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LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

April 8, 2005
Running time: 108 minutes
Rating: 8.5/10

{Photo by Robert Matheu courtesy of Ramones.com}

Many did not realize that Johnny and Joey didn't get along, or that Dee Dee dated a prostitute named Connie, or that producer Phil Spector threatened to shoot Johnny if he walked out during the album production of End of the Century. What many do recognize though is the undeniable influence of the Ramones upon the world of rock 'n' roll music. End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones aims to paint a detailed picture of both the obvious and subtle particulars of one of rock's most significant groups.

The film begins and ends with clips from the Ramones' induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Such a ceremony is further acceptance from the mainstream community, a big step for both 1970s punk rock and for the Ramones themselves. But the induction also serves as a frame of chronological reference for tragic events-at the time of the filming Joey had already passed away after a tragic battle with cancer, two months after the induction Dee Dee died of a heroin overdose, and shortly prior to the release of this documentary Johnny fatally lost a battle with prostate cancer. The ceremony would be the cap on a 21-year career that touched the lives of many.

Between the Hall of Fame bookends, End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones covers minute details and culture-defining trends alike. Interviews are compiled from each Ramones member (Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Marky, C.J., and Richie), Joe Strummer (The Clash), Debbie Harry (Blondie), band managers, door people from CBGBs, photographers, family members, label execs, magazine editors, and a host more. One of the most powerful chapters of the film contains testimonials from current musicians who were influenced by the Ramones-Kirk Hammett of Metallica, Rob Zombie, Lars Frederiksen of Rancid, and John Frusciante and Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

End of the Century has a chronological flow that not only takes the viewer on a ride through the tumultuous career of the groundbreaking punk rock band but also serves as a historical document on the lives of four individuals. Tales from Joey's mother, brother, and neighborhood friends recount awkward stages of the members' youth in Forest Hills, New York. Later, when the times were desperate-"white flight" out of New York, disco music, poverty-the Ramones were shown as the cutting edge, leather-jacket-clad youth rising up from the rubble. The film does an excellent job of portraying the desolate feelings of the time, and how the punk rockers exploded from obscurity, playing their first shows at the Bowery bar of CBGBs, to becoming a huge success in England and inspiring the likes of The Clash and the Sex Pistols. Chapters of each successive year of prominence are broken up ("Summer of '75", "1976 - London", "1977 - Pied Pipers", and so on) to show the gradual themes of a career that lasted well into the 1990s.

It is the smaller, more personal events that are recalled, along with the well-tailored interviews and editing, that make this documentary a rounded and lasting piece of work. After watching the film, one feels as if they know the individuals on a somewhat personal (yet historical) level. Footage of small shows, home videos, and supplemental video graphics and personal photographs all give End of the Century a more comprehensive media effect. Events of strained relationships (especially between Johnny and Joey), drug usage, infighting, and power struggles as members left and joined the group become sympathetic and accessible to even the most unknowledgeable individuals. Likewise, the members become familiar characters to their previously closed careers-we see the bitter professionalism of Johnny, the reclusiveness and obsessive-compulsive nature of Joey, Dee Dee's obtuse yet passionate energy, and Tommy's struggle to stay sane amidst all these other characteristics.

As Johnny Ramone is quoted on the DVD cover, "It's accurate." Regardless if this film's technical aspects are to one's preferences, or if the individuals are painted in an overly favorable light, End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones is complete and accurate, as defined by the group's most critical source. And if that definition doesn't mean much for potential viewers-coming from a band that always strove for brevity and brutal honesty-then little about the Ramones's career ever will.

SEE ALSO: www.endofthecentury.com
SEE ALSO: www.ramones.com
SEE ALSO: www.rhino.com

--
Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other articles by Josh Zanger.

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