Praise for "Why the Ramones Matter"

"The Ramones were an answered prayer, the antidote to mellotron solos and stadium power ballads.... This book explains why they not only mattered, but were a vital, inspirational, earth shattering force."
- Anthony Bourdain
“What's best about Gaines's vision of the Ramones is that it extends into the present. No one has written better about pure punk and resurgent fascism.”
-Robert Christgau
“Gaines whips up a literary three chord meal that she baked in her five-borough heart, and serves it with side orders of grit, wit, and grace. As it should be, this meal is fat and gluten free. Donna is smart, and she’s tough, and she’s family. But, more than even most of their own family members (yours truly excepted), she knows why the Ramones matter!!”
- Mickey Leigh, musician and author of I Slept with Joey Ramone
"Donna is an old friend of mine and the Ramones, for many, many years, she’s a fan and a true believer in the Ramones. Who better to tell us why the Ramones saved rock & roll? Donna hits the nail right on the head with this wonderful book as she tells us “Why The Ramones Matter.”
Monte Melnick, Ramones Tour Manager/Author On The Road With the Ramones.
“Dr. Donna Gaines uses her own love of the Ramones, as well as the stories of diehard fans to prove definitively the lasting impact the band continues to have 22 years after retirement. She not only relies on personal testimonies, but subjects the band’s legacy to a full diagnosis through the lens of her own chosen discipline, sociology. As a veteran member of the Ramones and a life long fan, Donna speaks for me and everyone of us who found our salvation in the only band that really mattered to the outsider in us all."
CJ Ramone, Bass Player, Ramones
"Donna Gaines combines the perspective of sociology and the immediacy of memoir in an extended love letter, at once moving and insightful, to one of the most important and musically enduring American bands of the 20th century. Why the Ramones Matter places the group in social context, tracking their careers through their origins on Long Island, early days in the East Village, their formative role in the Punk Internationale, and beyond -- chronicling a group that made rock music democratic again."
- Paul DiMagggio, Sociologist, Princeton University
"I loved Johnny Ramone's bio, Commando, immensely, but when I read Donna Gaines' book, it was like a bolt of lightening struck me. I always knew I was different. And I loved the Ramones, the music, their look, the music, their attitude, the music, and nobody else did. I had no one to talk to but myself about how amazing the Ramones were and how much they meant to me. In Why The Ramones Matter, Donna spells it out clearly; Why they were so very important! I'm waiting and hoping the rest of humanity catches on but in the meantime, I Don't Care. SO many Ramones fans knew the band really was important but no one would listen and then finally Donna’s book made us all feel better about ourselves. That it wasn't all for nothing. "
- Jenni Madden Ramone

Praise from Around the Web

Take the chapter titled PAF, which initially appears to be a discussion about how the band are Punk As Fuck. In this segment, she jumps from anomie (“the condition of normlessness”) to punk as a response to post-World War II norm culture to the identities inherent in Judiasm to trauma to individualism to DIY culture. Phew! It sounds like a lot—it sounds laborious—but Gaines has the uncanny ability to weave these disparate short threads together into a greater piece of work. The buzzsaw pace of her ideas, like songs on Ramones albums, demand that you dive back in and check again.
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Long Island Weekly
For Dr. Donna Gaines, it’s no accident that a group with such limited commercial success would not only go on to define a genre of music, but would have an influence that went far beyond three chords and a rebellious attitude. An international expert on youth violence and culture with a Ph.D. in sociology and a master’s degree in social work, Gaines makes this point throughout last year’s Why the Ramones Matter.
(Read the full interview)

