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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Ramones: It's Alive 1974-1996
Ramones: It's Alive 1974-1996
Rhino // Unrated // October 2, 2007
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted October 20, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Ramones were a band of contradictions.  The group toured constantly for 22 years, yet the members were often fighting with each other.  They were incredibly influential, but never commercially popular. The Ramones are often credited as the first punk rock band and they had an effect on many groups including The Clash, The Dead Kennedy's, and Black Flag.  More than one band have done cover versions on entire Ramones albums, Motorhead recorded the song R.A.M.O.N.E.S. as a tribute, Billie Joe Armstrong and Tre Cool from Green Day even took the names for their children from the band.  The 1991 album We're a Happy Family consisted entirely of Ramones songs covered by other groups including such notable names as Kiss, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Marilyn Manson, Eddie Vedder, and even U2.  Musicians appreciated them yet they never achieved much popular acclaim during their career, with only one of their albums, the compilation disc Ramones Mania, ever turning gold.  Ironically, the band has grown in popularity since they disbanded in 1996.  Rolling Stone named them one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and Spin Magazine proclaimed them the second best rock band ever (following the Beatles.) A new generation of punks have discovered something that many of thier parents missed: The Ramones are a kick ass band.

Now Rhino has released a great collection of the important group's live performances.  Released under the title It's Alive: 1974-1996 this two-disc collection contains an amazing 118 songs from 33 concerts.  Running over four hours, this is a must-buy for all Ramones fans.

The Ramones started out in New York City in 1974, playing in clubs on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, including the now famous CBGB's.  Their songs were very short, energetic, and loud, featuring shredding guitars and fast drumming.  As an answer to disco that was currently infesting radio playlists and dance clubs, the Ramones stripped rock down to its basics.  Eschewing the glitz and glamour as well as the overproduced sound that many groups were embracing at the time, the Ramones songs were simple, hard hitting, reminiscent of early rock and roll.

They didn't aim for virtuosity but for energy and fun.  Judy is a Punk, featured on their first album, has an intro that consists of a single cord played over and over rapidly.  Simple but effective, the song only lasts for a minute and a half, but that short time is filled with power.

One of the defining characteristics of the band was their odd sense of humor.  Many of their songs are hilarious such as The KKK Took My Baby Away and Teenage Lobotomy.  In Beat on the Brat Joey sings:

Beat on the brat
Beat on the brat
Beat on the brat with a baseball bat

Just the sort of thing to make parents gasp in horror and have the kids in stitches.

The group also didn't stray away from songs about drug use.  Many other bands had previously written about drugs, but always couched in slang and metaphors.  The Ramones were never ones to go for subtle, and songs like Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue left no doubt what they were singing about.

This set covers the group's whole career, from early NY club appearances in 1974 through one of their last gigs in Buenos Aries in 1996 and many, many concerts in between.  The band changed line-up a few times over the years, and most of these permutations are accounted for.  (Clem Burke from Blondie joined the group as Elvis Ramone but only performed on stage with the band twice.  Neither performance is included in this set unfortunately.)  There's a lot of repetition of songs, the set has four versions of Blitzkrieg Bop, and three each of Shena is a Punk Rocker and Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue but that's no necessarily a bad thing.  It's interesting to see how the songs change over time and with different lineups.  (I was a little disappointed that their version of the Spiderman theme is nowhere to be found.)

This set contains the following songs:

Disc one:

CBGB - New York, NY (9/15/74):
01 Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
02 I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement
03 Judy Is a Punk

Max's Kansas City - New York, NY (4/18/76):
04 I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
05 53rd & 3rd

The Club - Cambridge, MA (5/12/76):
06 Chain Saw

Max's Kansas City - New York, NY (10/8/76):
07 Havana Affair
08 Listen to My Heart

My Father's Place - Roslyn, NY (4/13/77):
09 I Remember You
10 Carbona Not Glue

CBGB - New York, NY (6/11/77):
11 Blitzkrieg Bop
12 Sheena Is a Punk Rocker
13 Beat on the Brat
14 Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
15 Rockaway Beach
16 Cretin Hop
17 Oh Oh I Love Her So
18 Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World

The Second Chance - Ann Arbor, MI (6/26/77):
19 Rockaway Beach
20 Carbona Not Glue

The Ivanhoe Theater - Chicago, IL (7/6/77):
21 Pinhead
22 Suzy Is a Headbanger

The Armadillo - Austin, TX (7/14/77) Early Show:
23 Commando
24 I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend

The Armadillo - Austin, TX (7/14/77) Late Show:
25 Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy
26 53rd & 3rd
27 Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World

Liberty Hall - Houston, TX (7/15/77):
28 Loudmouth
29 I Remember You
30 Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment

Liberty Hall - Houston, TX (7/16/77):
31 Oh Oh I Love Her So
32 Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World

Don Kirshner's Rock Concert - L.A., CA (8/9/77):
33 Loudmouth
34 Judy Is a Punk
35 Glad To See You Go
36 Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment

The Camera Mart Stages - New York, NY (9/3/77):
37 Swallow My Pride
38 Pinhead
39 Sheena Is a Punk Rocker

