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THE SONG OF THE GRANDFATHERS OF PUNK

 

The Ramones: I Wanna Be SedatedDVD Review

by John Topping

published October 26, 2007

 

The Ramones:  I Wanna Be Sedated

from the series Impact:  Songs That Changed The World

 

SRO Entertainment/Kulter International Films has produced a curious new series of short documentaries (36 minutes each) under the umbrella title “Impact: Songs That Changed The World.”  From “The Beatles:  I Want To Hold Your Hand” to “Chuck Berry:  Maybellene”  to “The Bee Gees:  Stayin’ Alive” to “Band Aid:  Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and many more.

 

In most of the cases, it would seem that it was the artist(s) who had the major impact more than the single song that has been selected.  This is certainly true with the DVD I screened, “The Ramones:  I Wanna Be Sedated.”  Although the impact of the song itself is covered, the interviews with those impacted (among others, The Violent Femmes and Frank Black), those who were on the scene (such as Hilly Kristal, founder of CBGB’s) and, most curious of all, Dr. Donna Gaines, a “sociologist/music journalist,” reinforce this notion continuously.  However, in sticking with their guns, the ONLY song we hear for the entire 36 minutes is “I Wanna Be Sedated,” which, under any circumstances, is somewhat odd.

 

I discovered the Ramones in the late 1970s after they had already been established, so all I really knew about them aside from their actual music was that they liked to sniff glue (mentioned in the doc) and “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School,” the hilarious (at least the first half) cult comedy feature film in which they were the centerpiece of the plot (not mentioned in the doc, presumably because “I Wanna Be Sedated” wasn’t on the soundtrack).  Thus, plenty of information that I wasn’t heretofore aware of was provided.  For example:  they took their name from Paul McCartney, who used to sign into hotels as Paul Ramone for anonymity’s sake;  they wore jeans on stage that had holes ripped in them simply because the jeans had been worn down and not as a fasion statement, yet that is what started the trend of purposefully ripped jeans (take it up with the documentary if you dispute this);  and they were the major influence of the punk rock movement, preceding even the British punk rockers The Sex Pistols and The Clash, who took inspiration from the raw energy of their sound and transformed it into powerful and searing social commentary.

 

But to be sure, this is primarily a DVD for the previously indoctrinated.  Even though we ostensibly follow them from their first concert at CBGB’s – which was mostly spent yelling at each other and trying to get their instruments working – to their induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, there is no real sense of the groundswell that brought them into prominence and sustained them for their long career.  We do get the opinion that “you see more people wearing Ramones T-shirts than any other band” from a Violent Femme; and Dr. Donna Gaines gives us supposedly insightful sociological zingers like “The Ramones paved the way for women in rock” and “their music saved lives,” but with evidence that is either flimsy or non-existent.  Or maybe her elaborations ended up on the cutting room floor; after all, 36 minutes doesn’t allow for too much depth about the band.  Oh, but wait!  That is a rather long time, on the other hand, to devote to just one song.  So here’s the essence of the impact of “I Wanna Be Sedated”:  (1) it was The Ramones’ first recording and (2) people really identified at the time with that feeling of wanting to be sedated.

 

johntopping @ stageandcinema.com

 
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