Reader Reviews from Around the RamonesWorld!



The Ramonesworld  now crosses all boundaries, connecting fans across generations and nations like a world religion. Over forty years after the release of  Ramones, from Japan to Argentina, Idaho to Russia, Berlin to Texas, the band's impact reverberates like they just broke yesterday, inspiring skate punks, riot grrrls, rude boys, queer kids and  Afropunks.    Following the publication of Why The Ramones Matter, several fans have started posted reviews----on Ramones fan pages, and websites from around the world. I'll be posting a few of them here. If you'd like to post a review, please contact donna@donnagaines.com.

Gabba Gabba Hey! 



Review by Julia Green* (Russia):

*Admin: Facebook Fan Page,  Ramones Tribute "Too Tough To Die", Editor at Rolling Stone, Russia.
“The American Dream is sustained by optimism, even when nihilism is trendy.” (DG) Every book tells the story… Now, you have a lot more than this. WTRM is offering you the lost pieces of a puzzle you were probably searching for and collecting all these years, if you crave for this sort of information about the band we’re all affected by. As it’s known, amongst all the music bands, Ramones have one of the most strong and devoted followers. And with Donna Gaines book, it feels like talking to a friend. Much more safe than just talking to a sociologist she really is.

“The work is part encomium, part eulogy, and I’m completely biased and prone to hyperbole. Like any diehard fan, I’m in an ongoing relationship with the Ramones’ material, inclined to “creative readings” of their text, ever wondering, What do they really mean? I’m here to testify that the Ramones’ music matters — culturally, historically, sociologically, creatively, and profoundly.” — Donna Gaines.

“As soon as you start analyzing something, it stops”, — according to Johnny Ramone. One of my favorite quotes I basically agree with. Notwithstanding, we have a right to analyze, reflect and be crazy about what we have deep affection for, even if Jonhhy wouldn’t have wanted it. We can play with it and heck around, and then get back to the purest source — band’s music.

“The Ramones are my band.” From the first lines, this just buys you, and you feel like you’re instantly connected with the author… What’s new can be said about this, you may ask, however?
You might sort of expect what’s behind the title — but in reality, it’s much more than this. Why The Ramones Matter covers and observes the wider spectrum of subjects than one would think of. The author’s personality is also the answer on this question, too! This is a returned gratitude.

This book is written by the Ramones enthusiast — which means more than just being a fan, it means living the Ramones. Donna Gaines is not only a sociologist and acknowledged writer — she’s a bright ambassador out of Ramones target audience camp, which is most precious, and only this makes, in this sense, the book very unique. New York native, who could tell it the best?.. But, within sociology, we have also a fascinating journey. A fan, and also a close friend of the band, Donna has it both to offer at best: stories to tell and insights you’ll be willing to sink in.

While answering the aforementioned question, the book captures surprisingly wide variety of subjects — from post-war teenage generation’s alienation to Jewish sardonic response to fascism (highly interesting topic), from Afropunk all-access facility to women rights problems — and festives true open-mindness.
In the eye of this storm, Donna masterfully operates with this rich material, unveiling surprising links in those places where you probably wouldn’t expect them to be found, skillfully connects subjects and helps to determine reasons, showing the roots, sometimes not quite mercifully — but all because of unconditional love. This is what good doctors do.

You need this book, not only because you don’t need to be fooled again: it clearly shows you, where you can be fooled and how to get away from it. It legitimizes, again, that simple idea that, being a Ramones fan aka “major outcast”, you can grow yourself into anything — to any level of success in life. If you were waiting for this sort of direction — here is it.

Ramones rebellion-spirited music was the uplifting force of nature, instinctive answer to the American downward spiral of 70s economics, in an artistic way, it was protesting the end of American Dream in particular as an idea. (This was new to me, because of me being foreign; moreover, — being from Russia, by this representing a very special marginal category: being “an enemy” in 70s, which then echoed in the newfound modern world rhetoric, too. For a rock’n’roll fan, however, the best idea is just to “fuck it”, though.) Ramones have idolized 50-60s — not only musically, but socially too. The best rock’n’rolls were written in 50-60s, of course, and it was a great time to be around, great time to be a kid. Seems, that, however, the 70s have triggered them, in the other way… It was awakening kick up.
That’s why the Ramones have rocketed in popularity and succeeded fantastically in South America, because those kids can relate! (Mystery solved!) Ramones loved America and NYC. Now the whole world loves them.
(They never really made it in Russia for another reason — but we won’t go there, because it’s another tragic history lesson...)

