramones 8.0

‘Lifestyles of the Ramones’ is a home video presentation that was released on VHS back in 1990 and was later re-released in 2005 as part of the ‘Weird Tales of the Ramones’ boxed set, which is comprised of a 3-CD retrospective of the band, this DVD, and a wild Ramones-inspired comic book.

The original release consisted of a series of Ramones music videos tied together by interviews with a variety of DJs, producers, industry people, journalists – and, of course, a bevy of musical artists such Anthrax, Talking Heads, Debbie Harry and many others reminiscing or paying tribute to the seminal band.

This particular re-release also includes a set of six extra music videos in the bonus features section of the disc. These videos were produced after this VHS tape came out and, thus, were not part of the original montage. All told, the presentation runs a little over 70 minutes in length.

As a huge fan of the Ramones’ music (I have all the remastered editions of their albums on CD, as well as the boxed set and all of their official DVDs), this was a must-own. Although I had (almost) all of the material one the CDs (there was one or two alternate mixes I didn’t have), I didn’t have the videos yet.

Nor had I seen them… until now.

I had seen extracts from them before, given that some of it appears in their other video releases, but I had never seen them in full form. The one I had seen the most was the video for “Pet Sematary”, which I had seen on TV at the time of its release. But I had never seen it in its entirety.

It was fun watching this set: the videos were low and no-budget and, consequently, are very small scaled, but they have a potency that could only come from the Ramones; they had energy enough for ten bands. It was also nice hearing them talk about themselves and hearing the many tributes to their influential music.

Here is a list of the videos in this programme (Nota bene: I subjectively rated the songs and videos separately, in the following format: song/video):

1. Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?: This is fun. It’s the Ramones sitting in a dimly-lit space, watching themselves play the song on TV – except that the channel keeps changing to a series of black and white TV shows and movies. Joey taps on the box to fix it – to the beat of the drums, of course. I’ve always loved this song, and I think that the video is as good as their budget would allow. 8.0/8.0

2. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School: This is the album mix of the song, not the soundtrack or film versions. I don’t like it as much, but it’s still a great song. The video is pretty rudimentary, and involves the Ramones being stuck in school, mischievously playing music, experimenting with the science class equipment, …etc. Fun stuff though. 8.0/8.0

3. We Want the Airwaves: This is a superb song, with a great intro and chorus. The video, however, sucks: the band is on a roof, playing along to the music, with the only action consisting of Joey kicking a ball and smashing a radio. 8.o/4.0

4. Psycho Therapy: I adore this song, which I discovered through Skid Row’s cover back in the early ’90s. Imagine the Ramones stuck in a loony bin surrounded by freaks and that’s most of the video. There’s also some footage of a guy receiving all sorts of treatments in the institution. Then it gets bit weird. 8.0/7.75

5. Time Has Come Today: This one takes place in a church with a huge pipe organ in the background and a choir at the side. The pews were filled with people, who are dancing and shouting “Time” in unison at the appropriate moment. There’s a slight psychedelic segment during the bridge, but it’s not enough to save the song, which I find dull. 4.0/6.0

6. Howlin’ At The Moon (Sha-La-La): This one’s got a catchy chorus, but otherwise it’s merely an okay song. I love the lyrics and theme of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Say what you will about the Ramones, but they did have a socially conscious streak in them. The video consists of the band performing in a crate, which is being driven around town in the back of a truck. Intercut are homeless people, poor people, prostitutes, …etc. 6.5/7.5

7. Something to Believe In: This one starts with a spokesperson for “Ramones Aid”, a charity. It looks like parody, what with the lookalikes of USA for Africa featured in it – but the song could be taken seriously and a large number of artists do cameos to send it up, so I wasn’t sure. Turns out that it was meant to spoof Hands Across America . The video was widely acclaimed at the time and was in heavy rotation on MTV (the joys of the cynical MTV generation, huh?). unfortunately, as far as I’m concerned, the song isn’t very good. 4.5/7.0

