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Top Ten Dumbest
Clowns of All Time
#5: The Ramones
Hey huh WTF? The dumbass Ramones suck suck suck.
by Kevin J. Salveson
Most pop and rock music is kind of like a circus.The gypsy minstrels exiled from their homes are forced to flee from town to town trailing a long caravan of hopefuls and a lot of animal poop behind them. The ringleader pops open a suitcase of bright lights and snaps open the flap on the freak tent for curious gawkers. The crowd which comes wants spectacle, death-defying acts of risk-taking, and perhaps some popcorn. Instead, they get a rag-tag troupe of exploited talent and maybe a few exceptional acts.
And of course, clowns. A circus beyond elephants and tigers is all about the clowns. The same is true for a certain segment of the music world. Well, a clown is amusing for a little bit, but when it's only freaks and clowns at the show I get bored and feel debased. Where are the trapeeze artists who demonstrate real daring?
So that is when I go to the box office and complain. "These guys are the best you got? Good clowns have a craft. With these guys, is it all just shits and giggles 24-7?"
But the Barker's answer is always: "Yep, we're mostly freaks and clowns. Sells tickets. Tigers and elephants are rare, hard to keep." And that is how the audience for music in America gets what it deserves: just more jesters who have been crowned king.
Face, it, some clowns deserve their accolades, yet others are grossly over-rewarded for no real good reason (but money). I was even going to call some bands' success "inexplicable" but then I realized that in fact it could be explained (sadly). Instead, I'll just call it bewildering that certain brands of banality and ignorance are so handsomely rewarded by people who should know better. To kick off what will be an ongoing series, here's the first on our list of the worstest of the worst:
#5. THE RAMONES
I understand a lot of people love this band, so I might hurt some feelings. Well, tie yourself down to whatever hammock you're lollygagging around in. No one can defend the indefensible but it is amusing when anyone tries to tell me why the Ramones were great... because their own words then make them their own worst enemies.
I mean, I get that a few of their songs had energy which was infectious. They didn't ask much of you and it was funny at first. They weren't original but they were clownish put-ons of past rock and roll shtick. So that makes them punk's first one-hit wonders not rock and roll hall of famers. It's like saying The Knack were better than Led Zeppelin. Is Men at Work in the Hall of Fame? The Ramones are the Men at Work of punk, a gimmick and a single crossover hit or two.
It is cute that The Ramones couldn't play their instruments very well? Not really, no. The Ramones were all image (a dumb unimaginative retro one) and arrested development jokes. Sure, a lot of great punk bands started out as amatuers but then they actually grew up and made good music or had a social impact.
The Sex Pistols suck as music but at least under the direction of someone smarter than them (Malcolm McClaren) their shtick was satire that stuck it to the Queen. If you are going to find it funny playing up dumb stereotypes at least have a point to it. "The thing about school is, if you're forced into learning stuff you're not going to be into it. Let's just say I wasn't the best student." -Jeffrey Ross Hyman (aka Joey).
Meanwhile, the Ramones were like the Sha-Na-Na of punk: a cheap imitation in vinyl pleather taken as the real thing. Apparently well into adulthood they still clung to a teenager's idea of pop rebellion: haircuts and some kind of retro "rock and roll" look, dumb lyrics. The same joke, hammered on to ten different songs doesn't actually get funnier, sad to say.
Now, I know that here is where people will interject, "you just don't get the joke. How lame you are for having no sense of humor." Right. I know funny, and your father is not as funny as you think he is. When stupidty gets rewarded as a con about how genius it is to be dumb? Yawn. That's all you got? Their lasting innovation was creating a lower-brow tier in the marketplace and then sticking with it? ("I'm a Nazi baby / I'm a Nazi, yes I am." --Tomorrow The World, early version)
Punk in and of itself can be relevant and even good music (X, Black Flag, The Minutemen, plenty of others in the 70s first wave, etc) but certainly not when it takes on 1950's Fonzie style leather jackets and wears them sincerely while playing the same lousy song again and again.
I find that Rolling Stone has them listed as the 26th greatest rock and rollers of all time? Pardon me while I snort milk through my nose. Some of the dumbest of all time? Sure. GOAT? It only hurts when I laugh. And then I find that U2 wrote a song about how inspirational stupidity can be to a young person? Dare to be stupid! Quite an inspiration. What a fine joke that never gets old, right?
Read how far the Rolling Stone douchebags had to bend over backwards and forwards to try and justify why these guys got famous when the fact is their music sucked: "A concept that was almost too perfect. Their look — ripped jeans, tight T-shirt, high-top sneakers, bowl haircut and black motorcycle jacket — was a cartoon version of rock's tough-guy ethos." Yes, a cartoon.
Well, cartoons do appear to immature mentalities, sure. But no mention of their music? Ha ha, its funny 'cause its true. There is no mention of the music because the music was sub-Buddy Holly sung with a sneer. They appealed to the lower IQ masses and the New Yorkers who laughed at easy boneheaded satires of the lower IQ masses. It was the perfect trojan horse of stupidity.
The idea that you could play really hard the same thing over and over with energy... ok. Good for them. They get the participation trophy of the decade. A lotta bands have energy and no chops before them and after them, its not so innovative or interesting after two listens, but sure. kids like simple fast songs. Props to the MC5.
But how exactly do the Ramones get credit for that obvious an idea, one certainly not originated by them? Well, it is mostly because Rolling Stone and the rock press in general are interested in catering to the consensus and solidifying their place as rock music's final authority. Thus, they now exist to reinforce the tastes of whatever their marketplace tells them is already well-liked. Creating a demographic and then selling that to their advertisers. That's how the inertia of a lowest common denominator commercial instinct makes bad bands with images famous.
Exhibit T: They sold more t-shirts than records, and they didn't design the t-shirt themselves. Let's be clear. The Ramones' only record with enough U.S. sales to be certified gold ever was the compilation album Ramones Mania, and that was a prefab product put out decades after their heyday to capitalize on the fact that punk was being packaged via their t-shirt credibility to people who loved to buy rebellion (teenagers) but for whom Black Flag was too edgy.
See, no one actually buys their records, No one ever did. No one ever actually listens to their music except for a single here and a single there. Since all the songs sound the same you might listen to half and album side and say, like, way coool, man, gnarly punk rock is so cool because of how funny the joke is that they're dumb. And then you put on some music you like better.
This is because they are a one trick jokepony, an animal you want to put out to pasture pretty quickly. All they got is one-hit wonder status with a few singles that are repeatably as boring and simplistic as a bad Phil Collins song. It's the same shit wrapped in New York grafitti print wrapping paper. People just give them lip service as a kind of viral joke about the music industry, and the problem is that the joke is on all of us.
In a way, the public's tastes for the most part were correct as reflected in the sales of their recorded works, but that doesn't stop a vocal minority from pushing their Ramones agenda on the rest of us. Why? ecause they have a stake in selling dumb punk rock to the public. Who is that? The music press and industry as well as those loyal to the image their sold. Still, the marketplace correctly pretyy much rejected the Ramones' music already, so I shouldn't bag on the whole marketplace. I just bag on the part of it that is stupid enough to champion The Ramones and their half-wit knockoffs who exist to capitalize on the push to make the,a marketable staple in the marketplace. Page 2
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