Chuck Klosterman on The Cultural Significance of A Hair Metal Guitarist's Death
January 4, 2003 6:48 AM   Subscribe

Dee Dee Ramone and Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby passed away with 24 hours of eachother last spring. One death, obviously, got way more notice. This recent article by Chuck Klosterman (author of Fargo Rock City) looks into the reasons why and, entirely unironically, talks about why Crosby's death was significant. I don't 100% agree with Klosterman here, but he makes some points. Plus it's worth reading simply because it questions some of the underlying assumptions of most modern music writing.
posted by jonmc (52 comments total)
Ratt was profoundly uncool (read: populist) and the Ramones were profoundly significant (read: interesting to rock critics).

There is a difference in the music that is very important. While today punk is alive and well and virtually unchanged from the day it was spit out to land in an angry young man's face, so-called heavy metal has undergone so many changes as to be almost unrecognizable, and with many sub-genres added in to the mix. At the risk of stereotyping, punkers tend to be unapologetically real in their music, lyrics and day to day lives and therefore more interesting to critics and fans alike; heavy metallers tend to be more cosmetic and put on. I think that it's because of this that heavy metal as a genre tends to get the short end of the stick.

All in all, though, I don't agree 100% with Chuck either, but it is an interesting read.
posted by ashbury at 7:13 AM on January 4, 2003

Meanwhile, mainstream culture (i.e., the millions and millions of people who bought Ratt albums merely because that music happened to be the soundtrack for their lives) is usually portrayed as an army of mindless automatons who provide that counterculture with something to rail against. The things that matter to normal people are not supposed to matter to smart people.

That's absolutely correct, and the flip side is postmodern art, which is created upon the idea that whatever repels dumb people must also attract smart people. It's all bullshit. Like what you like, whether it's popular or not.

Ratt does suck though.
posted by Beholder at 7:17 AM on January 4, 2003

There's a fallacy here - while it's certainly true that more people were buying Ratt in 1989 than the Ramones, who's had more staying power? The Ramones are still selling records today - their first album is listed at 2,994 on Amazon's page and their greatest hits at 545, in the top 1,000. Ratt's most popular album on Amazon, Out of the Cellar, is no. 13,759. Conclusion - in 2003, the Ramones outsell Ratt by a large margin. And that's why Dee Dee's death got more attention than Crosby's - the Ramones are now a popular band and Ratt isn't.
posted by pyramid termite at 7:38 AM on January 4, 2003

heavy metallers tend to be more cosmetic and put on. I think that it's because of this that heavy metal as a genre tends to get the short end of the stick.

To a large degree, yes, but metal fans(I speakas one) are no less devoted than punk fans(I speak as one of those too) and back in the 80's despite what rock historians would have you believe, not all metal was Poison and Motley Crue pop stuff. AC/DC was rawer than almost any punk band you could name, Twisted Sister were gender transgressors of the Alice Cooper school and there was always a thriving underground(back then) of bands like Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Jag Panzar, Raven etc. and FWIW, as hair metal went Ratt were OK, mainly beacuse they could write a decent tune and because Stephen Pearcy didn't try to sing falsetto like so many others keeping it in a lower register where he actually sounded good.

The newer rap metal dosent have much to do with this kind of metal I'll grant you.

punk is alive and well and virtually unchanged from the day it was spit out ...punkers tend to be unapologetically real in their music,

Well, I'd posit that there's just as much posturing and posing in punk/alternative music(more in the post punk stuff I'll admit) as in metal, it just takes itself more serioulsy.

This written conversation between Michael Azzerrad about two hypothetical kids, one going to see Black Flag, the other going to see Van Halen.

Azzerad:Obviously the kid at the Black Flag show is a bit of an independent investigative thinker. He or she probably had to read about Black Flag in a fanzine...can look past the glossy production and see the gist of a band. That takes a certain independence of thought. Someone who makes their way to a Black Flag concert in 1981 is obviously different then the kind of kid whos at Van Halen because the Van Halen kid reads only mainstream publications...But that's not a value judgement aboout them as a human being.

Way to pat yourself on the back there, Mike.

Klosterman:Wrong. That is a value judgement. What it says is that the kid who likes Black Flag is a better music fan than the kid who likes Van Halen. And that's ridiculous. It's possible these two kids like Black Flag and Van Halen for diametrically differrent reasons, but it's just as possible they like them for the exact same reason ("Man, these guys fucking rock!")