First of the Month
While Gaines displays the most warmth for Joey and Dee Dee, she gives each Ramone his due, showing how the perspective and contribution of each member created the perfect punk storm of the band. While some critics dismissed their later work as worn out and growthless, Gaines finds something to admire in each stage of their career.
Who is the intended audience for Gaines’ book? As she notes, those of us who lived it find the question of why the Ramones matter absurd. Still, it’s fun reading, like sharing stories of a loved one with other people, some of whom knew them in a different context. Ideally it will reach people like my physical therapist, who, noticing my shirt said, “The Ramones, huh? People say they’re important, but I never got it.” While no words can make anyone “get it,” hopefully readers will be led to explore the music, the true convincer of what the Ramones gave us and why they matter.
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Please Kill Me
Generations of fans have found their path through the unifying power of The Ramones, a band which for them has become a de facto higher power. One such fan is Rockaway Beach native Dr. Donna Gaines, whose new book on the band, Why The Ramones Matter (University of Texas Press) explores the group’s legacy through the dual lenses of her doctorate in sociology and her experiences as a lifelong fan. As a wild-child who cultivated the fine art of hanging out on Brooklyn street corners, Gaines responded to the punk manifesto proposed by The Ramones, the band’s 1976 debut album, with a full-throated Gabba Gabba Hey! Inspired by her time as a teen “making the scene” she went on to earn a doctorate in sociology and to write for Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, Salon and other publications. She also cultivated a friendship with several members of The Ramones. Her first book, Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia’s Dead End Kids, published in 1991, was hailed as a seminal book on youth culture. On a recent afternoon, Gaines sat down to talk with PKM about all things punk, Ramones and their sociological legacies.
(Read the full interview)

The Current
Gaines's first chapter could stand alone as an essay running through the essentials of the Ramones' impact. They democratized rock by embodying a DIY aesthetic; their furiously cool aesthetic gave license to rockers of all creeds and colors, ultimately becoming foundational to the entire alternative and independent scene. They made New York the iconic heart of rock and roll...but in removing that heart from Memphis, something was lost. The rest of Gaines's book grapples with that, in various ways.
The Ramones were white guys. Their fans were largely white guys; as Gaines notes, wives and girlfriends regularly joined their touring entourage in part because so few women came to their shows, they couldn't have had (heterosexual) groupies if they'd wanted to. Even more problematically, Johnny and Dee Dee had a weird thing for...well, as Gaines puts it, half of the band was Jewish, half was obsessed with Nazis.
The band's relationship to Nazi and fascist ideas and imagery was part subversive, part ironic, part sincere. Johnny was a scary guy, and genuinely a political conservative who loved Reagan. Life wasn't always comfortable for his Jewish bandmates, and certainly the Ramones were never reliable progressive champions like the Clash or as focused in their blows against the empire as the Sex Pistols. When your ideal is for a song to have three words, well, things can get ambiguous.
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Loud Alien Noize - RUSSIA
This book is written by a Ramones’ enthusiast — it means more than just being a fan, it means living the Ramones. Donna Gaines is not only a sociologist and acknowledged writer — she’s a bright ambassador out of the Ramones’ target audience camp, which is important and even precious, this alone makes the book unique. New York native, who else could tell it better?.. But, within sociology, it also reveals to be a fascinating journey. A fan, and also a close friend of the band, Donna offers the best of both worlds: stories to tell and insights you’ll be willing to sink in.
While answering the aforementioned question, the also book captures a surprisingly wide variety of subjects, from the alienation of the post-war teenage generation to a Jewish sardonic, critical response to fascism (highly interesting topic) and from Afro-Punk all-access facility to women rights problems — and fests true open-mindness. In the eye of this storm, Donna masterfully operates within this rich material, unveiling surprising links where you probably wouldn’t expect them to be found, skillfully connecting the subjects and helping to determine reasons, showing the roots, sometimes not quite mercifully — but all because of unconditional love. This is what good doctors do. --Julia Green
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Tonyface - ITALY
E' l'amara ma veritiera conclusione del libro e saggio sociologico della giornalista (Rolling Stone, Spin, The Village Voice) e scrittrice new yorkese Donna Gaines che rivive la vicenda dei RAMONES in prima persona (avendoli intervistati, frequentati ed essendo stata buona amica di Joey). Una band profondamente divisa all'interno con Johnny despota e tirannico, Dee Dee tossico, Joey problematico e negli ultimi anni gravemente malato ma che era una sola cosa nel momento in cui portava avanti la sua "missione", un'entità unica, compatta, nel macinare centinaia di migliaia di kilometri per i 2.263 concerti della lunga carriera. La Gaines analizza e dimostra l'importanza che ha avuto la band sulle generazioni a loro contemporanee e successive, approfondisce il rapporto con i simboli nazisti che spesso sono apparsi nelle loro canzoni (buona parte di loro e della crew era di origine ebrea), una delle prime band che li utilizzò per schernire e ridurre a macchiette gli incubi dei loro genitori, riporta testimonianze e aneddoti, sottolinea come furono tra i primi a contestualizzare le donne all'inerno del punk ("Sheena is a punk rocker", "Judy is a punk"). I RAMONES non dimenticarono mai da dove venivano, chi erano e per chi suonavano. Divennero eroi intoccabili per i loro fan. Diedero loro una speranza, un scopo, una formula per sopravvivere nelle periferie di un'America devastata dove la vita di un adolescente non ha alcun senso, futuro, nessuna prospettiva e a nessuno sembra importare nulla. Un libro che accende una nuova e differente luce su una band indimenticabile e indimenticata. -Tony Face
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Skug - Music Culture - AUSTRIA
Joey, the father of punk, would have loved reading Why The Ramones Matter. Once he stood on stage with the Village Voice in hand, pointing out that Donna Gaines’ article is the best that has ever been written on the Ramones. For Joey, punk was about real feelings, passion, heart and soul; for Donna Gaines too, and she adds the sociological level.
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Praise for "A Misfit's Manifesto"

