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Anchor Bay presents
Too Tough To Die: A Tribute To Johnny Ramone (2007)

"I'd never heard anything like that before. Or anything that looked like that before."
- Eddie Vedder

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: November 17, 2008

Stars: Tommy Ramone, Marky Ramone, C.J. Ramone, Linda Ramone, Joe Sib, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eddie Vedder, Rob Zombie, Deborah Harry, The Dickies, X, Henry Rollins, Pete Yorn, Lisa Marie Presley, Dicky Barrett, Joan Jett, Steve Jones, Thurston Moore, Tim Armstrong, Gary Kurfirst, Arturo Vega, Chris Stein, Clem Burke, Mickey Leigh, Danny Fields, Linda Stein, Seymour Stein, Monte Melnick, Daniel Rey, Nicolas Cage, Lawrence Katz, Brett Gurewitz, Josh Homme, Bill Stevenson
Director: Mandy Stein

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language)
Run Time: 01h:16m:24s
Release Date: November 04, 2008
UPC: 013131523393
Genre: music


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B-B C+

DVD Review

The Ramones are rightfully credited with inventing punk rock, and the band's influence on future generations has sort of become the stuff of legend. The tragic weirdness of having three members of the band—Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny—die within three years of one another beginning in 2001 was some kind of cruel affirmation that the Ramones as we knew and loved them had officially ceased to be, forever.

When guitarist Johnny Ramone was in the final stages of a battle with prostate cancer in 2004, a celebratory 30th anniversary tribute concert was staged in September at The Avalon in Los Angeles, sadly only two days before he eventually passed way. Too Tough To Die remains as a three-chord eulogy to Johnny and the band, hosted by Rob Zombie and featuring a number of performances by artists who were shaped and formed by the Ramones.

Directed by Mandy Stein—daughter of Sire Records founder Seymour Stein and the man who wisely first signed the band—Too Tough To Die barrels back and forth between concert film and documentary, with performances occasionally broken up by comments from musicians, all citing how important the Ramones were to them. It's part history lesson/part memorial/part concert, and Stein never steps away from the music too long, so that even if a tune is interrupted by a few words it isn't long before it's back to the stage. I tend to be a purist, and typically dislike when songs are not presented in their uninterrupted entirety, but here it flows rather well. Though perhaps that's because the event takes on a larger presence, no longer simply a concert, but a farewell. Rob Zombie serves as the master of ceremonies, introducing bands as well as at one point leading the crowd in a chorus of "hey ho, let's go" as he holds up a cell phone for the too-ill-to-attend Johnny to hear.

The set list here is nearly all Ramones tunes, presented with the same fast and familiar 1-2-3-4 tempo, and hearing Eddie Vedder tackle Sheena Is A Punk Rocker or seeing Black Flag's Henry Rollins team up with Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones for Blitzkrieg Bop is joyously cool. Ramones producer Daniel Rey, drummer Marky Ramone, and bassist C.J. Ramone serve as the de facto house band for a good part of concert, providing backing to performers like Pete Yorn, Rancid's Tim Armstrong, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Dickey Barrett. There's no reinterpreting of the Ramones here, no artistic modifications. This is an homage, a memorial, and the intensity of the music—even as X performs their own songs ("sort of X's Ramones' songs" according to John Doe)—there is a Ramones-worthy kind of breakneck pacing in all of the performances.

Stein's film closes with footage of Johnny's memorial service, and the heartfelt goodbyes of folks like Eddie Vedder, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, and C.J. Ramone actually got me a little misty-eyed.

Hey ho, let's go.

Set List:

The Dickies: Today Your Love Tomorrow The World
The Dickies: You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla) *
X: Los Angeles
X: Because I Do *
Red Hot Chili Peppers: I Just Want To Have Something To Do
Red Hot Chili Peppers: I Wanna Be Sedated *
Red Hot Chili Peppers: She's The One *
Red Hot Chili Peppers: It's A Long Way Back
Daniel Rey/Marky Ramone/C.J. Ramone: Durango 95 *
Daniel Rey/Marky Ramone/C.J. Ramone: Wart Hog *
Pete Yorn: Don't Come Close *
Pete Yorn: I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
Dickey Barrett/Lawrence Katz: Bonzo Goes To Bitburg *
Tim Armstrong/Brett Gurewitz: Cretin Hop *
Eddie Vedder: Believe In Miracles
Eddie Vedder: Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
Henry Rollins/Steve Jones: Judy Is A Punk *
Henry Rollins/Steve Jones: Commando *
Henry Rollins/Steve Jones: Blitzkrieg Bop
Joan Jett: Judy Is A Punk
Josh Homme: Teenage Lobotomy

* indicates performance is occasionally interrupted by interview segments

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay has issued Stein's concert doc in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it's a clean print, with no measurable evidence of dirt or debris. The interview segments and concert footage carry plenty of bright colors, though onstage, edges tend to become noticeably soft. Periodic crowd shots reveal a bit of ringing here and there, but nothing overly detrimental.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Ramones were hardly a hi-fidelity outfit, so the 2.0 stereo mix is not only more than workable, it somehow seems fitting. The musical performances sound clean, and retain clarity even at very high volume levels. No hiss, no buzz, no crackle.

Nice.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Midnight Movies, Buy The Ticket Take The Ride, New Orleans: Music In Exile
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Joe Sib, Linda Cummings Ramone, Mandy Stein
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Aside from a trailer for the feature, the only other extra is a sometimes meandering commentary track from director Mandy Stein, Johnny's wife Linda, and self-described "punk rocker" Joe Sib. There are a number of silent gaps, but the input from Sib remains the highpoint, though much of the content is hardly revealing. As far as I'm concerned, Stein's concert film/documentary speaks for itself and doesn't necessarily require any added layers of insight.

The disc is cut into 16 chapters.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

A wonderful celebration of the songs and influence of the Ramones by an assortment of performers that captures not only their buzzsaw spirit, but the long lasting force the band had on the future of rock music. The image transfer is so-so and the audio is only 2.0 stereo, but don't let that dissuade you.

I only wish that I could have been there. Highly recommended.

 


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