Thank you , Chuck. Someone who gets it. I've been both of those hypothetical kids and I can say that both bands rock. You could say that Black Flag is more literate and topical, but you could also say that Van Halen(DLR-era) was more fun.

Now come on, I cant be the only music geek of my generation who went in a straight line from the Scorpions to Metallica to the Ramones to the MC5. NTM, the two genres share common ancestors in 60's Detroit hard rock and British glam? The line between two is to a large degree false.

I'll ven go out on a limb and posit that Manowar's ouevre esp. Fighting The World are far better(smarter, more listenable, and yes more important) than the work of say, Sigur Ros or Radiohead.

posted by jonmc at 8:02 AM on January 4, 2003 [1 favorite]

I cant be the only music geek of my generation who went in a straight line from the Scorpions to Metallica to the Ramones to the MC5. NTM, the two genres share common ancestors in 60's Detroit hard rock and British glam?

Shyly raises hand.

I also was still buying baseball cards to show you how immature I was when Ratt had it's first hit.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:44 AM on January 4, 2003

Actually, Jon, I beg to differ. I think both punk *and* heavy metal evolved from Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz." Disco evolved from "Love is Like Oxygen." Sweet invented EVERYTHING! :D

(I'm only being semi-facetious, here. I'm also in awe that Jon's being so literate this early in the morning...)
posted by metrocake at 9:45 AM on January 4, 2003

Roe is of course correct. But the actually Omega point Sweet songs are "Little Willy" and "Wig Wam Bam."
posted by jonmc at 9:51 AM on January 4, 2003

This is funny because I didn't even know anyone from Ratt died, so I guess I'm living proof of the underreporting (Ratt was the first concert I ever went to as a 15 year old dork -- it cracks me up to think of that concert today). But I'd say pyramid termite above is onto something. It's not just what rock critics think, it's based on sales and long-term popularity. Anyone not remember the Ayllah death last year at the height of her popularity? What if she died 20 years later, without having much of a career in the interim?

Let's face it, two years ago, if you were flipping around a tv and someone was talking about the ramones, it was probably to mention an upcoming show or benefit or production they were a part of. If you were flipping channels and heard about Ratt, I'd bet $100 it would be a "where are they now" VH1 profile of some sort.

Sorry to say, but the guitarist was forgetten because the music and the band was. The Ramones are still held in high regard as a pioneering band in the late 70s that influenced many, Ratt is a metal band from a forgotten era of spandex, teased hair, and lots of makeup. "I wanna be sedated" is pretty far up my favorite songs of all time list, while "Round and round" is nowhere in sight.
posted by mathowie at 9:54 AM on January 4, 2003


Fighting the world every single day
Fighting the world for the right to play
Heavy Metal in my brain
I'm fighting for Metal 'cause it's here to stay!


She lives with a broken man
A cracked polystyrene man
Who just crumbles and burns
He used to do surgery
For girls in the eighties
But gravity always wins
posted by the fire you left me at 9:56 AM on January 4, 2003

Can we skip the religious war about radiohead vs. anything please?
posted by mathowie at 10:01 AM on January 4, 2003

What Klosterman is really means is "I'm pissed most critics don't like this band I like".

He can't possibly mean what he writes with the argument that since "good taste" is bourgeois oppression of the working man, we have to ignore the concept and only judge the importance of someone's music by record sales. Surely he doesn't think Britney is the best musician ever, and White Christmas the best song ever recorded?

No? He doesn't? Wow, he must be making some kind of snobby critic value judgement!
posted by malphigian at 10:07 AM on January 4, 2003

I don't have to feel too bad about my mistreatment of Ratt. I can honestly say, "I never liked them."

I was the right age. I heard them on the radio. I saw them on TV. I thought they stank.

To be fair, I wasn't this uber-cool counterculture teen that listened to the Ramones either. I liked Top-40 stuff like Billy Joel and Huey Lewis. I also experimented with early rap and a smattering of punk rock -- but never The Ramones.

