I'm sure there are plenty of you out there
who would like to be rock stars without having to go through the annoying
ritual of actually learning how to play. While this may be entirely possible,
highly discourages this approach since it lowers your chances of
becoming a star by at least 10 percent. The better strategy is to adhere to
the traditional steps taken by most rock musicians, such as the Ramones, in
your quest for stardom.
Why the reference to the Ramones? To put it simply, who better to use as a
role model than New York City's hardest working band when documenting how
to climb to the top of the music business. The Ramones were neither an
overnight success nor mega-stars in any sense of the terms. The band went
through 20 grueling years before reaching their current status as certified
rock stars. And although they have supposedly closed the final chapter in
their long, colorful career with the Adios Amigos Tour, their legacy will
live on for years to come.
Therefore, without any further adieu, we present "Rock Stardom 101," with
all requisite apologies to Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Richie, C.J. and
Elvis (A.K.A. Clem Burke) Ramone.
Step 1. Learn How to Play
As previously mentioned, we highly recommend that all members of any band
learn how to play their instruments before the group engages in any live
performances or spends any significant amount of time in a recording studio.
When the Ramones first the hit the rock circuit roughly 20 years ago, all
members had at least a fundamental grasp of their respective instruments.
Tommy Ramone, for instance, spent the better part of two weeks mastering
the drums before the band played its first gig at CBGB. And although
Dee Dee has occasionally admitted that he never actually learned the notes on
his bass and just "thump[ed] away on one string," he is nevertheless
in our opinion one hell of a thumper, perhaps the best in the business.
Step 2. Assemble an Impressive Repertoire
Regardless of what one thinks of the Ramones, it cannot be denied that
their tunes are catchy, if not downright masterful for their simple,
melodic phrasings. Should you ever hope to attain the level of stardom
enjoyed by the Ramones, we highly suggest that you make a concerted effort
to write the most impressive body of songs possible.
From the beginning, the Ramones had the songwriting process down to a
science. Included in the band's first performances were such classics
as "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement," "I Don't Wanna Walk Around
with You," "I Don't Wanna Get Involved with You," "I Don't Wanna Be
Learned, I Don't Wanna Be Tamed," "I Don't Like Nobody that Don't Like
Me," and "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue."
From such auspicious beginnings, the stuff of greatness is made.
Step 3. Do Not Bore the Crowd
If ever there was a kiss of death for the modern rock band, it is to bore
the audience to tears. As obvious as this may sound, it is amazing how many
local groups actually miss the mark here in the most egregious manner.
Once again, the Ramones serve as a prime example of how to successfully
avert this disaster. A Ramones song is both short and fast. In fact, in
their early days, a typical Ramones set was clocked by certain audience
members at just under 18 minutes although the set comprised a total of 20
Whether this is an exaggeration of sorts remains open to argument. The
point is that the Ramones never dawdled. In fact, a critic or two has been
known to state that the purpose of a Ramones song often seems to be to
finish it as quickly as humanly possible. The longest Ramones track on
record? Halfway to Sanitys "Bye Bye Baby" clocks in at 4:33.
Step 4. Hang In There, Baby
The power of persistence goes a long way in the rock business as it does
with most any undertaking in life. A few personnel changes
notwithstanding, the Ramones have stayed together through 20 grinding
years. In 1989, after 15 years of playing with the band, Dee Dee Ramone
gave an interview in which he said, "People always ask why we're still
together ... [It's] because we don't have a hit single and we still gotta
work for a living." He then promptly quit the band a few weeks later.
Dee Dee, of course, was replaced by C.J. Ramone. And in 1996, after more
than 20 years on the road, the Ramones embarked on what was to be their
final tour. Whether this proves to be true still remains to be seen.
If the Ramones do disband, they leave behind a formidable contribution to
popular music. One must remember that when the band began roughly two
decades ago, the airwaves were filled with the likes of Helen Reddy,
Boston, Olivia Newton-John, Styx and other pale, sterile recording acts.
The Ramones invented punk rock, plain and simple. If for that reason
alone and nothing else you gotta love 'em.
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