The Ramones

An early shot of the Ramones taken at Arturo Vega’s loft around the corner from CBGB. From left to right: Dee Dee, Tommy, Joey, and Johnny. The banner is by Arturo. The Ramones were a force of nature. I knew Tommy Erdelyi from Mercer Arts Center, and his band Butch. He approached me and said; “I heard you found a place to play downtown,” meaning CB’s. I like to think that my telling him about CBGB was among the reasons that the Ramones wound up there. I was probably at the first Ramones show at CB’s, but things tend to merge in my memory and I saw them play countless times. [There was a moment, when Tommy first told me their name, that I though they might be a Latin band.] From the rough beginning, the Ramones were singularly special. Unlike Blondie, which played with many styles, the Ramones had a really intense focus. Debbie said it was like watching military drills or guys parachuting from a plane in formation.
Their act was crude in the beginning, and they would stop in the midst of a song and seem to argue about some detail. Hilly Kristal’s wife, Karen, would sometimes walk by the stage holding her ears and attempt to turn down one of their amps. In the beginning, Johnny exclusively used a Mike Mathews Freedom guitar amp, which could run on batteries as well as a regular plug. He soon switched to a Marshall. There was a period later on in the eighties or early nineties when I somehow became the intermediary of the Ramones-based conflict. John and Joey were pissed at each other and, weirdly, I was the one who had Johnny’s phone numbers. One or the other of the band members would call and ask me to contact Johnny for him, tell him whatever. This went on for a month or two until I stopped getting those calls, maybe because they had started talking again. The Ramones should be up there with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, etc. For a lot of us, they exist in the same realm.