When you can’t fit in — even among your peers and like-minded — Ramones make it okay for you just being who you are, being alone and being yourself. Looks like they attract and summon all the misfits — especially those who aren’t seem “cool”; they give them a community to belong to, but without a rotten sense of elitism. Though the Ramones t-shirts are widely spotted now, and even in my village, without many people still having a clue, being a Ramones fan nowadays still means to be a warrior, a trooper: it means having some good level of resistance in your blood and your life on a daily basis, and requires, may I say, balls, — but sometimes the way of a lone samurai seems okay too.

Ramones owns the (magic) key to the souls of those who are otherwise absolutely closed to any kind of invasion from the gaudy popular culture of so-called “modern world”, thus naturally resistant to brainwashing. As Donna wisely notices, “Young people have built-in bullshit detectors.” She also provides us the background of this situation, which was quite surprising for me. Through her friendship and personal encounters with the band’s members, she exposes you the whole picture, avere una visione completa.
“America’s outsiders are now an American institution, an integral part of mass culture”, states Donna, — the institution, instead of reservation, which, from the start, it has “meant to be”. Ramones has broken through their reservation’s borders, and their fans followed them, like they were breaking through the steel fences on their shows — the kids seeking freedom, but still needing the leader. Too late — it can’t be ignored anymore. While, somehow, we may protest against “the institution” term itself, it’s time to think about those who can’t be supported the other way than having strong authority and brotherly shoulder. And this is the institution you’d like to be in. Ramones now are a great modeling force — not just the band.

“We begin to comprehend both their artistic brilliance and their cultural importance.”(DG)
Being #2 after none others than Beatles means you’re #1 for the rest of the bands, who have earned “the institution” status. This niche seems pretty comfortable, however, Ramones still can never be tamed.

A natural phenomenon, they still “have it”, they still inspire, without being dated or getting boring — and it’s very well seen today on countless message boards, in forums posts, in social networks and Facebook fan groups, gathering not only hopping cretins but sometimes very life-wise adepts and even original punks, which are not many of left. Old generations meet new, and they still have something to talk about, besides mutual appreciation. The problems remain the same, after all. We’re growing on the solutions.

For me, first it was the music, the feeling, anyway — the sense of a theory came later. Talking about Ramones’ songs, Donna seems becoming that teenager again, when she first heard the band. What is interesting about all Ramones “adepts” that they’re able to carry on the same youthful spirit (Looks like I’m talking like an old man here, lol.) And it’s not something you can really “incorporate”, you should be born with it. But, the Fountain is still open for everyone, 24/7, and you only need to try to find it.

“Lost in adulthood responsibilities and obligations, we are welcomed back to ourselves by the Ramones’ music, reminding us who we really are. The ultimate teenage music becomes a lifelong scriptural reference for the scamp in each of us.” (DG)

Not in particular a “Ramones manual”, this book still can be suggested to those who aren’t familiar with the band yet — because it brilliantly explains its core, and you can trust the fellow outsider here. Once you’re hooked on the whole plot, to broaden your knowledge, getting other Donna’s books seems a must — they are Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia's Dead End Kids (1997) and A Misfit's Manifesto: The Sociological Memoir of a Rock & Roll Heart (2007).

Any way you want it — Ramones can be your band, ideology, religion, father figures, home, sanctuary, Buddhas, bruddars, mentors, best friends you never had, your shining guiding stars, your saints, demons and loved ones. They’re here for you, and for everyone, one only needs to listen… and learn. It’s very possible. It doesn’t really matter, how they get to your heart — but once they did, you know it anyway. You are already here.

WTRM’s goal is not to fix up damaged souls, and minds — though, why not to? — but to help them to fit in better to the reality of modern world * wink*, using your props and advantages as a Ramones fan. Deepening total alienation from society can ruin one’s life — and so, Donna as a sociologist has a nice solution for you, proving that there’s nothing wrong with being who and what you are, and giving you some important tips how to go on (More tips in her other books, if you are interested enough in the topic), also warning us about the floating sharks. Now you won’t get fooled again.

