If the music industry was a bar where bands and artists, past and present, sat supping beverages and swapping ideas, then there would be a lot of people who definitely owe The Ramones a pint. Hell, there are entire genres of music that wouldn't exist without them. The Clash may have had the intelligence and The Sex Pistols the anger, but I don't think many would disagree that The Ramones defined punk.
The Ramones - Raw is billed as the definitive story of the legendary band and chooses to tell the tale in a fairly common rockumentary manner. It blends 'previously unseen' (translation: we've been hiding it until we can find a way of selling it for huge profit) concert footage with behind the scenes home videos from Marky Ramone's personal archive.
But for some reason, perhaps because it's an official release, the personal footage doesn't really seem that personal. All the band members seem totally aware of the camera and never let their guard down to say anything interesting, illuminating or even controversial. Also, surprisingly, they also occasionally come across quite badly. Johnny in particular often crosses the line between lovably lazy to incredibly sullen. And that isn't what I want from a band I've come to adore.
I'll admit it, up until recently The Ramones were one of the most embarrassing blind spots in my musical education. It took the influx of all of these garage rock bands and numerous people saying "Oh, if you like them you should really check out The Ramones - they invented all of that dontcha know" for me to really get into them. As soon as I did I loved them.
The Ramones will forever be outstandingly great and the live performances amply demonstrates this. Here is a band with characteristic insouciance who wrote simple but seminal rock 'n' roll and have enough attitude to level buildings. They hang on to this image well despite not quite looking like the lean-mean-four-chord machine they were during their hey day. During their live shows in later years the weight has gained, making the leather and tight jeans combo look a bit silly, but they still sound like that band who laid waste to CBGB's in 1975.
It's a real shame the rest of the film doesn't live up to the live footage. It all comes across as a bit clichéd: we get the Ramones on the road, the Ramones at the zoo, the Ramones being mobbed by over-enthusiastic fans (including an incredibly star-struck Drew Barrymore during her substance abuse and nudity days). There's also the odd Spinal Tap moment, especially Dee Dee's ill-fated attempt to become a rapper.
The disk also contains a selection of comical TV and film appearances. There is a bizarre scene from a programme called Space Ghost where the band are interviewed by an animated superhero. Then there is a skit from the Howard Stern show in which they act as appallingly as they did when they appeared in Roger Corman's 1978 film Rock 'N' Roll High School. There is also some terrible miming during a performance on the Uncle Floyd show.
In addition to that you also get some extra deleted scenes, evidently not good enough to make it into the final cut but good enough to stick on the disk and make you feel you're getting better value for money. Some are quite amusing and Eddie Vedder's dedication during their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shows the level of influence the band had, but most were deleted with good reason.
This DVD isn't bad - any opportunity to see The Ramones live in their prime has got to be worth the money, and for fans the previously unseen footage will be a gem - but there's something lacking. I can't helping feeling unsatiated with this DVD and think there is a much more interesting story to tell about the band. From that point of view The Ramones - Raw feels like it has missed an important opportunity.