Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Ramones: American Punk Rock Band by Brian Bowe

The Ramones: American Punk Rock Band by Brian J. Bowe
ISBN: 1598452134
Enslow Publishers 2010
128 p.

Plot Summary: Bowe's book serves as a biography of The Ramones, considered by many to be the founding fathers of punk rock. They were loud, energetic, and angry. Bowe describes one of their first shows in England as being one of the most important of their careers, the breaking point. Next, Bowe describes the each member, divulging interesting details such as Joey's struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder and Dee Dee's troubled home life. The New York Dolls, MC5, and The Stooges were some of the Ramones' biggest influences, they cited these bands as the most "real" in rock and roll at the time. In the 1970s, CBGB in New York opened becoming one of the most legendary punk clubs in existence, and one that the Ramones would call home a number of times. Bowe also describes the meaning behind "Gabba Gabba Hey," a chant that encouraged inclusiveness at the Ramones' live shows.

Critical Analysis: As far as young adult non-fiction goes, I found this book to be both entertaining and informative. The book is well put together and the pictures and art inside are pleasing to the eyes. Bowe's writing style is formal, much like a documentary on the band's history. The book also includes a helpful timeline and discography to keep track of the legendary band's career.

Part of the criticism I have is that this book is almost too formally written. It reads more like a report than a book that was written by a journalist or author who actually enjoys and listens to the Ramones' music. In the same vein, it is difficult to tell what audience the book is aiming for. It seems slightly too disorganized to be helpful for say a school report, but is too formally written to offer much entertainment.

I also think that the book lacked any analysis from the author. When speaking of "Gabba Gabba Hey," Bowe merely prattled off facts and figures from other books instead of offering his own ideas on the subject. Reading other reviews, it seems that this book does not get all of its details right, so perhaps it was written in a hurry. Bowe is a journalist, so perhaps the too-formal tone that lacks analytical ideas can be attributed to that.

Reader's Annotation: The Ramones are considered to be the founders of punk rock. Follow them through the good, the bad, and the downright strange and hear their story.

Author Information: Bowe is a journalist who has written a few other books in this nonfiction series, including one on Judas Priest and The Clash.

Source: author page

Genre: nonfiction, music

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: What are some of the Ramones' ideals? How did each of the members' past affect their songwriting later?

Why do you think The Ramones are considered the founding fathers of punk?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 12-16

Challenge Issues: N/A

Challenge Defense Ideas: No challenge issues come to mind when reading this book. The best defense is having a strong knowledge of the book, so becoming familiar with it by reading reviews, finding other opinions, and reading it one's self is a good start. One could also refer to the library's collection development policy here.

Why I included this title: As a teenager, I found rock history and shows like Behind the Music on VH1 to be quite interesting and I thought including this might be fun. The teenage years are very formative in what one will listen to later I think, so learning the who's who of one's favorite genre of music early on can be a good thing.

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