It's Alive, The Rainbow Theatre - London (12/31/77):
40 Blitzkrieg Bop
41 I Wanna Be Well
42 Glad to See You Go
43 You're Gonna Kill That Girl
44 Commando
45 Havana Affair
46 Cretin Hop
47 Listen to My Heart
48 I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You
49 Pinhead
50 Do You Wanna Dance?
51 Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy
52 Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
53 We're a Happy Family

Disc two:

Musikladen - Bremen, Germany (9/13/78):
01 Rockaway Beach
02 Teenage Lobotomy
03 Blitzkrieg Bop
04 Don't Come Close
05 I Don't Care
06 She's the One
07 Sheena Is a Punk Rocker
08 Cretin Hop
09 Listen to My Heart
10 I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You
11 Pinhead

"The Old Grey Whistle Test" - London (9/19/78):
12 Don't Come Close
13 She's The One
14 Go Mental

"Top of the Pops" - London (9/28/78):
15 Don't Come Close

Oakland, CA (12/28/78):
16 I'm Against It
17 Needles and Pins

San Francisco Civic Center, S.F., CA (6/9/79):
18 I Want You Around
19 I'm Affected
20 California Sun

"The Old Grey Whistle Test" - London (1/15/78):
21 Rock 'N' Roll High School
22 Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio?

"Top of the Pops" - London (1/31/80):
23 Baby I Love You

Sha Na Na - Los Angeles, CA (5/19/80):
24 Rock 'N' Roll High School

Mandagsborsen - Stockholm, Sweden (10/26/81):
25 We Want the Airwaves

TVE "Musical Express" - Madrid, Spain (11/17/81):
26 This Business is Killing Me"
27 All Quiet on the Eastern Front

US Festival - San Bernardino, CA (9/3/82):
28 Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio?
29 Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment
30 Rock 'N' Roll High School
31 I Wanna Be Sedated
32 Beat on the Brat
33 The KKK Took My Baby Away
34 Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
35 Chinese Rocks
36 Teenage Lobotomy

"The Old Grey Whistle Test" - London (2/26/85):
37 Wart Hog
38 Chasing the Night

Obras Sanitarias, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2/3/87):
39 Blitzkrieg Bop
40 Freak of Nature
41 Crummy Stuff
42 Love Kills
43 I Don't Care
44 Too Tough To Die
45 Mama's Boy

Provinssirock Festival, Seinäjoki, Finland (6/4/88):
46 I Don't Want You Anymore
47 Weasel Face
48 Garden of Serenity
49 I Just Want To Have Something To Do
50 Surfin' Bird
51 Cretin Hop
52 Somebody Put Something in My Drink
53 We're a Happy Family

R.I.T., Rochester, NY (10/8/88):
54 Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio
55 Wart Hog

Rolling Stone Club - Milan, Italy (3/16/92):
56 Psycho Therapy
57 I Believe in Miracles
58 I Wanna Live
59 My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)
60 Pet Sematary
61 Animal Boy
62 Pinhead

"Top of the Pops" - London (6/29/95):
63 I Don't Wanna Grow Up

River Plate Stadium - Estadio Antonio V. Liverti - Buenos Aires, Argentina (3/16/96):
64 I Wanna Be Sedated
65 R.A.M.O.N.E.S.

The DVD:


Audio:

This set comes with the option of a stereo mix or a 5.1 soundtrack.  They were both good.  The multi-channel track threw the audience sounds to the rear and made it seem like the viewer was really in the middle of things.  Quality wise the disc does vary a bit from venue to venue, generally improving as time goes on.  There's a hum in the first CBGB set and the second Liberty Houston gig has an irritating buzz through the songs.  Some of the other concerts also have their problems, most notably a lack of fidelity, but overall this sounds good given the source and age of the cuts.  This set both looks and sounds much better than a lot of the bootleg video tapes that have been circulating for years.

Video:

Like the sound, the full frame image (which is shot both in color and black and white) is uneven but overall looks good even though some of the older cuts have their problems.  Some of the material looks like it was taken from fan made 8mm recordings, while a good part of the shows were professionally recorded.  The earliest concert performances generally have a lot of grain and are soft, but none of them are unwatchable.  As time moves on the recordings get better, and most of them are nice solid presentations.  I was surprised at how good some of these looked, especially the CBGB date from 1977.

Extras:

As if this amazing set of concert footage wasn't enough, Rhino has included a good set of extras too.  They all appear on disc one, and it starts out with a set of interview clips with the band that run a little over 11 minutes altogether.  Recorded of the years, the various members talk about the group's origin, their influences, and what Punk actually is.  There's a five minute montage of their first trip to Argentina, an appearance on a Swedish (I believe) TV show where Joey is interviewed and the band plays The KKK Took My Baby Away, and the intro clip from their appearance on the old Sha Na Na TV show where the group takes part in a parody of Family Feud.  (One of the oddest moments in the set too.)

Three music videos are also sequestered in this section (The KKK Took My Baby Away, It's Not My Place, and Somebody Put Something Extra in My Drink) as well as a reel of photos that lasts over 15 minutes.

Final Thoughts:

Ramones fans and punk enthusiasts are going to love this set.  Filled with hours of rare Ramones performances it's a really fun set.  With the image and sound quality varying from concert to concert, this probably won't win over any new converts, but those who already hold Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy in high regard will be in Ramones heaven.  For those fans, this comes highly recommended.
 

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