> >> Ramones - art rock? LOLOL.... wat an idiot!
> > the ramones were the leading art rock act of the mid-late 70s. if you
> > don't know that, you are are even more clueless than i thought possible.
> I hate to agree with RAJA but YOU are clueless if you think the Ramones "art
> The Ramones were one thing. Punk. They invented it. They defined it.
> There was nothing "art" about it. It was three chords played aggresively.
> About as non-art rock as they come.
a reasonably well-understood meaning that can't be stretched to apply
to them. As I mentioned earlier, the Wikipedia definition cribbed by
Raja is pretty accurate, and sufficiently clear to rule bands in or
out of the "art rock" camp.
However, a school of thought does exist that is consistent with what
Jaros is trying to argue here about the Ramones. According to this
view, the entire project of the Ramones was a form of conceptual art,
making them an "arty" band in the same way that Devo (particularly
early Devo) was. They were, in effect, a 1970s version of the 1960s
Warholian full-time ironic commentary on the worlds of art and
To elaborate a bit, the "Ramones are art" argument rests on several
*Packaging -- Everyone in the band took the same name and dressed the
same way, in a ripped-jeans-and-leather-jacket parody of the rocker
stereotype. This could only have meant as a knowing wink at pop
music's history. The Ramones also had an art director/graphic designer
on staff; he designed the famous "presidential seal" Ramones logo.
Self-consciousness about visual presentation is a sign of artistic
intent, goes the argument.
*Lyrics -- The Ramones' lyrics were dumb -- really dumb. Lines like
"now I wanna sniff some glue," in fact, were so dumb that they could
not have been intended literally, or even merely as silly, humorous
throwaways. They must really have been Dadaistic poetry, right?
*Music -- The mid-70s were a time of a fascination with minimalism in
music. "Einstein on the Beach" and "Music for 18 Musicians" (and their
antecedents), while largely unknown to the general public, made a huge
splash among the avant-garde and bohemian sects in New York City. The
Ramones simply applied this rigororous aesthetic to rock by stripping
their music of everything save raw energy and a few chords,
relentlessly repeated. They were thus the most artistic of rock bands
because they made rock songs into art objects that were simultaneously
strikingly familiar yet intensely foreign (to mid-70s audiences; we
relate to them differently nowadays).
Well, that's a fair bit of space devoted to articulating a theory that
I don't fully accept, although it makes some valid points. Let me say
just two things in response:
The Ramones' lyrics were dumb because the guys in band were, on the
whole, pretty dumb. They were just trying to be funny or, in some
cases, writing about what they actually knew. When the Ramones tried
to write more serious lyrics later in their career, we were treated to
material like, "Our jails are filled to the max/Discrimination against
the blacks" (from "Planet Earth 1988").
Musically, I think the better explanation for the Ramones' style
derives from a few key facts:
*The Ramones really did want to return to a simpler, less grandiose
and campy form of rock.
*They liked fast, aggressive music, and therefore played that way.
*They actually wanted to write pop hits, and so retained a bubblegummy
quality in their songs.
*They were technically limited on their instruments and couldn't play
more complicated material.