Originally posted on August 10th 2008 on Psychedelicgaragepunk.com
I believe I’ve seen the Ramones in excess of 27 times. I simply can’t comprehend that Joey, Johnny and, my personal favourite Dee Dee, are dead. If I had to choose just one band to take to heaven, a desert Island, or where ever, it would be Da Brudders, hands down. To say they totally rock out would be a massive understatement! Johnny’s guitar, Joey (and Dee Dee’s) vocals, the lyrics, the simple nursery rhyme-like fluidity of the songs. The sunny, Beach Boys type melodies, the melancholic tunes, the raw aggressive more-punk-than-the-rest songs. But most of all, that adrenalin, amphetamine charged raw power.
Looking back in this year 2008, 1976 seems like a whole lifetime ago. But that was the first time I ever saw them, at the Roundhouse ( a favourite haunt of mine and Will’s ) on July 4th 1976.
We must have seen the Pink Fairies numerous times there in 74-75, a fabulous venue always populated by Freaks, with much stoner and freak rock on the menu from the early 70s, though of course numerous bands, like the Pink Floyd and Doors, played there in the late 60s, a fabulous venue.
There was a minor buzz about Ramones prior to the Charles Shaar Murray review of their first album, and CBGB’s had been written about in the NME. We’d also bought the ‘California Sun’ live import Ramones single which we thought was brilliant and life changing.
Added to which, under some influence from Edwin Pouncey ( later “Savage Pencil” ), who’d given us such delights as the Blue Oyster Cult, and the very wonderful Dictators, ( both produced by Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman ) we dashed down to our local Parrot records, in Colchester, to order the Ramones first album, on import. We played it to death in the late spring/early summer of 1976, and of course when the UK dates were announced, we had to have tickets, and were deliriously happy that the first gig was at the Roundhouse, our old stamping ground.
Of course the other band that made the gig unmissable were the Flamin’ Groovies. I’d been championing Cyril and the boys since I’d bought their second album (Flamingo) and third album (Teenage Head) as cheap imports whilst still at Art school in 1975. I had already seen the Groovies, I think it was at the Lyceum in the Spring of 1975. The following day I went to Rock On record shop (what a record shop that was!!! It totally turned my head around, lots of imports and original 60’s LPs) and bought their French UA singles “Slow Death” and “Married Woman”.
I must say, I’ve searched the Net high and low for more info about the UK Groovies gigs prior to ‘76, and found absolutely nothing! Please, please, if somebody reading this knows of a link or some such, please mail it to me. The memory of walking into the gig ( and little else! ) is still with me, help!!! By 1976 they’d mutated into Beatle clones, dressed in fabulous Tonik (the old Skinhead fashion fabric that changes colour depending on how the light hits it, lots of purples and mauves) Beatle suits., frock coats in the old 60s psyche style, embroidered waist coats (Teddy boy Edwardian style) and beautiful bottle green Anello and Davide Beatle boots.
The single version of “Shake Some Action” was getting some national airplay, and certainly on the fledgeling Capital Radio, ( still a relatively hip channel ) and we’d already had the delights of the “Shake Some Action” album, produced by Dave Edmunds at Rockfield studios, sounding like a glorious Gumbo of Phil Spector and the Beatles, with some English Rock’n’Roll inflections, both from the early 60s – the Mod era – and the Psychedelic era.
I have to mention Paul Revere and the Raiders too. I think Cyril Jordan must have been mightily impressed with their hook filled Garagey pop, and of course the Groovies covered “Kicks” (on “One Night Stand” in 1987) and “Him or Me” (the b – side of “You Tore Me Down” single on Bomp, 1974). I read in Mojo in 2006(?) that Cyril had seen the Beatles at Shea stadium in 1965 and had decided that he would put together a band that emulated the Beatles style completely, and find fame and fortune as a result! Guess he was still banging that drum in 1976. It was prime Beatles influenced Power Pop, with added kick. And we thought it was very hip – certainly it influenced Paul, Will and me as the Accidents, both musically and sartorially, and when the Jam came along a year later in their cheap looking 60s suits it just confirmed it for us:
That the Beatles were hip once more ( cue an avalanche of Beatles bootlegs, all hungrily snapped up by Paul and yours truly ), and that the 60s were still extremely influential on modern music, specifically guitar and Powerpop. And I suppose the vibe and inspiration the Groovies gave me further inspired me to reappraise the music of the 60’s to this day. Because the 60s still looks to me like a huge, not yet fully explored, Rock’n’Roll Goldmine, with many diverse seams and avenues just waiting to give up their delights to me.