She was raised in Rock-Rock-Rockaway Beach, so how could Donna Gaines have emerged from
grad school as anything but a rock-music sociologist? A Misfit's Manifesto is Gaines' memoir of how a slightly overweight Jewish girl in 1950s-era Queens, New York, managed to overcome the deaths of her father and stepfather, learned to drive Catholic boys crazy with her feminine wiles, wrote a definitive study of teen-metalhead culture (1991 's Teenage Wasteland), and became a confidante of her borough's patron saint, Joey Ramone, in his final years. An unrepentant romantic (and Spin contributor), Gaines relates how her early love of girl groups like the Shangri-Las yielded quickly to surf rock and how an obsession with hometown boy Johnny Thunders turned her on to punk rock and heavy metal. "I grew up an abject fat girl" says Gaines, "and people need to see that they don't have to end up feeling miserable and crazy. They can grow up to feel really proud of who they are." These days, she lives in Manhattan, though she's spending more and more time on eastern Long Island pursuing her second love: target shooting. "People are either gonna love it or hate it: she says of her intensely personal writing style. "I worry about how I'll react if reviewers say something mean about me personally. But I have all sorts of ways to protect myself. One is, I collect guns."
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Donna Gaines, a writer perched between academia and journalism who has staked her life and career on rock' n' roll, knows the drugs don't work. Or the booze. Or, she now realizes, the sugar. "I've been off it since July," she says. This is definitely not the woman who careens through most of her memoir, A Misfit's Manifesto (Villard), which bears this self-portrait: "Hello, I'm Donna...a bourbon-guzzling, pill-popping, penis-addicted workaholic. But above all, a sugar-fiending cookie whore. I'd almost always rather have that bag of Nantuckets."
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Rock 'n' roll has saved Gaines' life, over and overagain, from the time she was an awkward hair-sprayed kid in Rockaway Beach, Queens, sniffing glue and praying at the altar of the Shangri-Las; during her life and times as an in-demand metal expert on talk shows and panels in the age of the PMRC; and on through her stint as a professor at Barnard College. All the while, she was nursing a drug and alcohol addiction and an eating disorder; the illnesses left a hole in her soul the size of a Chevy Impala.
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FOOTNOTES - American Sociological Association
With sociology as her “lens on life,” Donna Gaines’ music expertise and love of writing illuminate the redemptive properties of popular culture.

