We all have sharp, critical eyes that we don't hesitate to employ on certain topics, movies, or bands. But some things, some cultural products have a revered space that don't really invite criticism. This is totally stupid. The Ramones are totally stupid. I watched End of the Century last night, that documentary about them and this morning read an interview with Tommy Ramone and I cannot stand the reverent approach taken in both to these rock and roll myths. So much of rock and roll is about self-mythologizing, but would it really shake the earth's foundation to admit this and say that the Ramones are not that awesome, that the main thing they are praised for, for paving the way for other underskilled bands is perhaps not the great thing everyone says it is.
The film brings this point up a lot, at one point calling The Ramones, the pied piper, having encouraged all these young kids everywhere they played to start their own bands, that anyone could start a band, this great democratizing impact on the musical landscape. Now if this was where this line of thought ended and it was talked about in value free terms, then that would be fine. But they must call it a good, a great thing, and then the kicker, but not all that surprising considering their egos, is that they must then contradict the whole democratic philosophy. They still harbor dreams of royalty. They are upset that they don't have hit singles, that they are playing small clubs while The Clash play to stadiums. They are Rodney Dangerfield, lamenting that they get "No respect, no respect."
And they are praised for this, for inspiring others to start bands, when really what they started was the acceptance and the encouragement of mediocrity. And worse still, inspiring a sense of entitlement in all these mediocrities, that they should be respected for subpar products. That that is the prize where your eyes should be directed, the adoration of millions of fans, rather than on the creation of a product that you are proud of, that is good. Now I feel fine saying this after seeing this handjob/documentary about the Ramones, hearing them talk, hearing how fucking stupid just about all of them are. In the film they showed brief clips of Television, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, and Blondie and sort of dismiss them as lesser luminaries in the Ramones orbit at CBGB's. The true artists, the talented ones that weren't in statis for twenty years get passed over in this discussion about the Ramones.
I really get so sick of these weighty myths, these heavy creations that everyone takes as truisms. I don't want to say hipsters, but the type of people associated with that word are what I am trying to talk about here, otherwise intelligent people who share a similar stable of untouchables, of artists, writers, and musicians that are supposed to be great, and by critiquing them, you place yourself on the other side of that line in the sand. And the worst part is that your critique is never considered on its merits, that the people into these things (David Foster Wallace, cough cough, Wes Anderson, cough cough) effectively place their fingers in their ears and say la la la, I can't hear you, because so much of our shared identity, our bond, is based on the shared assumption that we like the same cultural products and dismiss all the other ones. Not that these things are bad. I love Wes Anderson. DFW, I hate. But how all us rock fans are supposed to take these mythologies as the basis for our understanding of rock history makes me sick.