We, that is the Accidents, did get to meet the Flamin Groovies, in 1977, at Essex University.
Radio Birdman supported them, though we didn’t know alot about them then.. They sounded a bit “country” to our ears at the time ( ????!!!??? ) so we really didn’t give them a chance. I love Radio Birdman now of course, “Aloha Steve and Danno” being an all time classic single, amongst the other classics I first heard via the New Race album. That album, “The First and the Last” being one of my all time favourites, which I got on cd for the first time recently, an expanded version. When I lived in South Florida I would take great delight in cruising round in a 1990 Mustang GT convertible that a friend had left with me ( Cherry red paint work, cream leatherette seats, 0 – 90 mph in under 10 seconds, it rocked! ) with “November 22nd 1963′ or “Crying Sun” blasting out of the fabulous 4 speaker stereo that the ‘Stang had. I’ve seen Radio Birdman since, and thought they totally rocked, and of course Deniz Tek has played with both Wayne Kramer (Dodge Main) and Ron Ashton (The New Race), all three being guitar Gods to me.
The Groovies were excellent fellows, Cyril Jordan and George Alexander especially. After some trepidation on our behalf, and much “oh go on, you knock”, and having stood outside their dressing room for a while, they welcomed us back stage after the gig, allowing us to share their rider. I still have the empty beer can Cyril gave me! He told me he’d bought his 12 string Rickenbacker from a guy who’d bought it for his son, in 1966 and who’d quickly grown tired of it and left it in a closet. Cyril said the guy opened the closet and there it was, almost factory fresh, probably 10 years later. When the guy told Cyril he wanted a hundred Bucks for it, he nearly tore the guys arm off. It was a beautiful guitar, and sounded so good through the Roland space echo, an effects unit that Jem from the original Surf Rats discovered to his great delight, some years later.
Cyril and the rest of the dudes spoke in a heavy, Californian drawl, probably the first time any of us had heard an accent like it. Cyril also used the phrase “Rock out” a number of times, which Paul and I thought was a wonderfully descriptive ism, and used it as frequently as we could from there on in! As a twenty year old Punk rocker, with a major love of all things 60’s and Powerpop, this was a dream come true. The Groovies had played local, and we’d got to hang with them, how Rock’n’Roll was that?!?
But just as the Groovies wore their 60’s influences on their sleeves, so did the Ramones. From the Beach Boys, to the girl groups ( just like the New York Dolls ), to Phil Spector, to the Beatles and all things Garage and UK beat related, they sucked all of that in, to end up sounding totally unique, unmistakably THE RAMONES!!! I always tell people that when the Ramones came on stage that night, it was like Elvis at Vegas, it seemed like a million flash bulbs were going off in the space of the first 30 seconds. The way they sang and spoke, they sounded like Aliens. New Yorkers. Genuine Americans. In bike leathers and jeans, something Will and I were pretty much already doing. Beaten up faded 501’s, with cap sleeved tees and leather Bomber jackets, and Dr Martens boots or shoes.
The sound was massive, monolithic, like a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a cage, right in front of our very eyes. Dee Dee’s cry of “Wun – Choo – Fee – Four” preceeding each song, counted the same each time, no matter what the tempo. Twenty songs in twenty minutes, no guitar solos, just sheer raw power. And loads of catchy, essentially 60’s styled, Pop. With Johnny’s super fast buzz saw guitar dominating the proceedings, the most distorted, powerful guitar sound ever. Like a huge Amphetamine rush, an uber buzz for both the Heart and Soul. And I totally connected with them, they immediately became mine and Will’s ultimate Rock’n’Roll band.
It’s really hard to explain the feeling of a Ramones show in these times. Rock’n’Roll is so corporate and neutered generally, a shadow of it’s former self, though remarkably some of the Heroes of my youth still totally Rock, see Iggy and the Stooges, The Dolls, and DKT ( the surviving members of the MC5 ). Get hold of a copy of “It’s Alive”, play it through a 2000 watt hi – fi, at maximum volume, that’ll give you some idea!!! Al and I saw the Ramones in January 1991, and they’d just bought their new monster P.A., it was REAL loud. When they came back on for their encore, they actually turned the P.A. up a couple of notches. It was so loud Al and I actually moved away from the front, the sheer force of the music felt like it was re-arranging the molecules in my major organs!!!
I was with Will and several lady friends that wonderful, historic, life changing evening in 1976. I remember turning round to one of the gals and saying “Joey, what a wonderful name for a budgie!!!”.
R.I.P. Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee, see you in Rock’n’Roll Heaven Dudes.