Let's be straight about it: all these tunes have come out before. Most of them have been repackaged a few times in a few different configurations. If you're a major Ramones fan, there's probably nothing here you haven't seen or heard.
But then, if you're a major Ramones fan, none of this matters; you want pretty much anything you can find related in any way to the Ramones. If you DON'T have all these songs, it doesn't matter either. So let's dispense with any handwringing over whether this box set is really necessary. Hey, pizza isn't really necessary either, but aren't you glad it exists? Thought so.
So let's cut to the chase. This set, you see, serves a higher purpose than just placing dozens of GREAT Ramones tunes onto a new batch of plastic discs. It serves a higher purpose than mere commerce. This set is about cementing and furthering the legacy of one of the rarest, most endangered beasts in the history of rock & roll: the Perfect Band.
The Perfect Band, after all, must possess every last piece of the rock puzzle. Its members must all be cool in their own way. They must all have their own, distinct personalities and charisma. They don't have to be individually handsome or pretty, but they must look good together. As far as the music goes, the playing of the members must serve the song and must NEVER become the focal point INSTEAD of the song. The Perfect Band must function as a unit with each member making a viable contribution to the group's overall sound and image. The Perfect Band absolutely MUST have the capacity to come up with one great song after another. In fact, the Perfect Band must have dozens and dozens of great songs under its belt.
With so many prerequisites, it's little wonder that there's only been a tiny handful of Perfect Bands in the history of rock & roll. The Beatles - especially in their early years - are an obvious example. The Stones are another, though their Perfect status was on vacation when the too-well-scrubbed Mick Taylor was in the fold. The Who? Maybe early on. The Beach Boys? Yes, but only before they started growing beards. The Kinks? Great band, not perfect. The Ramones? You bet your leather jacket, baby.
But to get to the point - and it is coming - of why this box set is worthwhile, it's important to note that the other Perfect Bands in rock all sold MILLIONS of records. These bands were/are absolutely huge. They filled stadiums, fer chrissakes. But the Ramones? Ah, commercial success was in shorter supply for the Fast Four than for the Fab Four, wasn't it? You know the story: no hit singles, no gold records (save for their collection, "RamonesMania"), no stadium tours - at least not in these United States. So, while other Perfect Bands became a part of the cultural landscape via radio play and selling LOTS of records, the Ramones did it by earning their fans one at a time. Fortunately for all of us, those fans have added up over the years, and they've rarely defected. They've continued to add up thanks - in some measure - to the steady availability and reissuing of Ramones music. Thus the viability of an 85-song Ramones retrospective such as this.
Oh, sure there will be cynics. Some folks see any repackaging such as this as nothing more than crass commercialism - an affront to their punk rock sensibilities! But just think of that one kid out there whose dad buys this set just for old time's sake. Just think of that kid getting that same rush you got the first time you heard "Loudmouth." Or "Havana Affair." Or "I Don't Want You." Or "She's the One." Or, heck, about a hundred other Ramones songs that flat WAILED but never got to be hits, even by Ramone standards. Think of that kid discovering a band that doesn't have just three or four really good songs, but DOZENS of really good songs. And think of that kid figuring out that, hey, this punk rock stuff didn't start with Blink 182. It didn't even start with the Sex Pistols or the Clash. IT STARTED WITH THE RAMONES!!!
So, yes, you already have this music. But if you're a true Ramones fan, you won't care. You'll dig the comic book, the packaging. You'll dig that there's still SOMETHING you can get and be excited about related to a band you love. You'll dig that a set like this confirms that the Ramones have become huge after all (something - if you're really a fan - you were praying for throughout their career). You'll dig that after all these years, other people still care about the Ramones. And most of all, you'll dig that somewhere along the line, this set is going to give some kid his first blast of, say, "Carbona Not Glue." Hey, maybe that kid will even start a band some day.