The Ramones are one of those bands it should be impossible to compile, because listening to them for anything more than half an hour outside of a live environment is frankly absurd. The key to the band’s greatness was how direct and concise their songs were, so to string dozens of them end to end inevitably lessens their impact. This also means that something like a boxed set, or even a two CD compilation, is just far too much Ramones to digest. Hell, any compilation of their work that clocks in at over an hour is probably going to lose you.
Thankfully the clever folk at Rhino Records realised this and that there was a gap in the market for a relatively brief ‘best of’ style compilation jamming as many of the bands best known cuts with as little filler as possible. 20 tracks in 50 minutes is the correct balance between being definitive without watering down The Ramones’ legacy.
And what a legacy it is – the touch-stone for every punk act on either side of the Atlantic, thus making Sex Pistols look like little more than a provincial storm in a tea cup by comparison. They also remained the punks with the purest aesthetic. While it could be argued that The Clash were a far more influential act musically, it was The Ramones that were the greater rock and roll band.
Perhaps that is where The Ramones strength truly lied, the fact that the two minute rock and roll single was so undeniably part of their DNA and that they remained as pure to that (slightly bizarre collaborations with Phil Spector aside) as they could. While Buzzcocks are the act most often pointed to at being punks greatest pop band, there are at least a dozen tracks on this compilation that put that band’s collected works very much in the shade and frankly, chances are Diggle and Shelley would agree with that whole-heartedly. While they couldn’t boast the sales of the bands they influenced, The Ramones had a bigger influence on the Punk movement that followed than any other act.
Yep, even The Stooges.