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Documentary End of the Century celebrates the life and music of The Ramones By Andrew Good, Assistant Tempo Editor With the recent passing of Johnny Ramone, a band that provided major weight to the voice of punk, slides a little deeper into the past. Its laughably simple lyrics and two-minute songs almost make them seem quaint compared to the wilderness of experimentation punk has crawled through in the last three decades. Still, everyone from Black Flag to Sonic Youth to Fugazi owe the band for the furious architecture of sound it sent rocketing into the future of music. For those of us who weren’t hanging around CBGBs in 1974, Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields’ documentary End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones stands as a thorough history lesson in the roots that influenced a hefty percentage of the bands in most record collections. Patched together from both old and new interviews, recordings of early Ramones shows, and a pogo-inducing soundtrack of classic punk bands, the film is mandatory viewing for any fan who ever wondered what the Ramones were like when the motorcycle jackets came off. Beginning with its difficult (and occasionally dangerous) progression through adolescence, the film shifts its focus between each of the individual band members, but lingers on Joey and Johnny the longest. As the band’s audience grew from bottle-throwing alcoholics to New York and England’s hipster elite, and ultimately to national attention, there was a violent clash for power between the left-leaning vocalist and the staunchly conservative lead-guitarist. End of the Century captures a lot of the tension that boiled just beneath the surface, and leaves one wondering whether the bandmates would have killed each other if they didn’t have their music as an outlet. Of course, early Ramones shows begged the same question. There’s some very entertaining footage included of the band’s humble beginnings, including Joey’s early attempts to rock-out in cramped venues, and its members fighting over their set lists during their show. But despite all the bickering and mouthing-off that went on behind the scenes, this movie is more than just another story of a band that rises only to self-destruct. The first half of the film is riveting, if only because of the surge of excitement that goes along with watching the development of a new counter-culture. Included in that culture were names like Iggy Pop, The Talking Heads, the Clash, and of course, The Sex Pistols (who, for the record, discovered punk in the Ramones – not the other way around). While it’s only a mere sliver of the story, End of the Century manages to capture that thrill of invention that came out of seminal clubs like CBGBs at a time when the airwaves were choked with soft, derivative pop music. In an era where Nickelback can get away with recycling “How You Remind Me” by calling it “Someday,” it’s easy to relate to the dissatisfaction brewing in The Ramones’ heyday. There’s an unfortunate lack of interviews with the band’s wiry, hair-enshrouded front man Joey (most likely because of the project being started postmortem), but the confessionals the film does provide – particularly with his brother – reveal a character in constant struggle with a mountain of insecurities. The film portrays Joey as a relatively quiet and awkward player early in the band’s dynamics, despite his primary role, but also shows his slow assertion to becoming the official Ramones spokesman. Through it all, he’s a fascinating personality, from his political activism, to his difficulty living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (supposedly the band often had to wait in the tour van while he counted and recounted the steps leading up to his apartment). Of all the endearing quirks the Ramones collectively possess, Dee Dee Ramone almost steals the show. Bassists don’t usually get the opportunity to grab the limelight, but Dee Dee is a bizarre enough creature that one can’t help but stare, jaw agape, as the film explores the sordid truth behind the rumor that the prostitute in “53rd and 3rd” is modeled after him. Even stranger, however, is his atrocious foray into the early rap world as “Dee Dee King.” This movie is worth watching just for the sake of seeing the single music video from this ill-conceived plunge into career suicide. End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones opens tomorrow at Ken Cinema. For more information, call (619) 819-0236.