This is the kind of book that, after finishing, you’ll be still dwelling on — just like it happens with any decent book you feel special connection to. Just like with Ramones music.
And it matters, too.

Review by ROCKY THE RAMONE (Texas):

The Ramone- A One Man Tribute Band

Spoiler alert !!! This book is not about The Ramones. This book is about YOU. There are plenty of books out there from all different points of view and perspectives that tell the story of The Ramones but this is the only book I have read so far that places the emphasis on how they relate to so many different people on a personal level. No matter what your ethnicity, education, sexual orientation, nationality etc... there is something in this book that is going to resonate with you and your own struggles to find an identity. 

Since this book is about ME, I will explain how The Ramones had an effect on my development.
On page 33 Donna says "The Ramones' music itself was a miracle of originality and innovation-something we discover seredipitously when we can't do what we were told we should do"
I was very smart growing up and was constantly told that I should be doing so much better at school. In reality, I was bored with being subjected to dumbed down rhetoric and sanitized versions of what the world was supposed to be. I was also very good at playing music very early in my life. People tried to force me to excel on their terms and I was having none of it. 

In the Ramones case, I was being told that their music was dumb and was devoid of quality. Just like the world in general, they couldn't see that it took a great deal of intelligence to produce art that is so simple and direct. I could play a million notes but they didn't mean as much. I could write lofty and poetic lyrics but they didn't mean as much as the direct statements made by The Ramones. There are so many examples of people identifying with The Ramones because their music was so simple. They professed to not being very intelligent or enlightened and they were not made to feel welcomed by pretentious and overblown posturing. I would contend that there were an equal number of highly intellectual people who saw the parts of the Ramones iceberg that were below the waterline. I'll never forget my metal head friends in high school circa 1986 who ridiculed me for liking the Ramones. I'll never forget shutting their mouths by showing them interviews with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax citing the Ramones as a crucial influence.

Donna uses the word "Anomie" and the definition states "Social instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values -also- personal unrest, alienation, and uncertainty that comes from a lack of purpose or ideals" which perfectly describes what I went through
The second part that really hit home was the early punk fascination with Nazi imagery and the use of the swastika.

Donna examines how a movement with a large Jewish population can write songs about Nazis and swastikas etc... The fact that the word "Punk" was considered to be fighting words in the 70's makes it akin to any other word or term that is used to dehumanize a person. Rappers appropriated the "N" word just like the punks did. When you play with an idea like a toy, you diminish the power of the message. It's like taking a gun out of someone's hands and returning it to them without the bullets. This is what I did as a metal head kid in the 80's, only it was pentagrams and upside down crosses instead of swastikas. Punk kids in the 70's felt stifled by the pressures of the WW2 generation and I personally felt stifled by the pressures of the newly empowered "Faith Based Voter". 
Every satanic symbol on my notebook might as well have been a middle finger to people who pretended to be on a higher moral plane. The kids of the WW2 generation had Hitler, I had Reagan and the God Squad. 

In my personal opinion, the reason that the Ramones were so successful is that they were about acceptance on your terms. You didn't have to be a virtuoso or a poet or a genius or even attractive. But the thing that is often overlooked is that you can be a genius or a poet or even attractive but on your terms and not theirs. Too many subcultures fall prey to the same elitism that alienated them but The Ramones have proven to strike a chord with just about every type of human being.
I guess you could say that The Ramones made things simple because they wanted to provide extra room for you to fill in the blanks.
Please go out and buy a copy of Why The Ramones Matter" by Donna Gaines because this book about you.



Review by John Sumser, Ph.D.  (California)

According to Donna Gaines, you cannot ask a Ramones fan why the group matters. “The Ramones matter because they are the fucking Ramones,” she writes in the voice of an imaginary fan. “If I have to explain . . . duh.” This book, then, is not for the Ramonistas of the world, although fans will appreciate the sympathetic kaleidoscopic level of detail that Gaines brings to the history of the group.
The group wore its lack of musical talent and limited range as a badge of pride, as a way of sticking it to those in mainstream society who still cared about musical conventions, who held on to some level of rules and norms. The Ramones gave rapid mumbled voice to the inarticulate hopelessness and rage of a generation’s disenfranchised fragments, those inevitable slices of any generation for whom there seems to be no place and few socially-accepted goals that are actually worth the effort. The Ramones matter, to those for whom they matter, because the group gave them a place with which they could identify.

