George Starostin's Reviews



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Aaron Lenhardt <> (06.02.2003)

Hello, ???  Sure the Ramones were one of the best bands of all time and I love them but the Sex Pistols were great too. In fact Never mind the Bollocks was rated as one of the top ten albums of all time. I see you gave it 3 stars out of five. If you like Pepsi why put down coke? There both equally good. Your reviews are biased and reflect too much of your own personal opinion.

[Special author note: That may be so (whose reviews don't, I wonder?), but it takes no bias to see the crucial - objectively present - differences in the two bands' styles and approaches. So let's take it from there.]

Francis Mansell <> (31.01.2004)

No gripes at all with your assessment of The Ramones, George, so just a couple of brief comments:

1) I first heard them soon after their first album came out (late 1976), and much as I liked it, it was so different from any other record I'd ever heard - the completely unmodulated guitar thrashing, the total lack of solos/single string playing of any kind. No wonder so few Americans got it - they were absolutely revolutionary. It did take me a while to get used to it - it almost seemed like a comedy record at first. Eventually, about 9 months later I decided I was going to buy a Ramones album (Leave Home had come out by this time) but when faced with the choice I had to buy 'em both! I never looked back after that ...

2) You neglect the sheer joy of singing along to them! The fab melodies and simple lyrics make them the best band ever to shout along to. And their lyrics are great - if they ever had "an image" that was at odds with the reality, it was the whole dumb shtick. Anyone can write crappy dumb shit. The Ramones' lyrics are genius dumb shit - "Now I guess I'll have to tell 'em, that I got no cerebellum!" - I mean, is there a better rhyming couplet in all of rock'n'roll? Not since Chuck Berry, I'll wager. Or "Second verse, same as the first" - conceptual art, maaan! Come back Joey and DeeDee, we need you. Shit, I gotta go and play "Teenage Lobotomy" right now ...

Isaac Backus <> (24.04.2004)

This is in response the the review of the Ramones...let's hope I'm doing this right.

I almost agree with you on this one. As big fan of the pinheads from New York, I'd certainly love to give them a 4, or even a 5, but as long as we're trying to have some notion of objectivity (however impossible it may be to acheive), I'd like to point a couple things out.

First of all, the Ramones were far less original than most of us would like to think. Many think they pioneered punk, but they were just one of the first well known punk bands--the genre has its roots in other bands--as you point out in your review of the Who, noting that The Who Sing My Generation is possibly one of the best punk albums of all time. We also cannot forget the Troggs (of "Wild Thing" fame) or, of course, the Sex Pistols. While I'm of the thought that the Pistols got their fame entirely from being outrageous, and that this audacity is now completely outdated and lame, I must admit that they came before the Ramones (sorta), and held more originality than them. Next we must take heed of what the Ramones music actually is--it basically boils down to 60's and 70's pop with distorted guitar played by pinheads (I use this term affectionately) who couldn't manage barre chords, sticking instead with the simpler, easier power chords. Also, while they certainly played simple music, it wasn't really a statement against overblown progressive rock--they simply had the technical ability of monkeys and were doing the best with what they had--perhaps if Jethro Tull or Yes released a Ramonesesque album it would be a statement. This now brings us the their one "original" album, if it can be called that. Does releasing one pop album with distorted guitar followed by the same album year after year constitute originality? I doubt it--on a good day I'd personally give them a 2 for originality, but most likely i'd be fair and say 1. I mean, c'mon, these guys were more afraid of change than Newt Gingrich. Not a one of them would ever consider straying from the formula of a poppy melody backed by a simplistic power chord progression backed by a bass playing the root notes of each chord as eigth notes (with occaisional rests if you wanna get fancy) and simple drumming with lots of high hat for filler.