For true musical genius, nothing ever beats Leonard Nimoy singing about hobbits.
posted by hipnerd at 10:10 AM on January 4, 2003

the fire you left me(can I call ya fire?):

Manowar's guitarist Ross The Boss was a founder of The Dictators, one of the goofiest, most off the wall proto-punk (and pop-culture obsessed outfits of all time). The whole Viking Warrior shtick is a bit of a joke, although for your average 15 yearold misfit delinquent(I speak from experience) the image is pretty resonant.

Plus like the Dictators before them, Manowar's Music is genuinely a lotta fun. "Carry On" makes we wanna get drunk, pump my fist in the air and jump around. Radiohead, for the most part make me wanna take a nap.

On preview...Matt...not starting a war. Just explaining myself.
posted by jonmc at 10:13 AM on January 4, 2003

What the parallel deaths of Ramone and Crosby prove is that it really doesn't matter what you do artistically, nor does it matter how many people like what you create; what matters is who likes what you do artistically and what liking that art is supposed to say about who you are.

To me, this is the most interesting sentence in the whole article. He goes a bit off the rails afterward, IMO, but the above rings true (to some extent). I've always had the impression that one reason so many people cite The Ramones as influences is simply because they were unthreatening enough for those usually intimidated by punk to like them, and so people who wouldn't normally buy a "punk" album would buy a Ramones album, and critics who wouldn't normally bother to review a punk album would review a Ramones album, so more people heard of them, and it became safe (and fashionable) to like them. "Bubblegum punk", if you will. There were many other bands which personified punk to me, far more convincingly. The Ramones always seemed somewhat contrived to me, contrived in a good-natured way, with some fun music, but contrived, and they didn't seem "punk" at all the way The Sex Pistols (I know, the irony of calling the Ramones contrived and comparing them to one of the original manufactured bands is not lost on me, but IMO The Pistols were pretty sincere, even if their origins weren't), The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag did - those bands say "punk" to me, they meant that shit, I never found The Ramones sincere in their "punk-ness", to me punk is supposed to be intimidating, threatening and angry, and The Ramones weren't really any of those things (and please understand, I'm not knocking The Ramones per se).

While today punk is alive and well and virtually unchanged from the day it was spit out to land in an angry young man's face, so-called heavy metal has undergone so many changes as to be almost unrecognizable, and with many sub-genres added in to the mix.

I agree, but I don't know that the former is necessarily an indication of something positive or that the latter is necessarily an indication of something negative. Resistance to change can mean the genre has staying power because of some inherent value, but it can also just mean that the genre is extremely limited.

punkers tend to be unapologetically real in their music

I dunno, "standard-issue punk song #373" just doesn't seem real anymore to me. The vast majority of punk songs are just variations on old punk songs, which is not unusual in the music world by any means, but punk seems pretty unique in its inability to bring much that's new to the old stuff, and I don't find that "real", I find it boring. JMHO, of course.

Thanks for this post, jonmc!
posted by biscotti at 10:20 AM on January 4, 2003

jonmc: Don't you think that if Angus Young of AC/DC passed away tomorrow that his death would be as widely noted as Dee Dee Ramone's? Angus's hypothetical death would receive even more notice, I'd think. After all, albums in the AC/DC catalog still sell fairly well. VH-1 would probably play their (very good) "Behind the Music" for eight hours straight or something. Didn't plenty of alterna-rockers like AC/DC, or at least grow up with them?

Meantime, to everyone else: Does being real mean being pissed off? Feeling goofy is a real feeling. Also, do punk bands never pose? Right. Didn't half the alterna fans catch onto this crap about a decade ago, if they hadn't already, when Courtney Love started wearing Versace? The only thing that sets apart a "real" band or performer from one who isn't is whether the person loves what they do, regardless of genre or audience or complicated lyrics or stupid lyrics, etc. All the makeup or snotty attitude or whatever in the world can't cover up a lack of passion. Or at least we'd all like to think so.
posted by raysmj at 10:41 AM on January 4, 2003

What the parallel deaths of Ramone and Crosby prove is that it really doesn't matter what you do artistically, nor does it matter how many people like what you create; what matters is who likes what you do artistically and what liking that art is supposed to say about who you are.

I'd like the author of the original piece to comment on the handling of Lady Di's death vs. Mother Teresa's. One was crazy popular and well-liked by the masses, the other was one of those greats of humankind that sacrificed her life for others, but nowhere near as sexy. I know Lady Di did some good things, but in the grand scheme of things, she was fodder for People Magazine and tabloids, which is hardly a sign of doing important work in the world, and stopped making real news 15 years ago.