To ask why the Ramones matter – why, that is, they are socially, culturally, historically important – seems to require that we move beyond the identification of the followers. Asking why the Ramones matter to Ramones’ fans does not take us much beyond “Duh.”

Donna Gaines creates a bridge between the fans’ view and something bigger. Gaines is both a fan and, more importantly for outsiders, a sociologist. The ultimate sociological questions address why something happens in a particular time and place and to specific people. To understand why the Ramones matter necessitates understanding why the group’s supporters needed to hear their particular message and why that message resonated in the time it did. And this is why Donna Gaines’ book matters; she has a deep understanding of the world inhabited by the Ramones and also why that world came about when and where it did.

The first half of the book is a thick description (to use the anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s term) of the chaotic rise, fall, and resurrection of a musical group. The second half of the book provides the context for understanding the Ramones not as a musical group, but as a social phenomenon. She writes with depth, grace, and sympathy of the ways American youth are alienated socially, politically, existentially, and spiritually. She traces the increasing meaninglessness of social norms and conventions that results in a widespread state of what Emile Durkheim called anomie – the loss of a sense of purpose, identity, and values in an ever-commercialized world.

Another sociologist, Anthony Giddens, writes that the very idea of who we are becomes a problem because of the choices we have to make: What should I to do? How should I act? Who should I be? When the conventional answers to those questions begin to ring hollow, someone needs to answer them. In Why the Ramones Matter, Donna Gaines shows us how the Ramones stepped into the vacuum and why their message resonated.


Review by Jari-Pekka Laito Ramone (Finland):(www.ramonesheaven.com)

In March 2018, I got permission to tell Ramones' fans about a Ramones related book written by well-respected writer, journalist and sociologist Dr. Donna Gaines. Now it is published: release date was October 2, 2018. Title of her book is Why the Ramones Matter. Book has 150 pages and publisher is University of Texas Press (series: Music Matters). 

In her career Gaines has written for magazines like Rolling Stone, Village Voice, Spin and Newsday. Her first book, Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia's Dead End Kids, was published in 1991. She is well-known of her book A Misfit's Manifesto: The Spiritual; Journey Of A Rock'N'Roll Heart (2003). Through years she has written a great deal of the Ramones'. She wrote Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame 2002 Induction Essay for the Ramones (read it here). Some of her texts you can find from my 2nd book Rock In Peace: Dee Dee And Joey Ramone

Donna Gaines experienced a lot Ramones shows and she was/is personal friend with many Ramones members. CJ Ramone mention in a back of book this way: "As a seven-year veteran of the Ramones and a lifelong fan, Donna speaks for me and every one of us who found our salvation in the only band that really mattered to the outsider in us all."

In this book Gaines writes of things perceptive way. She want to testify that the Ramones music matters culturally, historically, sociologically, creatively, profoundly etc. She analyze importance of the band, their songs etc. and she also gives voice to the fans and people like Maria Bartiromo (journalist of whom Joey Ramone wrote a song). And a great way she for example underline a significance of Tommy Ramone. 

Here is introduction text of her Why The Ramones Matter book: "The central experience of the Ramones and their music is of being an outsider, an outcast, a person who's somehow defective, and the revolt against shame and self-loathing. The fans, argues Donna Gaines, got it right away, from their own experience of alienation at home, at school, on the streets, and from themselves. This sense of estrangement and marginality permeates everything the Ramones still offer us as artists, and as people. It's why we need them, and why they will always matter. Why the Ramones Matter compellingly makes the case that the Ramones gave us everything; they saved rock & roll, modeled DIY ethics, and addressed our deepest collective traumas from the personal to the historical. They showed us the urgency of staying true to who we are, no matter what."

 American celebrity chef, author, travel documentarian, and television personality Anthony Bourdain got chance to read pre-version of this book before he passed away. Bourdain was a friend of Marky Ramone and he appeared in Joey Ramone's video New York City. Bourdain commented this book: "The Ramones were an answered prayer, the antidote to mellotron solos and stadium power ballads.... This book explains why they not only mattered, but were a vital, inspirational, earth shattering force."


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