Listenability I might also argue with you on--I might give them a 5 rather than a 4, but I suppose a 5 would be too high considering the poor recording quality of most of their songs. Resonance...I have some trouble with that rating of 5. Lyrically, they hardly touch you. I mean, c'mon: "Rock rock rock rock rock 'n' roll high school" or "The KKK took my baby away." and on and on. And, of course, their music is hardly inspiring of emotions. However, they're just fun guys trying to have fun and doing a damn good job at it. Someone else mentioned Chuck Berry, and you know? That kinda nails it. "My Ding-a-ling" is hardly a poetic masterpiece, but I'll be damned if you say Chuck Berry didn't know how to have fun. Same goes with them, but I'd still have to dock a point for complete lack of emotion. When it comes to adequacy, as long as I understand your defition of it, I'd have to agree with a 5+...they were anything but pretentious and certainly knew their limits. Diversity...well, I'm gonna go ahead and give them a 0...they really had no diversity, they simply worked with Phil who added a bunch of stuff onto the same old songs...I wouldn't attribute an hint at diversity to the Ramones themselves- -having someone remix a song for you doesn't make you anymore diverse an artist.'s what I get for my boys:

Listenability--4/5 Resonance--4/5 Originality--1/5 Adequacy--5+/5 Diversity--0/5

Overall Score--2.8~~~or basically a 3

Well, there's my two cents, I'd be interested to hear what y'all think.

Peter Crowley <> (02.08.2005)

The lead guitar heard on '80s Ramones albums was played by Walter Lure (Johnny Thunders' partner in The Heartbreakers, and leader of The Heroes and The Waldos). He was uncredited, but got a "special thanks" on at least one of the Ramones albums he played on. If you listen to any Heartbreakers album, you'll recognize Walter's style.


Mike DeFabio <> (30.12.2000)

Ah, the Ramones. I don't have this album, but I do have Ramonesmania, and I know what pretty much every song on here sounds like. In a word--phat. Three chords, amps turned up to 11, lyrics about horror movies and inhalants. Do I need to say anything more? Of course not, there's a whole review up there!

Oh, and if you like this kind of "minimalism," you'll most certainly like Wire's Pink Flag, which is a lot like this, only really artsy.

Mike DeFabio <> (20.07.2001)

I have this album now, and it's better than I imagined.

Jon Gray <> (17.05.2003)

Reading this review has made me remember two things. Inadverdant irony makes me laugh; pop music made by stupid people is always better than pop music made by smart people. Put that to jazz though and you get Cecil Taylor (whose fans I would stab in the face over the internet if I could). Gotta love a stupid band the socially repressed pretentious people can still jealously claim as their own... they're the new Beatles!

Good album, and so righteously stupid it makes me not worry so much that I have no idea who the fuck that Chinese guy was.

Kiel Pidgeon <> (20.05.2003)

Now we are talking. A 14, that's a seriously high score. You did a new review too, wow. I love this album. And judging by your review, so do you. It takes a few listens to really understand why the Ramones are so great. After you realize that this is one of the catchiest most rediculus albums ever made. The music is so stripped down, they took all the over indulgence that was killing music in the mid-70's and threw it out the window. This is a case where not knowing what the fuck they are doing, actually makes it seems as if they had it all figured out.

dave hoare <> (26.05.2003)

rating the ramones so high is very weird considering the bands you give 3 or 4 stars to. i dont think they're anything other than a hilarious joke, the music is catchy, but it's way too dumb to carry an entire album. i love individual songs, but entire albums of this stuff are obsolete. you might as well give the same high rating to Wire's Pink Flag, which features almost identical stuff...only driven by artrock parodies rather than just pop. At least Pink Flag has about 5 great songs that stand beyond the joke. nothing the ramones ever did goes beyond funny. how do you work the ramones a '4' anyway (they're not origional, diverse, hardly adequate, plus unlistenable to someone who doesnt get the joke)

<> (26.05.2003)

I never cared much for punk rock. All the bands I listened to were top notch expert musicians, and the fact that these guys could only play three chords and receive such noteriety was a mystery to me. I used to think how stupid the public really is. As I now settle back quite comfortably into the role of "old fart," I listened to the Ramones recently and said "you know, this is actually kind of fun." Fifties greasers were their idols and they were determined to at least make music more fun again. 'I Wanna Be Sedated' is a great song to crank up in the car, and 'Rockaway Beach' is just plain fun. Said I one day, "do I dare actually go out and purchase one of their cd's?" No...I like prog rock!!! Damnit, they killed my music. But I did, and it's actually quite enjoyable. Now my Ramones cd's sit quite confortably next to my Rush cd's. Don't get me wrong, I'll still take Aqualung or Tales From Topographic Oceans or Leftoverure and Hemispheres over this any day. But I know it's a good time when the Ramones do make it into my player. Since they will all be in the same rock and roll hall of fame someday, it's all good. I'll take the Ramones over this mindless crap that's polluting the airwaves right now. I bought Road To Ruin first. Then the live album. I thought that was a great way to start considering my musical tastes.

