Few bands or individuals in the history of rock`n`roll have changed the shape of everything that followed in quite the same way as The Ramones – true innovators, as much as Elvis, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys were before them – although I’m sure at the time, way back in 1974 when they formed, becoming rock`n`roll legends was the last thing on their minds as they set out creating the blueprint for what the world would soon know as punk rock.
As someone of that generation, I can vouch for the effect the discovery of The Ramones had on my life, and Everett True (a.k.a. The Legend) who would later carve out a living for himself as a writer for the likes of NME and Melody Maker, was in much the same situation. From his opening admission of having liberated the band’s seminal debut album from his brother’s record collection at home in Chelmsford to play on a radiogram (remember them!!) in the family front room, Everett goes on to tell the full story of an amazing rock`n`roll adventure in a way many fans would not have even considered. This is the warts`n`all expose of a band so complex that the reality of their lives was a total dichotomy of the music they created. In ‘Hey Ho Lets Go’ he talks to everyone who ever mattered in the world of The Ramones. Apart from the band themselves, insight is drawn from long standing friends, fans and those closest to the band on a daily working basis – producers, managers, publicists – not least the bands creative director Arturo Vega – a man who witnessed every single one of the bands 2263 live gigs over an amazing twenty-two year career – and Monte Melnick, the bands long serving tour manager and protector.
The book follows each year of their development and lifts the lid on the personal disputes and traumas suffered by all, and exposes how the business of actually being a Ramone transcended everything of a personal nature. This is the story of a band who always put the music first and who remained totally true to their own unique vision right to the bitter end. Some of the revelations, recollections and anecdotes that True gathers together are truly amazing, giving insight way beyond that normally given in a book written by ‘a fan’.
The background and development of each album and subsequent tour shows the changes within the band and the tensions that grew over the years – especially between vocalist Joey and guitarist Johnny. It is not only the darker side that the book reveals, there is also a great sense of fun and being part of a team so tight few outsiders ever got that close to understand its workings – it’s the story of friendships, loves and loathings – of respect and years of mind numbingly hard work to become the band that we, the fans, will never forget. By the time they had their long overdue induction into Rock`n`Roll`s Hall Of Fame in March of last year, Joey and original bassist Dee Dee were already gone – their deaths ending any faint hope diehard fans held that The Ramones would ever don their leather jackets and ripped jeans for one last farewell performance. True rounds the saga off with a full breakdown of each individual’s post Ramone life to end a story that is told, not only with as much factual accuracy as possible (in fact quite obsessively at times), but also with a fair degree of love, understanding and respect for all the individuals concerned.
As a rock`n`roll autobiography I have seldom read better – and for those who never heard or liked the band it is just an incredible ripping yarn that if it were not true, few would believe it. 9/10