Ramone's Final Riff

A review of Johnny Ramone's autobiography


Commando (Abrams Image), the posthumously published autobiography of punk pioneer Johnny Ramone, is not a typical rock 'n' roll confessional. Better, it is a collection of defiantly grouchy anecdotes from an iconoclast in business as well as music.

A lifelong conservative, Ramone delighted in torturing his band mates by listening to Rush Limbaugh in the tour van. Obsessed with saving for retirement and dismissive of artistic pretensions, he unapologetically sold Ramones songs for commercials. Always the contrarian, Johnny gave up drugs after becoming a professional musician, preferring to spend his down time watching baseball and horror movies.

Johnny realized early that the Ramones would never be pop superstars. As de facto manager, he kept band members on a strict weekly salary and made sure they reaped the lion's share of profits from T-shirt sales. His insistence on relentless touring—to keep the Ramones brand in the Zeitgeist—paid off in an astonishingly long run as cultural icons. —Anthony Fisher