Igor Maslennikov <> (24.11.2003)

As for me, The Ramones suck hard. The lyrics is as if it was written by a 10-years-old. The music is more than primitive. Perhaps it's all due to my dislike of this trend of punk music. Anyway it hasn't made much progress till our days. Tschuss!

Mark <> (10.01.2004)

I agree with you about 'I Don't Want To Go Down To The Basement'; BULLET TREATMENT clearly don't, and cut the song short on their STRENGTH TO ENDURE Ramones/Motorhead Tribute Album. Clocking-in at 58seconds, I feel cheated. The whole CD was a disappointment (such a flat sound), though it makes you appreciate the subtleties inherent in the real thing. At least RIOTGUN don't fall into the same trap as METALLICA, who attempted to impersonate Lemmy's dulcit intonation. Anyway, enough of Tributes & Motorhead, this is the Ramones page!

Dave Dickson <> (30.09.2005)

Two small disagreements here:

"Simply put, I cannot imagine anybody acknowledging the Ramones' contribution to the world of music and not liking it at the same time - in this particular case, the two things are inseparable one from the other."

'Tis a common conception 'mongst the Ramones' fan base. But it is only partially true. Myself, I acknowledge the band's contribution to the world of music. . . and like the first side of this album at the same time. THOSE two are definitely inseparable one from the other. The second side, though. . . well, it strikes me--and me alone--as sounding EXACTLY like side one, just frankly without being any good. The thing is, "Blitzkrieg Bop" is a classic--a timeless document of rock and roll at its most minimal, catchy, and uproariously fum. (Yes, I typed "fum" on purpose.) Not a single song on the album even comes close to its brilliance, but follows its formula to a tee. And when you're talking about a formula this limited. . . call it what you want, but for me, that's not "brilliant" simplicity, that's JUST simplicity, and it borders on laziness. Three chords, minimal sound, a robotic rhythm section, and off-key vocals that hit maybe two notes on each song are actually ALL RIGHT by me; I don't mind them if they're applied to a good song. But a good song is an absolute requirement. Even in a form of music this primitive, songwriting matters, and the songwriting is, in my estimation, seriously lacking throughout side two--the only remotely brilliant song on there is "53rd and 3rd". That nose-dive, combined with the simplicity, the monotony, and the overall lack of ambition (other than the obvious this-style-had-never-been-done-before-and-my-god-was-it- influential-take-its-historical-value-into-account-man!! part--in other words, the extreme lack of effort it appears to have taken), forces me to give it a 7.5 out of 10. Still good, still a "classic," but nowhere near a "masterpiece," if one can even legitimately apply such a pretentious- sounding word to an album like this.

"There could only be one band like the Ramones in all the world; any band that tries to sound like the Ramones will be shitty by definition."

Oi. STRONGLY disagree here. Now, this is not to put words in your mouth, but that sentence seems to imply that innovative power is a visceral quality in and of itself--"visceral," as distinct from, say, "intellectual." Let's assume you've never heard of punk rock or even the Ramones before, and you just put this album on. Then you put on, let's say, Dookie, without ever having heard of Green Day either. This is just an example, mind you; Dookie could stand for any other Ramones-style punk rock album. In that cone of dis-information, which one do you think the uninformed listener is going to pick? Or, more to the point, is the uninformed listener going to "hear" the innovative power latent in The Ramones and automatically discard the latter as "shitty"? (I'm not at all a fan of Green Day, mind; I just used them as the most obvious example.) Simply because this came first and those came afterward? Myself, I believe that in all musical revolutions, punk rock included, there is a possibility of the ball not being hit out of the park the first time. The Ramones is a dead-on example--I'm not an expert on pop- punk by any stretch of the imagination, but I have heard at least two albums of the same genre and ilk that were slightly catchier, harder-rocking, and though of the same style, not at all plagiaristic of this (well, besides the DUH-dadadadadada-DUH-da-DUH-dadada "Blitzkrieg Bop" rhythm that's virtually impossible to avoid on 90% of the songs in this genre--

Oh dear. I think I've unraveled part of the reason there. Crap. Perhaps it simply depends on which album one hears first?