Lady Di got all the specials remembering her and live funeral on TV, while the good Mother was a footnote ("oh, by the way, this other lady died. something about being good to children").

Though it's far from rock music, I'd think the "rock critics" of news, the editors of newspapers would want us to mourn Mother Teresa, since she was "smarter" did noble things that had an impact, and uppity editor types would choose her as being worthy of remembering.

But Lady Di got a reissued song from Elton John and zillions of very public mourners.

How does anyone explain that, with regards to this rock thing? I think a parallel can be drawn here with these two bands.
posted by mathowie at 10:45 AM on January 4, 2003

Also please don't take this as a down on the Ramones as I am one of their most devoted fans. Quite the opposite, I'm trying to say that these two genres, traditionally presented as diametrically opposite(by critics at least) have more in common than you might think.

On preview: probably raysmj, but that's more the mainstream media. In some "alternative" circles admitting that you can groove(unironically) on Twisted Sister or Rainbow is like saying that you sleep on rubber sheets and enjoy nose-picking.

Matt, while you could definitely make the case that the Ramones are the better or more important band(and I'd agree), the Mother Threresa analogy is a bit of a stretch, I mean they created great music but they didn't cure lepers and Ratt were far from "sexy media darlings" they just happenned to have a few hits.
posted by jonmc at 10:52 AM on January 4, 2003

Leonard Nimoy sings about hobbits - hipnerd, I do believe that video is the living definition of cheese ...
posted by pyramid termite at 10:52 AM on January 4, 2003

What I don't understand is why Klosterman gives a damn about how the music press looks on the Ramones vs. Ratt. If Ratt got the devotion of fans and millions of sales and was the sountrack to lives, etc., and if that stuff matters so much more than the word of critics, then why does he give a flip?

If his point is that the world of music criticism is insular and out of touch with the real world of music, then why bother getting into a lather about them?

I skimmed Fargo Rock City and found the same problem -- the dude is really defensive about being a metalhead. I suspect there's some sort of internal drama going on here.
posted by argybarg at 11:12 AM on January 4, 2003

Longevity has something to do with it, obviously. Dee Dee Ramone toured the world for 20+ years playing songs to crowds that knew every word and loved every minute.

Ratt may have sold a lot of records in a short period of time, but less than 10% of my friends know any more Ratt lyrics than "Round and Round, what goes around comes around, I'll tell you why!" I just can't seem to remember why what goes around comes around, but I can sing along to practically any ramones song word for word.

I was way more psyched to meet Dee Dee Ramone than I woulda been to meet the guitar player from Ratt. It's not just that he played bass for the Ramones. He also wrote practically all of their best songs and had a crazy life away from the Ramones. I mean, when Dee Dee got out of rehab in the mid-eighties, he decided to put out a freakin RAP album! It sounded more like the monster mash, but it endeared Dee Dee to punk rock nerds even more.

Plus Dee Dee wrote some interesting books. His autobiography of life in the Ramones is now available on paperback. I even liked his horror novel, featuring the ghosts of Johnny Thunders, Sid Vicious, and Stiv Bators. It looks like a new Dee Dee book has just been published post-mortem, detailing his most recent touring experience. I'll have to pick that up too. Kinda weird that the Amazon review doesn't mention that Dee Dee died last year.

When I heard that Dee Dee passed away, I was almost a little relieved. It seems like he had to struggle all of his life, most of it dealing with drug addiction.

Raysjm: AC/DC isn't analagous to Ratt. AC/DC is closer to the Ramones; a legendary rock band from the 70's that's rested on its laurels since the mid-80s, churning out rehash after rehash of their old hits and selling out concerts full of people who go get a beer during the new material. (I LOVE AC/DC)
posted by wrench at 11:18 AM on January 4, 2003

Love the Ramones, thought Ratt was slightly better than average ("Back For More"). Didn't know about the death in June, didn't know it was AIDS-related. Lesson from both deaths, probably: Drugs are bad, m'kay?

