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David Bowie & Dee Dee Ramone

Know Your New York Bands
1-2-3-4! The Ramones stride on stage, plug in their guitars, and take off. The next 45 minutes are a total energy blast. The group does song after song with hardly a word spoken. The longest lapse between each songs is 13 seconds.

1-2-3-4! The Ramones stride on stage, plug in their guitars, and take off. The next 45 minutes are a total energy blast. The group does song after song with hardly a word spoken. The longest lapse between each songs is 13 seconds. Each tune is built on a few chopping, grinding chords, heavily churned out by Johnny Ramone. Dee Dee and Tommy Ramone form this unified rhythm section which seems devoted to capturing the three best riffs in rock and utilizing them over and over again. Joey Ramone, the young broomstick of a lead singer tries to get the lyrics out over the surge, while at the same time pushing his specs back on to his face.

1-2-3-4! The Ramones are short and to the point, both in their music and their speech. They’ve been together almost a year now, although all four had known each other for many years. Their true identities are shrouded in mystery, but they’re all from Forest Hills, and Tommy and Johnny were once in a band called «The Tangerine Puppets». They played a raunchy set of old Shadows of the Night, Bo Diddley, Stones and Count Five songs, but were short lived: «We were banned after one assembly by the principal,» recalls Tommy, «’cause some people got hurt by Johnny’s guitar.» Hmmm…It must have been the pre-SST sonic boom.

1-2-3-4! Individually, the Ramones have played in numerous local bands over the last few years. Some did odd jobs, while Dee Dee spent some time coiffing some of the best heads in town. «We used to sit around and listen to the radio and not hear anything like the stuff we like,» drawls Tommy, «so we decided to play it ourselves.» As adamant as the group is about their own direction, they are non-commital about the direction of others: «What’s in the charts now is o.k., I guess. Our influences? Just about everything,» The Ramones are certain about one thing, though, and Tommy (their spokesman) elucidates: «I think were seeing the birth of an exciting new scene here in New York…» Anyone in particular that you like? «Anything, so long as it’s entertaining.»

1-2-3-4! The Ramones run through their originals: «Judy is a Punk,» «I Want To Be Your Boyfriend,» «I Don’t Care,» «I Can’t Be,» «Chain Saw,» «You’re Gonna Kill That Girl,» «53 & 3,» «I Don’t Want To Go Down To The Basement,» and «Loudmouth» (We’ll you’re a loudmouth baby; You better shut it up; Well, you’re a loudmouth, babe." End of song.). Ask how long it takes the band to write a song, and Tommy is again non-commital: «It depends. I guess we’re pretty prolific, though.» Any favorite? «Each has its own appeal. We like them all.» Some people may criticize the bans, declaring that all the sound almost exactly the same. One might expect Tommy to retort with «well, that’s the sound we like» or something like that, but Tommy does not take the defensive. He simply remarks: «Well, they didn’t listen close enough.»

1-2-3-4! The Ramones picked their name after tossing around a vast selection of choices one day. «It’s a nice name,» asserts Tommy. Does it mean anything in particular? «Uh, no, it just sound nice.» On stage the band emits a 1975 sound not unlike a streamlined, yet still vehemently compact, mixture of the early Velvet Underground, Shadows of the Knight, and the Stooges. It’s rock & roll the way it was meant to be played, not with boogie or pretense, but just straight freshness and intense energy. Sort of out of the garages and onto the stages again.

1-2-3-4! Suprisingly enough, the groups 15-cut demo tape is more tame, with the vocals much clearer, resulting in a more commercial sound than one would first suspect by their stage demeanor. With most groups clamoring to ‘capture their live sound on record’. The Ramones swing full circle in the opposite direction. «Everyone’s a potential hit single, and we regard recording and live performance as two completely different art forms. We approach them both differently, and so the two final products are not the same. I really can’t describe it.» No, the Ramones don’t waste words. They put everything into their performances, and then let you do the talking. There’s no conflict either. They’re precisely four intense guys who agree on what they’re doing, with out friction or serious affection. Perhaps, after all it was still best stated by Tommy who said: «We play short songs and short sets for people who don’t have a lot of spare time.»

Alan Betrock
 
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