It does. Sure, The Ramones is a revolutionary album, but in my opinion, it's simply not as GOOD as it is INNOVATIVE. I think you like it simply because, well, you like it. One doesn't need any other reason. In a way, this second point is really the same one as the first--"contribution to the world of music" and "quality" being the same thing? Not always, and not necessarily in punk rock. Sure, the first computer was a brilliant piece of engineering back in the 1940's, but by today's standards, it's junk. Granted, many musical revolutions and resulting new genres ALSO follow the route of the light bulb--the first one ever invented was far superior to the disposable ones that followed in its wake. It can go either way.

Special author note: 1) Hey, I don't mean that once you have acknowledged the Ramones, you have to love all of their songs. For all I know, you might love just one song - 'Blitzkrieg Bop', for instance. Most anti-Ramones people I know shudder at the very mention of the band's name.

2) Of course I'm referring to context. Any pop-punk album to come out after Ramones would have to build upon it rather than take away from it, and only the latter way could work. Not only have I not heard anything that further deconstructs the Ramones' approach, I can't even theoretically imagine it. Certainly Wire do not count - by reducing two-minute songs to thirty-second ones they have gone past the mark that separates minimalistic brainless rock'n'roll from minimalistic modern art. If you really know of albums that use even less to communicate the Ramones' point, let me know. After all, I'm hardly an expert either.]


<> (25.01.2002)

when i heard this the first time, i was laughing, what americans supposed to be punk.

okay,even the ramones have made some tracks, which you can hear twice,but this record is really below the green grass of home, no chance to leave.

Stefan <> (21.12.2002)

I found your comment on the guitar mix differences between the 2 albs very interesting. Ramones bass/guitar channel separation does make a big change in the "fun quotient." Another thing is Tommy's drumming; on Ramones that kick drum sound/placement (dead center) and his "stutter step" style adds pop snap. On Leave Home he's playing more like a standard blitzkrieging thrash/punk drummer. Even his cymbal work is quite changed. He was an EXCELLENT skinsman tho, much better than Marky or Richie.

Ahh, musician talk.....


Bobby Darin <> (31.05.2003)

Hey George,

I generally like your approach to the reviews, I certainly like lengthy reviews like that. Nice work. However, I have to voice my opinion that the AMG reviewers are NOT dolts, as most of you web-reviewers seem to agree. The reason this comes in response to the Rocket to Russia review is that you mistakenly accuse them of not believing a debut album can be the best -- the example that jumped to my mind is AMG's pick of the first Doors album as their best. (I myself disagree STRONGLY with that ranking, so that's why I remember it.) I'm sure there are others. So please lay off the tired slagging of AMG. Otherwise, keep on truckin.


Tom DelRosario <> (09.11.2001)

You state there is only one memorable 1-note guitar solo. You forgot "I Can See for Miles".


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Mark <> (10.01.2004)