Anyway...on to the more important point: I'd be doing my disco-loving brothers & sisters a dis-service if I didn't point out the following:

metrocake: Disco evolved from "Love is Like Oxygen." WHOA! Sweet's big hit wasn't released until 1978, and while it is, indeed, A Classic and deserves more airplay, we simply can't credit it with creating or otherwise being an important part of the Rise of Disco. For my two cents, that honor belongs to The Hues Corporation..."Rock The Boat," released 1974.
posted by davidmsc at 11:24 AM on January 4, 2003

Google has 15,600 hits for Dee Dee and 1,300 for Robbin Crosby. More famous, more coverage.
posted by dydecker at 11:25 AM on January 4, 2003

Mathowie had an interesting point about Lady Di vs. Mother Teresa, but media celebrity can be a different thing than art/music. The media gatekeepers don't really care if Anna Nicole Smith is "better" or "worse" than Sharon Osbourne. Celebrity is an uncriticized commodity.

On the other hand, paid rock critics do exert a huge influence on how the media weighs the value of different bands (and different deaths). Klosterman, in a mostly decent attempt to be original, does not use the terms high art/low art, but that's basically what this is all about.

I wasn't a fan of either band, so I'll let the rest of you duke it out on that.
posted by kozad at 11:26 AM on January 4, 2003

One of the most musically define moments of my life was when a guy I knew from middle school made a tape with Motley Crue's "Live Wire" backed with Black Flag's "American Waste".
I learned that it didn't matter what genre, as long as it was fast, raw and loud!
(BTW-Ratt's "Lay It Down" kicked ass!)
posted by black8 at 11:28 AM on January 4, 2003

wrench: I didn't think AC/DC was at all analogous to Ratt. There's a certain indefinable spirit to their music that you don't hear in Ratt, although Ratt wasn't half-bad. Ratt was in fact better than most of the hair bands, and the Milton Berle video was particularly inspired. They were far easier on the ears than, say, Poison, who still strike me as pathetic and one of the reasons the '80s was such a terrible decade in which to grow up.
posted by raysmj at 11:36 AM on January 4, 2003

argybarg--if his experience is anything like mine, he probably is enough a music music fan to want to read some thoughtful writing about it, and with a few exceptions(Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh)* what he saw was snarky and condescending. And give the kid credit, he decided to create the criticism he wanted.

Admittedly, Ratt vs. The Ramones may be something of a clumsy comparison, but he is correct in his assertion that Heavy Metal has never been given the serious consideration it deserves as popular music. And we're missing out on some excellent stuff.
posted by jonmc at 11:38 AM on January 4, 2003

Heavy metal is the pro wrestling of music.
posted by wrench at 11:41 AM on January 4, 2003

I make my moves
I make them right
I don't refuse
I keep it light
I take command
Of the scene
Because for me
There's no inbetweens
I keep holdin' on
Holdin' on through the night


Somebody called me on the phone
they said hey, is Dee Dee home?
do you wanna take a walk?
do ya wanna go and cop?
do ya wanna go get some chinese rocks?

I'm living on chinese rocks
all my best things are in hock
I'm living on chinese rocks
everything is in the pawn shop.
posted by dydecker at 11:45 AM on January 4, 2003

I did propose[self-link] the idea of Nuggets style box-set of metal to seperate the steel from the slag, so to speak. Someone call Rhino.
posted by jonmc at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2003

Growing up in rural Texas, it was often difficult for my friends and I as teenagers to become aware that bands such as the Ramones even existed. All of the radio stations in our area played classic or mainstream rock, so the chances of us hearing "Sedated" was pretty much out of the question.
I can still remember my first encounter with The Ramones. My "enlightened" cousin from Dallas came down and slapped a Ramones album on my turntable. About 2 minutes into the album, I thought perhaps the record was skipping. I couldn't figure out for the world why anyone would want to listen to such unimaginative and repititious crap. I don't remember what I did after that, but I probably took the record off, slapped on Out Of The Cellar, and turned the volume up to 11. Because, well, you could really rock to RATT, baby. I mean, I could swing my sprayed and teased hair like crazy to that stuff, man.
Now in my thirties, I have a different view of bands such as RATT and bands such as The Ramones. No, I do not listen to either one, but my views have changed on both styles of music. Ratt intended to have a good time with their music and sell a lot of records. They accomplished that goal, and should be applauded for that effort. The Ramones? They probably just wanted to make beer and heroin money, and went on to become one of the most respected groups of their time, and for that they should also be applauded.
Still, I feel that The Ramones were basically a bunch of marginally talented guys who got extremely lucky. Their music was no more "serious" than that of any other band at the time, including any hair band you want to put them in comparison to.

