What do The Ramones and Seinfeld have in common? If you guessed “nothing”, you’re right. But not literally nothing… I mean, “nothing”. Get it? When The Ramones sang, “I don’t care about this world”, Jerry and George would have surely replied, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”.
The Clash was “The Only Band That Matters”, The Beatles were the “Fab Four”, and many just call The Stones “The World’s Greatest Rock N’ Roll Band”. The Ramones, however, don’t have a silly band nickname. Or do they?
In my book, The Ramones are “The Band About Nothing”, similar to Seinfeld’s long-running informal title, “The Show About Nothing”. The philosophy of The Ramones, much like that of their strangely parallel NBC sitcom counterpart, is not only indifference to “real world” society, but complete blatant disregard of it.
When the characters of Seinfeld were never able to progress in their personalities or outlooks on life throughout the show, they made sure everyone knew it. For example, the conversations in the pilot and series finale being scripted identically to show absolutely no change in the way that Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer acted from beginning to end.
The Ramones did almost the exact same thing. As they sang “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You” and “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue“, two equally childish statements on their first record, The Ramones then, without skipping a beat, recorded the Tom Waits song “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” on their last album, nineteen years later. By the time of their final bow from releasing full-length studio albums in 1995 with Adios Amigos!, The Ramones were still “preaching” the same ideals that they had in 1976, the fact that they didn’t have any ideals (George Constanza, anybody?).
In addition, most Ramones songs dealt with the experiences of every day life as a bored New Yorker with a group of deadbeat friends (ironically, aside from the political “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down”), much like Seinfeld. Remember the episode “The Subway”, in which Jerry spends a day trying to find the correct combination of subway transfers to take him to Coney Island? Similarly, The Ramones had a fondness for a New York City borough shore point, “Rockaway Beach”, of which they say “it’s not hard, not hard to reach” (sounds like Dee Dee had easier beach transit experiences than Jerry). Also, The Ramones’ “We’re A Happy Family” exemplify the life of the George character just as perfectly as any episode of Seinfeld:
“Siting here in Queens
Eating refried beans
We’re in all the magazines
Gulpin’ down thorazines
We ain’t got no friends
Our troubles never end
No Christmas cards to send”
Not to imply that George Costanza is the only fictional character or real person ever to be defined by the kinds of statements made in “We’re A Happy Family”, but it’s the shameless honesty about living a less-than-satisfying life in a family home in Queens, NY that The Ramones and the writers of Seinfeld (in creating plot-points for George) shared.
Finally, for a rock n’ roll “Inception”, when Seinfeld featured a “show within a show” in its fourth season, The Ramones were, in some aspects of their songwriting, a “band within a band”. In Seinfeld’s “The Pilot (Parts I & II)”, Seinfeld and Costanza start to write and produce Jerry, a sitcom based on their own lives and personal characteristics. The Ramones, in the same way, self-parodied in their songs, being one of the first and most recognizable popular band with lyrics that mention the names of all of the band members in songs, also including very minor narrative phrases (See: the song “Ramona”, “Hey Johnny, Hey Dee Dee, Little Tom and Joey. You know we’re goin’ over, sweet sweet little Ramona”). If we are to put a single song on the same platform as a single episode of a television show, The Ramones, the four real life musicians, as “characters” parallel to the characters of Seinfeld, gave life to secondary “in-song” personalities in the exact same way that Jerry and George created characters based upon themselves in “The Pilot (Parts I & II)”.
Have you had enough? Or don’t the similarities between the quintessential Seinfeld and Ramones catchphrases, “Yadda Yadda Yadda” and “Gabba Gabba Hey”, strike you as a little more than coincidental?
—- Ky DiGregorio