End of the Century: The Ramones

Film by Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields Airs Nationally on Independent Lens, the Emmy® Award-Winning Series on PBS Hosted by Susan Sarandon Tuesday, April 26, 2005, at 10pm (check local listings)

The Inside Story Of The Seminal Punk Band, airs in April as Part of Independent Lens's Music Month

(San Francisco) — In 1974, the New York City music scene was shocked into consciousness by the violently new and raw sound of a band of misfits from Queens called the Ramones. Playing such instant classics as “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” and “I Wanna be Sedated” in a seedy Bowery bar to a small group of fellow struggling musicians, the band struck a chord of disharmony that rocked the foundation of the mid-seventies music scene. This quartet of unlikely rock stars traveled across the country and around the world connecting with the disenfranchised everywhere, while sparking a movement that would resonate with two generations of outcasts across the globe. Although the band never reached the top of the Billboard charts, they managed to endure in face of fleeting success and crushing interpersonal conflicts by maintaining a rigorous touring schedule for 22 years. 

Tracing the history of the band, from its unlikely origins, through its star-crossed career, bitter demise and the sad fates of Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny, END OF THE CENTURY is a vibrant, candid document of one of the most influential groups in the history of rock. Featuring interviews with all the band members as well as countless others including Deborah Harry, the late Joe Strummer, Legs McNeil and Eddie Vedder, END OF THE CENTURY: The Ramones, directed by Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia, will have its television debut on Tuesday, April 26, 2005, at 10pm (check local listings) on the PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Susan Sarandon. 

The broadcast is part of Independent Lens' April Music Month, which will also include the broadcast premieres of KEEPING TIME: The Life, Music and Photographs of Milt Hinton and A LION'S TRAIL. The program's interactive companion website www.pbs.org/endofthecentury features detailed information about the film, including an interview with the filmmakers, cast and crew bios, as well as links and resources pertaining to the film's subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film and more. 

END OF THE CENTURY begins at the end of the Ramones' career with their 2002 induction into the Rock ‘n' Roll Hall of Fame. Here, the wayward sons of rock were honored by an industry that had largely ignored them for their entire career. It was a triumphant yet bittersweet night for the band. As drummer Tommy Ramone acknowledged in his acceptance speech, members of the group were still bickering and battling over issues that transcended even the death of their singer, Joey Ramone. Despite the ongoing rancor, Tommy recalled the common background and bonds of brotherhood that recent animosity couldn't obscure. 

The story of the Ramones began in their childhood neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens, where they shared childhoods filled with alienation and angst, salvaged only by their common love of underground music like Iggy and the Stooges and the New York Dolls. As we learn through interviews with Johnny, Dee Dee, Joey and Tommy, as young kids the Ramones were headed nowhere. Sharing a penchant for delinquency, glue sniffing and dark humor, they decided to form a band. Learning to make music by simply picking up their instruments, they unveiled their unique sound at the legendary CBGB on the Lower East Side. 

With their stripped-down sound and machine-gun fast attack, the band quickly became the darlings of the New York underground music scene. Before long, Andy Warhol, Malcolm McLaren and legendary manager Danny Fields were all in the audience. Danny offered to be their manager on the spot and the band accepted provided that he provide them with the necessary funds ($3000) for a new drum set. Danny then brought them to the attention of Sire Records head Seymour Stein who signed them immediately. Although their first album, The Ramones, sold poorly in the U.S., it is now commonly acknowledged as a landmark album and became an underground favorite in London. 

On July 4, 1976, the Ramones invaded the U.K. and inspired the nascent English punk rock scene. Members of The Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Damned, and Chrissy Hynde—all of whom had yet to make their musical debuts—appeared at their first gig. The Ramones blitzed London yet returned to the States to mass indifference. Wherever they played, only a small crowd of misfits showed up. Yet the Ramones inspired numerous local bands who bought their “do it yourself” philosophy. Back in New York, the band had a record deal but no money. They all lived with Arturo Vega, their lifelong art director, in his East Village loft. As their popularity grew, they became major rock stars, if only in the eyes of rock journalists. At about that time, the bands from England, that the Ramones had in a sense begat, exploded. The politically charged lyrics and the highly stylized images of the Clash and the Sex Pistols drew the attention of the world press and the Ramones were relegated to the background. From that moment, the Sex Pistols were commonly referred to as the creators of punk rock and its origin traced to London, rather than the Bowery. The Ramones countered the punk invasion with two of their best albums, Rocket to Russia (1977) and Road to Ruin (1978), although neither album broke through commercially in the U.S. 

The stress of touring and the pressure to sell records put a great deal of strain on the group's interpersonal relationships. Tommy–drummer, producer and one of the founders–left the band and in a desperate attempt to release a hit record, the group enlisted the services of legendary producer Phil Spector. Joey, who had pushed the band to experiment a little and make a different kind of album, was the impetus behind the union. On paper, the pairing of the two made sense, as the Ramones drew much of their inspiration from the kind of pop songs Spector was known for. But the reality of the working relationship was very different. Almost immediately, Dee Dee and Phil, both eccentrics in their own right, clashed with the veteran producer, who once forced Dee Dee to play at gunpoint. The strain of the sessions caused the engineer to suffer a heart attack and the result, End of the Century (1980), was to no one's liking. The band was never the same, with the relationship between Johnny and Joey, already strained, completely ruptured by the end of recording. 