No, I no longer listen to RATT, as that period of my life has ended and the music no longer speaks for my particular lifestyle. Still, I feel that the music of the eighties gets a fairly large amount of undeserved criticism from a bunch of close-minded RadioHead fans who want to argue the merits of bands like the Ramones, while condemning the music of bands such as RATT.( let the flamewars begin!)
But tell me, what's the basic difference between the "serious lyrics" of The Ramones, (And everytime I eat vegetable, It makes me think of you, And everytime I eat vegetables I don't know what to do , to do ow-ooo) and the "silly and ignorant" lyrics of bands like Ratt? (You gave him an inch, he took you a mile, He made you believe you’re society’s child, Then get in his new car, get in his style, I told you his way, he won’t take you far) -

Not much. It all comes down to how many chords you can handle in your music, I guess. Music is meant to be enjoyed- and quite frankly, millions of fans enjoyed Ratt, just as millions of fans enjoyed The Ramones.
Both bands are really just silly and fun. And that's what good music is all about.
Say what you want about my musical tastes of my youth, but I would much rather watch an endless series of "mindless" hair band videos for days on end than watch Rock and Roll High School again.
As for the bands of the eighties, I think a lot of people overlook the immense talent that some of these hair bands incorporated into their music. Say what you want about bands such as RATT, Motley Crue, WASP, etc... but some of the musicians in these bands could really play. It's unfortunate that their musical careers are left in the shadows by bands with half their talent - who just happened to get lucky and get a good review by a "cultured" music critic.
Lighten up, it's only music.
posted by bradth27 at 11:51 AM on January 4, 2003

To go back to the part that Matt quoted, I think that this is the crux of the matter. Nobody gives a crap about Ratt and their guitarist because, when it gets right down to it, their music didn't strike a chord within the hearts of the population at large. I think a more interesting question would be "why does one band capture the interest of the world instead of another?" Obviously the answer to that is far more complex than can be answered here, but for simplicity's sake, I think that one of the reasons would be accessibility--The Ramone's and punk in general had a more direct relationship with their fans and the critics than Ratt and heavy metal had. People can make easier associations with punk and what punk stands for than with metal.

I'll be honest, here. I've never been a huge fan of punk, but I did go thru a short metal phase. In the light of this, it may seem strange that I'm defending punk, but of my knowledge of the two genres, the one that comes across as being more culturally important due to the statements that are being made and the music that is being created is punk.

Anyway, it doesn't really matter, does it? If one person dies in obscurity and another doesn't, they're both dead. The both of them made their contributions to music history, such as it is, many years ago and the odds of either of them contributing something further at this late stage of their careers would be slim.
posted by ashbury at 11:54 AM on January 4, 2003

but he is correct in his assertion that Heavy Metal has never been given the serious consideration it deserves as popular music.

I disagree. There are numerous heavy metal bands that are respected, such as Iron Maiden.
posted by the fire you left me at 12:01 PM on January 4, 2003

"lighten up it's only music"

This thread rung chords with a book review in the Observer (UK) a couple of weeks ago. Can't find the review online, but the book being discussed was The Mind in The Cave by David Lewis Williams (a book about the development of cave art).

In summary the argument was that art has always acted as a divisive force on human society, allowing one group to develop hatred of another based on the other's inability to appreciate the subtle qualities of 'highbrow' art. The book argues that this started with the destruction of the Neanderthals and has continued ever since, in effect being the driving force behind human development.

Pick your side ; )
posted by Raindog at 12:20 PM on January 4, 2003

Metal ... punk ... it's all the same stuff; here's my proof.
posted by psychoticreaction at 12:31 PM on January 4, 2003

Your proof is that Axl Rose had to get a washed up ex-replacements member to play in his crap band?
posted by wrench at 12:33 PM on January 4, 2003

right you are, psychoticreaction.