8. I Wanna Live: This is merely black and white footage with some footage of the band getting around spliced in. It’s effective enough and the song is catchy. 7.0/7.0

9. I Wanna Be Sedated: A classic song!!! The video was unusual because it’s only one shot, with the band sitting around a table, eating, and reading. But the room fills with a variety of weirdos doing all sort of stuff while the Ramones just do their thing. What makes the video fun to watch is that it was sped up, which means that Joey had to sing in slo-mo to properly synch. It also explains why some of the others try not to move at all. Wee!!! 8.0/8.0

10. Pet Sematary: Inspired by Stephen King, this is a relatively catchy song. But it’s lightweight. The video is one big morbid night party in a cemetery with footage of the band walking around a cemetery inserted in. 7.0/7.0

11. Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight): This unusual Christmas song starts and ends with a couple bickering. The intro was horrid: poor dialogues, abysmal performances and the cheapest set imaginable.The rest of the video is a mix of the band performing on a different set spliced with the couple’s Xmas party. 6.75/6.75

12. I Believe in Miracles: Wow… this is really awful. The Ramones perform the song while words, names, quotes, and messages scroll above and beneath them on the screen. Plus which the song is weak. Eek. What a way to close the set. 5.0/3.0

The Bonus Videos:

1. Strength to Endure: This one consists of live footage with behind the scenes stuff. It’s good, but not great. At least the chorus is slightly catchy. 7.0/5.0

2. Poison Heart: This one is possibly the band’s most professional-looking video of the lot. It consists of the band performing in low lighting in what looks like a catacomb, while a kid is being dragged through a set dressed up as a cemetery, complete with bright blue backdrop and weird naked people painted all white. Not sure what all the religious imagery is about, but it looks cool. 7.0/7.0

3. Substitute: Apparently, this is the 1993 version banned by MTV, but I wouldn’t know what other versions are out there. If any. This is a cover of The Who’s classic and was featured on the Ramones’ ill-conceived covers album. I’m not a fan of the original or this one, really. The video is a tribute to b-movies and features cameos by quite the motley bunch, including Lemmy Kilmister (of Mötorhead), Sean Yseult (of White Zombie), Karen Black and many more. I’m really not sure what to make of this one, quite frankly. 4.5/?

4. I Don’t Wanna Grow Up: Nice! How I love this song, even if it is “merely” a cover. I might even prefer it to Tom Waits’ version. The video is made up of panels, making it look like a comic strip, and mixes up band performance footage with cheapo animation that hinted at ’60s comics from Robert Crumb and such. 8.5/5.0

5. Spider-Man: Wicked! Seriously, who wouldn’t enjoy a Ramones version of theme song to the Saturday morning classic? The video is a cheaply animated version of the band mixed in with footage from the ’60s TV show. Wins points for the nostalgic Spider-Man footage. 8.0/5.0

6. Blitzkrieg Bop (Fast Live Version 1991): This is merely a variety of black & white and colour concert footage edited together, with some behind-the-scenes stuff in between. It works, though. And the Ramones, even in their final days, were intense as always. 8.0/7.0

As one can imagine, with a band like the Ramones, the songs are poorly-synched/performed and the videos were SUPER low budget – these guys didn’t have the money to get better directors and productions. Still, this virtual DIY quality adds to the punk rock flavour of the Ramones and it gives the videos a certain punch.

I judged them on their own merits, not in comparison to modern productions or to pop star fodder – that would be unfair. Having said this, I would highly recommend that major fans of the band add 2.0 to each song’s rating. And I’d advise non-fans to remove 2.0 to the songs AND videos to get a proper perspective.

Having said that, I think that this is a sweet collection, giving us another look at the Ramones, aside from the documentaries and concert footage that’s out there. I just wish that there were a function to play the videos without the interview footage, because the talking heads only have so much replay value.

Date of viewing: January 18, 2014

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