“End of the Century” takes viewers back to the music scene in New York City (circa 1974) that never saw the Ramones coming, but proved to be precisely what rock enthusiasts were seeking when they debuted their sound at CBGB’s. The film charts the band’s origin and gives homage to their unquestionable and steadfast influence on music as we know it today. Despite the group’s 18 albums and strenuous touring schedule over a 22-year span that brought them unprecedented international success, the seminal group never achieved the commercial success in the U.S. that they had hoped for in their time.
A slew of interviews ranging from their childhood chums to the late Joe Strummer offer personal and memorable anecdotes and reflections on the band, about growing up with its members, a range of experiences working with them on the road and the impressions left upon members of future bands like the Damned, the Sex Pistols and the Clash, who were in the audience of the Ramones’ first gig in the UK. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy reminisce in separate interviews about the music that withstood the combustive difference in the personalities of its makers, and how they managed and failed to withstand each other by the end of the band’s career.
“End of the Century” begins and ends with the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is somewhat bleak, considering that only original Ramones drummer, Tommy Ramone, remains. Though the film gives the Ramones its long-overdue credit, it is a candid, unforgiving and surprising look into one of rock’s most historic bands. And though the story of the Ramones is not without your standard struggles with drug addiction, depression and troubled relationships between band members, Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields direct it fittingly as sui generis. So if you just want to have something to do tonight, see “End of the Century” and witness how the Ramones, as Legs McNeil says, “saved rock and roll.”