BTW, cool username. you may address me as pushintoohard.
posted by jonmc at 12:38 PM on January 4, 2003


That title sounds interesting, and I like the argument... thanks for the mention on the title. I'll have to see if I can get it ordered for my library.
As for this argument, however, I'm not sure if I would let The Ramones be classified as "highbrow" art. There's hardly anything subtle about their music.
Or perhaps I'm a Neanderthal..... huh.
Seriously, it all depends on who calls you highbrow, and what influence that person has on society - my opinion only. Hey, we've all seen Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, so we all know that sooner or later, Heavy Metal will get the respect it deserves.
posted by bradth27 at 12:42 PM on January 4, 2003

GnR is the best example of a band that has or had a foot in both the punk and metal camp (like The Dictators, thanks Jonmc, The Lords, or of course The Dolls). Covers of Fear and The Damned, founding member drummed for The Fastbacks, Stiv Bators epigraphs, Replacements bassist ... if they lived in NY, they'd be called a punk band. And would get way more respect, and no sales at all. Maybe Top Ten is onto something.
posted by psychoticreaction at 1:37 PM on January 4, 2003

i've always thought that the longevity of popularity or memories one has about a band is proportional to the number of future bands influenced by their sound. this, to me, explains why hardly anyone cares about Ratt and they do about the Ramones.

Now come on, I cant be the only music geek of my generation who went in a straight line from the Scorpions to Metallica to the Ramones to the MC5. NTM, the two genres share common ancestors in 60's Detroit hard rock and British glam? The line between two is to a large degree false.

jonmc, no, you're probably not the only music geek to do so. however, you're in the vast minority, in my experience. to me, the difference between "the black flag fan" and "the van halen flag" (when they're not the same person) is that, in most cases, the van halen fan is content to enjoy whatever the radio feeds him/her; the BF fan puts effort into finding out about other music that turns their crank.

in the mid-80s i was a huge genesis fan (and all its offshoots). i also liked whatever was on the radio. i considered music to be one of the more important and defining things in my life.

my first year away at university i had some housemates who exposed me to a ton of artists i'd never heard of, let alone heard. (husker du, tom waits, rem, black flag, crass, etc.).

my reaction? fury.

call me naive but as an 18 year old kid i had assumed that what i heard on the radio was the best of what was available in music. van halen and u2 got play for the same reason pink floyd and phil collins did: they were the best being offered. now, here i was hearing music that was infinitely more sincere, raw, and unique than anything i'd heard before.

i shut off my radio in 1987 and never turned it back on again. as a music lover, it was the smartest thing i ever did. but had someone not taken the time to let me hear these other bands i'd still be listening to u2, et al. and i'd be the lesser for it.

Way to pat yourself on the back there, Mike.

do i think that my current musical tastes make me a better person than the person who listens to the music coming out of the radio? no. not at all. but i know that i'm a better person than i would be if i only listened to the music coming out of the radio. and that makes all the difference.
posted by dobbs at 2:01 PM on January 4, 2003

From the Dictators website:Jerez, Spain, was one big rock summer camp. It was great to see old friends Nashville Pussy, the Bell Rays and the Nomads and new friends Supersuckers and Southern Culture on the Skids.

Those bands all at once...I am literally salivating...

GnR is the best example of a band that has or had a foot in both the punk and metal camp

Maybe it's an west coast thing. From what I've heard and read, the metal vs. punk thing seemed to be a bigger deal there. On the east coast in the 80's both seemed like a great antidote to bad synth-pop top 40. I also remember that there were a select buncha bands that were big among both my punk and metal associates(this would be about 1985-89):Ramones, Metallica, Slayer, Motorhead, AC/DC, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Suicidal Tendencies, the Descendents, and once I played "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out" for my mullethead buds, The 'Mats.
posted by jonmc at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2003

Admittedly, Ratt vs. The Ramones may be something of a clumsy comparison, but he is correct in his assertion that Heavy Metal has never been given the serious consideration it deserves as popular music. And we're missing out on some excellent stuff.

True. Perhaps the best example of this is the recent emergence of certain bands out of the Pacific Northwest and Boston, somewhat centered around Hydrahead Records. Bands like ISIS (led by Hydrahead founder Aaron Turner, now signed to Mike Patton's Ipecac Records), Boston hardcore legends Converge, Dillinger Escape Plan, who are have been described as a grindcore band burning through Miles Davis' Agartha and on whose last EP Mike Patton also sang, and Botch.