Donna is a punk rocker. This statement is a reference to a song by the punk rock band the Ramones and an apt description of Donna Gaines. “Edgy, smart, and fast,” describes the music Gaines loves, and it’s a phrase that has been used to describe her.

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If Donna Gaines' memoir, "A Misfits Manifesto," were expressed as music, it would be the kind of song she loves: rock and roll that's edgy and smart and fast and rollicking along with the rhythm of the street, fueled by the rebel attitude that's been at the core of rock since her childhood in the 1950s. Gaines is a bundle of contradictions - a glue-sniffing, pill-popping teen-ager who now is "Dr. Gaines" and lectures the world over on adolescent violence and angst; a feminist who is a card-carrying member of the NRA and a porn connoiseur; a Jewish girl who crossed the lines early and fell for Irish boys; a two-time college dropout who is a renowned writer and academician. The only consistency in her life seems to be that she does everything at full-throttle, living her life like great rock and roll.
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Gaines' second book, a memoir titled "A Misfit's Manifesto: The Spiritual Journey of a Rock & Roll Heart" (Villard, $24.95), explores many of "Teenage Wasteland's" themes, including acute isolation and the solace of pop music. Fat and lonely as a child, Gaines loved music, and as a teenager, she found community as a "burnout" in Far Rockaway. She later found family - and spirituality - in rock and roll subcultures. "I wanted to look more specifically at how music kept people alive, and how that was especially true in the suburbs," she explains.
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"A rock & roll memoir from "Rock, Rock, Rockaway Beach," that perfectly illustrates all of our transitions from unbearable adolescent agony to black leather jacket cool - with all the misery, hysterical humor, confusion and madness the completes the process. A fun read for anyone who's life was saved by rock & roll."
Legs McNeil, co-author of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

"Dr. Donna's no ivory tower academic; hers is a socio-illogic overview from the underbelly, a coming of ageless tale with the electricity and passion of a guitar in full feedback."
Lenny Kaye, Guitarist, Critic, Author

"Donna Gaines is the soul sister of every woman who's never entertained the notion of buying into anyone else's Rules or brand of 'living' for a New York minute."
Deborah Frost, Musician, Critic

"When a savvy sociologist of culture examines her own life--perhaps a life like no other--the results are astonishing, and as a cultural analysis of recent times, Gaines' autobiography will become a fundamental source. A charming paean to her family and heritage, it's also mercilessly frank, hilarious, terrifying, and oddly uplifting."
Alan Sica, Sociologist, Penn State University

"Donna Gaines has invented a new genre - the socioautobiography, a book of enormous energy, caring, and wisdom that proves, once again, that the personal is political and that women make history, but not under the conditions that they choose. Gaines shines a brilliant light on American culture and folkways. Rarely has journalism possessed such depth of perspective or has sociology been so much fun to read."
Paul DiMaggio, Sociologist, Princeton University

"A Misfit's Manifesto is a strangely beautiful prose work, wonderfully written with a charm and elegance rare among social scientists. These pages are essential reading for all students of life."
Terry Williams, author, Cocaine Kids

PRIMA DONNA, New York Magazine
"Across town..... Donna Gaines, former Barnard College professor and self-described "pill-popping, penis-addicted, workaholic Jew," talked about the movie possibilities of her upcoming memoir, A Misfits Manifesto: The Spiritual Journey of a Rock & Roll Heart. "I keep telling people it will either be Courtney Love or Joan Cusack," Gaines said with a laugh at Ann Godoff's annual cocktail party at the Campbell Apartment to celebrate six upcoming Random House books, by Gaines, Chandler Burr, Elizabeth Cohen, Azar Nafisi, Shoba Narayan, and Louise Shaffer. "But I'd really love to see Marisa Tomei play me. She's just so New York."
Marc S. Malkin, New York Magazine, 4 November 2002
Photograph by Patrick McMullan