Oh dear. PLEASANT DREAMS gets the cold shoulder yet again; got to speak up for this old friend! Although far from perfect, it does hold together well, and I'll happily listen to it from start to finish (er, well . . see later) enjoying it's 'Pop' flavour. Like Punk, the essence of 'Ramones' cannot be pinned down to a buzzing guitar (though that does help), so if they choose to slip into a different guise, I'm happy - ever heard 'Pinhead' bashed out on a Honky Tonk piano? One thing that endears the Ramones to me, is their invitation to fill-in with additional background vocals - Joey just asks for it! This album is no exception, in fact to me it is perhaps their most colourful in that respect. That colour includes Johnny's guitar, because to my ear, he's given plenty of presence: just listen to 'The KKK Took My Baby Away ' or 'You Sound Like You're Sick'. When compared to the sound of LEAVE HOME, or ROAD TO RUIN, say, this guitar may not be as cutting, but it is far more crushing - which does it for me. Not only does it still have teeth, but there's the added grit of audible fingers on fret. After the muddy waters of Phil Spector, 'You Sound Like You're Sick' can really blow your mind. Don't get me wrong - END OF THE CENTURY was my introduction to the Ramones (the awakening of a deep & true Love; what an auspicious start . .) only, that album is such an embodiment of surpressed emotion - just so much aggression, frustration & Love struggling out of the sludge. I love it! But this song really brings out the momentum of the boys - their ability to throw a line up in the air, then catch it by the throat, pulling it bak into the unerring beat. Just listening to Joey tear into each verse makes me . .happy. The hand-claps drive it forward at hilarious speed, as do the Marines-esque "hep-hep-hep"s; and the other backing vocals help me soar. To me this is one of the Ramones' finest moments: a real rollercoaster, and a real High. For a different kind of 'fine', there's 'All's Quiet On The Eastern Front' - how can you have written such things as you wrote? "Dippy-happy" is way off the mark of this one, and to suggest that DeeDee was growing pretentious - I don't think he ever wrote such evocative lines about New York as these (specifically that special 'after hours', post-club frame of mind). Also, to weave in a reference to that sad tale of the First World War 'All's Quiet On The Western Front', was pure genius. Both the film & book deal with the primitive camaraderie that those men were reduced to, which relates well to the situation of the Ramones themselves, DeeDee especially. A minor point here, but for me 1980 & 81 were dominated by Adam & the Ants; could the 'drumstick' sound heard in 'All's Quiet . .' be a nod to the British Dandy's? Or is that just a common drummer's technique to be found in hundreds of other songs? You can probably tell that I like this album, though it probably only merits a 6 /10 because there are the down sides, of course. I don't rate 'We Want The Airwaves' so highly - it stumbles too much, has too many awkward lines, and whines too much: better not to give a fuck and get on with it. Same applies to 'It's Not My Place'. Some talk of Joey's vocal gymnastics here, but the song itself seems cluttered to me. Far better is 'This Business Is Killing Me'. What a vocal performance! What a song! You say that none of the tunes stick around in your head, but try singing along with Joey on this one! As usual, what appears to be a simple line from him is actually full of twists & turns. Shame they didn't have this one for END OF THE CENTURY, with its 'Big' sound. I also don't understand why they didn't close here: 'Sitting In My Room' seems more like a midstream song. So, one more Gem to turn to. 'KKK' is often cited as a classic (and I'm surprised that you don't mention it). I think that it's alright, and that, but it doesn't surprise me like ' You Didn't Mean Anything To Me'. 'Mean' is the word: it rises up, so ominous & threatening from the Bubblegum Tradgedy of 7-11, and continues with each 'upbeat' verse eclipsed by the Gothic, shadowy chorus. Unlike anything else they've ever done, or not? Another All-Time Favourite! Sadly the feed-back transition into the (so-so) 'Come On Now' is a poor cousin to 'I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You'/ 'Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World' (has to be said). To cap it all, I actually like the Cover! It comes up a treat when viewed through 3D specs, though if you stare at the Man long enough, the colours start playing around by themselves. That Man! His claw-like hands echo the talons of the American Eagle; he's been caught in the Spotlight, and looks uncomfortable, but I don't think that he'll have much trouble escaping - he's a professional. GabbaGabbaHey.

ps. Thought you might like a few extracts from the British Press, which show that I'm not alone, in that they seem to like what they hear:

" . . that LP the Ramones have always dreamt of making. A whole album of wholly realised songs, framed with non-stop pop expertise by producer Graham Gouldman and lovingly set in a running order which not only accelerates but, in doing so, accentuates Exactly What The Ramones Got That Nobody Else Has." NewMusicalExpress

" . . states firmly that their heavy metal days are a memory - for the future, they've come of age." Sounds (How ironic - personally I can't stomach the real Heavy Metal that they later turned to for inspiration).

" . . another year, another shove in the right direction and another fund of good tunes." Record Mirror


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Mike Healy <> (21.06.2003)

There's a live version of "She's The One" on the remastered Road To Ruin CD, which is from the Rock 'N' Roll High School soundtrack album, one of five songs of the "medley" that they do live on stage in the movie. Get this and you'll be in The Promised Land, guaranteed!

All of the albums (up through Too Tough To Die, so far) have been digitally remastered by the gods at Rhino Records, with bunches of cool bonus tracks on each album.

Also, if you can ever find them, get the two albums by Dust, featuring a teenage Marky Ramone on drums. Very heavy power-trio stuff in the Zeppelin/Blue Cheer vein, but with their own sound. They had two albums, Dust (1971) and Hard Attack (1972). Highly recommended!

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