They all eschew the cheesiness of traditional metal and are somewhat the synthesis of metal style and punk sincerity and drive, along with a DIY attitude and, perhaps above all, intelligent music (for perhaps the best and most extreme example, check out Dillinger Escape Plan's Calculating Infinity album, though perhaps the best album to come out of the group is ISIS' latest, Oceanic).
posted by The Michael The at 2:46 PM on January 4, 2003

Jon this was a nice way to say RIP regardless if you liked both or either one.

Unless you're saying, let it rip, like let the party begin.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:58 PM on January 4, 2003

Critics tend to love Big Star. They influenced many of the major bands of the 80's and beyond (U2, REM, etc.). When Alex Chilton - leader of Big Star - passes away, I bet he gets no more coverage than Ratt guy - maybe less.

This is because, despite the love of critics, Big Star hasn't really moved many albums. Oh, they still tour, have some devoted fans, but so does, say, The Fixx. Neither group recieves much of a blip on the cultural radar anymore...

The Ramones managed to become icons (the same way that Princess Di became an icon... or that Timothy Leary became an icon... or that Elvis Presley became an icon, for that matter). Icons tend to get more attention than non-icons, especially upon their deaths. Metal has its share of icons as well (Osbourne and Kiss spring to mind - for better or worse).

Were the Ramones a better band than Ratt? That is not for me to say. Did the Ramones, rightly or not, come to symbolize something greater than their record sales? Absolutely.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:50 PM on January 4, 2003

Joey, I'm betting that when Chilton kicks the bucket he'll get plenty of press. Definitely more than "The Ratt Guy" whose name neither you or I seem to be able to remember from X threads above. Hell, I never even heard of him (let alone his death) till this thread.

A couple years ago Chilton was supposed to open for a band in Toronto (I think it was Son Volt). For whatever reason (i can't recall), he didn't. I must have read about his lack of appearance in at least three Toronto publications.
posted by dobbs at 5:58 PM on January 4, 2003

Late to the thread, dasm, but I think Raindog had it right and all of you who are talking about better versus worse or more important v. insignificant are, um, elitist. Not surprising for an educated group of people. And I include myself in this assessment--I think of the bland, sugary music that sells so heavily and want to puke.

So the Ramones and Chilton (both of whom I enjoy) influenced more bands than Ratt? Who influenced more acts that sold more records (using sales as a proxy for popularity), those two combined or Perry Como, Patti Page, or Paul Anka?

My point in both cases is that there is no such thing as better or worse music, except for Beethoven and Bruce Springsteen, only music that each of us as individuals prefers or dislikes.
posted by billsaysthis at 6:15 PM on January 4, 2003

Who is this Chilton person again?
posted by bradth27 at 8:10 PM on January 4, 2003

Wow I had no idea he died. To me personally Ratt was more influential than The Ramones, and I've only heard 3 or 4 Ratt songs.
posted by riffola at 8:13 PM on January 4, 2003

billsaythis: No, those who say one song or band or whatnot is better than another are making aesthetic judgments. This does not make them elitist. However, those who think that a certain class or group would be able, in an ideal world, to decide what everyone would get to hear are expressing elitist sentiment. So would those who think their music is better just because it is favored by their clique or subculture or economic class or what have you.
posted by raysmj at 8:59 PM on January 4, 2003

who is Ratt?
posted by mcsweetie at 9:22 PM on January 4, 2003

If you think you should be embarrassed for liking Ratt, maybe you should be.
posted by micropublishery at 11:44 PM on January 4, 2003

So the Ramones and Chilton (both of whom I enjoy) influenced more bands than Ratt?

i've read their names as influences countless times. i've never once read of anyone being influenced by ratt. no doubt there've been a few, but i think if there were than for the most part:

a) they never played outside their own rec room;
b) if they did, no one liked them enough to ask them who their influences were.

bradth27 and mcsweetie: alex chilton of big star; ratt.
posted by dobbs at 12:25 AM on January 5, 2003

" The reason Crosby's June 6 death was mostly ignored is that his band seemed corporate and fake and pedestrian; the reason Ramone's June 5 death will be remembered is that his band was seen as representative of a counterculture that lacked a voice."


maybe they WERE corporate and pedestrian and if not fake, then hard to take seriously. doesn't mean you can't like 'em. maybe you like junk food too.
posted by asparagus_berlin at 12:27 AM on January 6, 2003

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