Following disappointing record sales, the band resigned itself to the fact that they would probably never be a chart-topping recording act. Johnny viewed being a rock star as a means of employment, recording an album every couple of years and touring constantly. After Tommy's departure, Johnny and Joey butted heads over the direction of the band. Johnny wanted to make the same music in the familiar Ramones mode, while Joey fought for creative change. A full-blown power struggle ensued and the aggression intensified when Joey's long-term girlfriend left him for Johnny. Joey was heartbroken and the relationship between the two was fractured for good. Though they continued to tour together for years, they never spoke again. As the 1980s moved forward, the touring continued to be the band's sole source of income. Marky Ramone (who replaced Tommy) succumbed to alcoholism and was kicked out, only to return later. Dee Dee decided to experiment with rap music and released a solo album, much to Johnny's embarrassment. Shortly thereafter, Dee Dee, overcome with exhaustion and bloated by antidepressants, left the band, his wife and his psychiatrist. 

Despite it all, Johnny refused to give up. He found CJ, a younger, cheaper version of Dee Dee, and continued the never-ending tour for another eight years. With Dee Dee's replacement, the band entered a new decade with a renewed influence on the bands that would become the grunge movement. CJ, who was a lifelong fan of the band, found that the “united” front he'd admired was anything but. Their relationships were splintering even further, but the band found acceptance in South America where screaming fans filled 30,000-seat arenas shouting Hey, ho, let's go! Much of this late career success was mitigated by the deteriorated relationships and constant feuding. The premature deaths of Joey, and Dee Dee and Johnny, were sad punctuations to the legacy. In the end, the music industry recognized the huge influence the band has had over two generations of rock music. As Legs McNeil says in the film, “The Ramones saved rock and roll.” 

Producer/Directors: Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields
Editors: John Gramaglia and Jim Fields NYC
Also Produced By Rosemary Quigley and Chinagraph George Seminara
Executive Producers: Jan Rofekamp, Diana Holtzberg, Andrew Hurwitz
Music Supervisor: Tracy McKnight, Camera David Bowles, Jim Fields, John Gramaglia, Michael Gramaglia, Peter Hawkins, Robert Pascal, George Seminara
Backstage & Road Footage: Marky Ramone
Super 8mm of South America Footage: Eddie Vedder 

Joey (Jeffrey Hyman) – vocals
Johnny (John Cummings) – guitar
Dee Dee (Douglas Colvin) – bass
Tommy (Tom Erdelyi) – drums, producer
Marky (Marc Bee) – drums
C.J. (Christopher John Ward) – bass
Ritchie (Ritchie Reinhart) – drums 

(More information on the band members is available at www.ramones.com) 

Michael Gramaglia (Co-director/Producer) was born in 1964, living his early life in Mamaroneck, New York. The son of a feature soundman, Gramaglia was raised in a family with extensive ties to the film world. After graduating high school, he worked as boom and video operator for eight years. He lived in Rome, Italy for three years where he apprenticed under Vittorio Storaro. Upon his return to the U.S., Gramaglia daylighted in an entertainment financial management firm where he worked with and befriended the Ramones. END OF THE CENTURY is Gramaglia's first feature film. He lives in Queens, New York with his wife, two cats and a dog. 

Jim Fields (Co-director/Producer, Co-editor) was born in Manhattan in 1964 and grew up in Larchmont, New York. He met Michael Gramaglia at Mamaroneck High School where they shared an enthusiasm for super-8mm filmmaking, the Ramones, the Clash, the Buzzcocks, Elvis Costello, the Cars, Blondie and many others. After graduating from Vassar College in 1986, Fields became an apprentice editor and, later, an editor and graphic designer for TV commercials, music videos and long-format projects. Fields has edited and directed for a wide variety of clients including MTV, NBC, SONY Music and The Howard Stern Show. END OF THE CENTURY is Fields' first feature film. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and baby son. 

Brother of Michael, John Gramaglia (Principal editor), was born in 1966. After working in production and sound recording for eight years, he joined commercial editorial house Dennis Hayes & Associates in 1994. He joined Chinagraph Editorial in 1997, continuing his career in film editing as a staff editor. Having been a musician in New York rock bands for some twenty years, Gramaglia's musical sense has given him a strong talent for music editing. He has edited commercials, EPKs, music videos and documentaries. His music videos include spots for Coal Chamber, Mark Lizotte, Olu and Slipknot. 

About Independent Lens 
Independent Lens is an Emmy Award-winning weekly series airing Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. Hosted by Susan Sarandon, the acclaimed anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history, which prompted Nancy Franklin to write in The New Yorker: “Watching Independent Lens... is like going into an independent bookstore—you don't always find what you were looking for but you often find something you didn't even know you wanted.” Presented by ITVS, the series is supported by interactive companion websites, and national publicity and community outreach campaigns. Further infor-mation about the series is available at www.pbs.org/independentlens. Independent Lens is jointly curated by ITVS and PBS, and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding provided by PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

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Contact: Mary Lugo, 770/623-8190, lugo@negia.net
Randall Cole, 415/356-8383 x254, randall_cole@itvs.org
Desiree Gutierrez, 415/356-8383 x244, desiree_gutierrez@itvs.org

Posted on March 7, 2005