Tuesday, February 7, 2017


This week's arts and culture piece is on The Ramones, the iconic band that kick-started punk.

Here's how it begins:

Talking to my little brother Joe on the phone recently, we began reminiscing about growing up on the coast of New Hampshire. Five years apart, we’d never known that, as teenagers, we’d both kept a beat-up radio under our bed that we’d listen to, at the lowest possible volume so our parents wouldn’t hear, late at night.

“The songs!” I mused. “‘You Got Me Babe,’ ‘Downtown,’ ‘Morning Angel.’ Plus, very faintly in the distance, you could hear the traffic from I-95.”

“Yeah,” Joe agreed. “You heard those cars, traveling north and south in the night, and you knew you were on the verge of something. You didn’t know quite what it was, but you felt you were on the verge of something exciting and important.”

I grew up to be a writer. Joe grew up to head a punk band called The Queers.

That pretty much sums up my connection to punk. When I’m alone in the car, I tend to listen to Billie Holliday or Bach.

But I’ve always appreciated the raw DIY exuberance of punk, the insistence upon dressing like juvenile delinquents well into middle age and the songs glorifying the halcyon, tortured days of adolescence that, in my brother’s case, include “Teenage Bonehead,” “I Can’t Stand You” and “Hi Mom, It’s Me!”


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