Anyone as deeply involved in New York City punk and death metal as Donna Gaines could probably crank out an entertaining memoir just by osmosis. The big hair scene, however, is rooted in a whole culture of proud dysfunction, of which Gaines is a sharp and empathetic citizen. Author of "Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia's Dead-End Kids," Gaines is an acknowledged expert on adolescent anomie and pop culture in the academic world. That's her day job. Also a hot rocker chick and a bit of a wonk, Gaines has been a fan of Rockaway-style punk since its birth. Did I mention she grew up Jewish, was addicted to fat pills, had an almost-famous entertainer mother, majored in sociology, and loves guns? "A Misfit's Manifesto" would be a fun read even if Gaines weren't so damn smart. She's blessed and cursed with spot-on recall: every rock show, boyfriend, overdose, and lost soul is disinterred and presented for our inspection.
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THE JOURNALIST AND freelance sociologist Donna Gaines, author of the contemporary classic ''Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia's Dead End Kids,'' has described her own writing style as ''a mix of low culture and high theory.'' In her new memoir ''A Misfit's Manifesto'' (Villard), she recounts how a nice Jewish girl from Rockaway Beach, Queens discovered punk rock and sociological theory in the 1970s and spent the rest of her life looking for ''epiphanies out in the street, on subway trains, in bars.'' Ideas reached Gaines at her apartment in New York City.
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Gaines is a formidable presence--writer (Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia's Dead End Kids), sociologist, professor and lifelong rock 'n' roll fan. In this memoir, she explores the connections among those facets of her personality, with the rhythmic strains of 1950s and 1960s rock as guidelines for love, solace in heartbreak, and refuge when all else failed.
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Praise for "Teenage Wasteland"

"A powerful book."
Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times Book Review

"The best book on contemporary youth culture."
Rolling Stone Magazine

"[Gaines] sheds light on a poorly understood world and raises compelling questions about what society might do to help this alienated group of young people."
Ann Grimes, Washington Post Book World

"There is no comparable study of teenage suburban culture... and very few ethnographic inquiries written with anything like Gaines's native gusto or her luminous eye for detail."
Andrew Ross, Transition

"An outstanding case study... Gaines shows how teens engage in cultural production and how such social agency is affected by economic transformations and institutional interventions."
Richard Lachmann, Contemporary Sociology

"An eye-opening and dramatic expose of white teen life in America's Northeastern suburbs. Gaines' account offers sympathetic portraits of these teenagers, an incisive analysis of their interest in heavy-metal music and Satanism, and a powerful indictment of the programs designed to help "troubled" teens."

"Research of this nature relies far more heavily on the narratives provided by the participants that the author's interpretation of the material. The best of these studies (for example Coming Up Black, by David Schulz, Tally's Corner, by Elliot Liebow and, more recently, Donna Gaines' Teenage Wasteland) are regarded as classics in sociology because of the range and depth of feelings presented, which are unlikely to have been obtained through other methods of research."
Pacific Sociologist, Vol 6 #3, Sept. 1998

"Since its publication in 1990, Teenage Wasteland (University of Chicago Press, $15) has become something of a cult classic, the kind of book people refer to in hushed, reverent tones. The balancing act Gaines pulls off here is truly breathtaking - shifting with grace and authority between memoir, cultural criticism and vibrant scenes of great depth and lyrical power. Gaines befriends a group of teenagers and quickly penetrates their world; she becomes a passenger in their cars as they drive too fast, trying to find a place to smoke pot and blast their boom boxes. She tags along for parties in an abandoned structure called The Building - the only place in Bergenfield where they feel free. And while throughout the book Gaines riffs on the darkness of Reagan's America, painting a specific portrait of the country in which these kids find themselves, Teenage Wasteland transcends its history. Reading it now, two years after Columbine, lines like this seem-almost prophetic: Maybe this is how the world ends, with the last generation bowing out first."
Emily White, Newsday, 20 May 2001