The Ramones – It’s Alive: 1974 – 1996 [DVD]

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The Ramones

It's Alive: 1974 - 1996 [DVD] - Rhino Home Video

Despite the fact that The Ramones came and went way before my time, they’ve still had an untold influence on my life. I mean, without the quartet of misfits from Queens, New York, would three chord punk rock be the same? It’s very doubtful. Their End Of The Century documentary is one of my all time favorite documentaries, chronicling the fascinating story of the quartet through their career. Now, two years later, the band has released another DVD collection chronicling their career, but instead of focusing on the inner demons of the band, It’s Alive: 1974-1996 documents the band in a live setting creating a four hour, double disc DVD with footage spanning over two decades and three continents.

However, the fact that the DVD features such a mass amount of footage isn’t even the best part of the release. It’s being able to sit and watch the evolution of the band that really sells the release.

It starts with the band playing at the famed CBGB’s. The footage is black and white and grainy, they sound horrible, the crowd is disinterested and there are even some heckles. Other performances even have the waitress sitting on the stage taking orders while the band is playing; it’s quite an odd sight to see. As the clips pass by, the band becomes tighter. They still play fast and loud, and the image/sound quality is less than perfect (but what do you expect from thirty year old footage capture with a hand held camera?) but you start to see the evolution of the band. Leaving behind the grimy clubs like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City, the band starts playing bigger venues, to bigger crowds on bigger stages. In fact, the first disc cumulates with a thirty minute full concert showing of their 1977 New Year’s Eve performance in London at the Rainbow theatre – a recording that was previously available in audio format only – that sees the band celebrating the new years with confetti and balloons alongside a packed house of sweaty UK punks.

And while the first disc is more of that “classic” Ramones live show that I think of when I picture them (while I’ve never seen them live, I will always imagine the band playing to a packed house at CBGB’s) it is the second disc that really shows a different side of the band. I mean, on top of playing on massive stages in front of thousands of fans in Argentina, Italy, Finland, California and Spain, the amount of TV appearances on this release is astounding. The sound stays the same, as does their whole persona, but the settings are unlike anything I would have imagined.

The Ramones performing on Top Of The Pops (three times actually) with a string of violin players? It can’t be. The Ramones performing on a cheesy variety TV show (Sha Na Na) with odd actors running around them? Inplausiable. The Ramones playing on German and English music TV shows with a bunch of indie kids popping their heads up and down instead of punks sweating it out at a club? Unimainable.The Ramones playing in front of thousands of fans, separated by a good twenty feet and backed by a massive fake stone wall with their logo engraved on it? I don’t think so. But alas, all those things happened and more. It’s still The Ramones but it’s not what I picture them as at all, and it was interesting and informative to see that side of them.

It’s Alive: 1974-1996 is four hours of non-stop Ramones live sets only separated by Dee Dee’s signature count of “1-2-3-4!.” Some shots only have one or two songs while others have the full set and throughout it all, they never change. Yes, they became a bit tighter, but the music and performance never changed during the twenty two years documented here – the only thing that changed was the setting.

Will I pull it out and watch the full four hours again? Doubtful. Will I pull it out to watch a clip here and there? I’d say most likely. Am I glad I sat through it and watched it all at least once? Most definitely.