John Cummings AKA Johnny Ramone (1948-2004 )was the backbone guitarist of the dysfunctional family that were the Ramones. In 1974 the Ramones were formed after Johnny bought a guitar, and he and his childhood friend Thomas Erdelyi (AKA Tommy Ramone) roped Dee Dee (Dougles Colvin) into starting a band. They all had their opinions on the music of the time, but it was Johnny who seriously disliked the "overindulgence" of the 70's prog groups.
Click here to see the rest of this review
John Cummings was no saint, and in this straight-to-the-point biography, he invites the reader into the world of his tough New York upbringing, his stern Irish construction worker father, a childhood of Military school, petty crime and at times rather shocking acts of violence. His future band mate Joey was once a little late for a movie, and Johnny punched him in the face for it, "there was no excuse for being late". He was a difficult character to fathom, laden with eccentricities just like his fellow Ramones, but with very little sentimental points to make. Johnny talks about his band like a business venture, referring to gigs as "jobs". He talks about the relationship that split the band in two, Dee Dee leaving in 1989 and his private thoughts on Joey.
The book continues to the post-Ramones period. It is tragic, really, what became of the band after their final 1996 concert in LA. Drugs and illness took the three arguably most iconic members in the space of a few years, and the final section of Johnny's autobiography is his account of the Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis, his battle with it and the experts he consulted. Like every other reflection, his thoughts on life and death are not layered on, but rather simple jottings from a man who never minced his words, less so his music.
After reading Dee Dee's scatological ravings in his larger than life biographies, Johnny's is arguably a breath of fresh-air. Take from it what you will, but what you are definitely getting is the truth.
Best part of story, including ending:
It is very readable. If you are a Ramones fan it wouldn't take you long to get through. It is colourful, entertaining, and reveals a great deal about the inner workings of the band, and also reveals something about the music industry itself.
Best scene in story:
Johnny's account of the infamous Phil Spector sessions. When recording End of the Century a great deal of rumours emerged regarding Spector's treatment of the band, including a horror story about a handgun and a guitar riff played over and over again. Johnny's true opinion of Spector is revealed in what I feel is the climactic stage of the biography, and it is itself amusing and slightly tragic. It was at this point that Johnny's father died, and as a reader we really begin to feel for him in this difficult time.
Opinion about the main character:
Johnny was a right-wing, quick-tempered man, with a passion for Rock n' Roll and a sense of duty to his band. I don't like his politics or his methods of resolving grievances. I do like his hard work and devotion to duty.