Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone
Tall tales of Texas and beyond
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., June 15, 2012
Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramoneby Johnny Ramone
Abrams Image, 176 pp., $24.95
"I liked being angry," wrote guitarist Johnny Ramone not long before his death from prostate cancer in 2004. "It energized me and made me feel strong." Short, sharp, and unapologetic, Commando reads like a Ramones song. Johnny was the band's begrudgingly acknowledged leader, keeping them rolling through Dee Dee's heroin addiction, Joey's obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Marky's alcoholism. The blue-collar conservative embraced the no-nonsense work ethic of his construction worker father. To him, the club was a job site and other bands were competition. Thus, the Ramones never set out to be marginalized. Johnny explains how the New York quartet studied primitive videotape of its early shows to calculate everything from outfits to posture. He expected commercial success and didn't resign himself to cult status until 1980's Phil Spector-produced End of the Century failed to break through. Though passed off as brothers, the punk pioneers were frequently contemptuous of each other. Johnny's relationship with Joey was toxic even before he began dating the singer's ex-girlfriend Linda (they later married), and he rarely misses a chance to paint the frontman as whiny and difficult. Johnny's hard-boiled tone doesn't change even as he loses two bandmates and faces his own death. There's no grand confessional to end Commando, just a nod of gratitude toward family, friends, and fans. Its characteristic succinctness rings genuine.