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Hey, ho... It was twenty years ago

Good evening. Hey Ho! Let’s Go! Y’know, if it weren’t for Johnny Ramone, I would have come here not knowing who Brenda Lee was. But that’s part of the story you’ll get in a bit. And yeah, I do have a Mohawk. No, I didn’t get it to pose up here as a punk rocker for this exalted occasion. It actually stems from my frustration with world events and bombings and things like that. I took it out on my own hair. Sometimes you feel powerless and you do sometimes silly things.

Two days after it was done, back in November, I walked in a shop to buy Christmas gifts and I was accused of shoplifting. So even though the “Ramones” are being inducted into the Hall of Fame, it doesn’t mean punk rockers, or looking like a punk rocker, has become respectable.

The “Ramones” didn’t need Mohawks to be punk. They never had one. I don’t think anyone in the band ever had one. They were visually aggressive. They were four working class construction worker delinquents from Forest Hills, Queens who were armed with two-minute songs that they rattled off like machine-gun fire. It was enough to change the Earth’s revolution, or at least the music of the time. It was an assault. Someone asked Johnny Ramone once why the songs were so short. He said, “They’re actually fairly long songs played very, very quickly”.

First time I saw the “Ramones” I was pretty young. Before the show even started, I was trying to get closer and closer and got up to the stage. I got up there packed and ready and even a little bit nervous. The crowd was intense, the look of the crowd. Outcasts one and all. They were hardcore punkers with spikes on their jackets, chains on their boots. Skinheads, horror film fans, nerds and geeks and outcasts, they were all ready to get out all of their aggression in the next hour and 15 minutes. As I was getting closer I saw something really strange about the microphone stand in the middle. It was about ten feet high. There was something really strange about that I saw a roadie put the set list down. He stood up and he was half the size of the microphone stand. I thought, “Who the fuck is going to sing at that microphone stand?” It was very unsettling. Then looking at the amount of amps that they had symmetrically placed at either side, and knowing that there was a huge amount of volume that was going to come out of that, it was very unsettling. Then the lights go out and they start playing “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. The crowd starts getting into third and fourth gear. Then they come out. One, two, three, four! Into the first song. All hell broke loose. It was complete chaos. The guy with the boots and the chains... all of a sudden they were right in front of your face swinging by. It was terribly frightening and totally blissful at the same time.

I think of the amount of intensity in that show and in that one night, and then I think of how many times that happened. The “Ramones” played 2269 shows. J.Lo’s got a lot of catching up to do!

Speaking of J.Lo, disco was huge in the ’70s. Disco took over the clubs and the airwaves, along with the indulgent guitar solos and seven-minute songs that was the musical landscape of 1976. The “Ramones” made a record in 1977. There’s a black and white photo of four guys in leather jackets all with the same last name, “Converse” shoes and jeans standing against a brick wall. This became a beacon for anyone who ever wanted to be in a band, those disenfranchised by the dynasties of giant rock bands.

They obliterated the mystique of what it was to play in a band. You didn’t have to know scales. With the knowledge of two-bar chords, you could play along with their records. That’s what people did. They sat in front of their parents’ hi-fis and played along with “Road to Ruin” or “It’s Alive”. Within weeks, they were starting bands with other kids in town who were doing the same thing.

You could be on stage, getting it out, saying what you feel, singing about sniffing glue and not be a virtuoso or genetically gifted with Elvis’ cheekbones, either. You could look like an outcast and still be cool. “Talking Heads” were the same thing in a different way. (applause) It’s a big night.

The “Ramones” were a blueprint, a blueprint so necessary at the time. That fact alone is so important for everything that came after. Thurston Moore from “Sonic Youth” was saying that he can’t think of a band or a musician these days where the “Ramones” weren’t a very important part of their life. John McBain, a great musician from Seattle that I know, said something — and I think he spoke for the whole Seattle community when he said, “The “Ramones” were our “Beatles”.

Going back to that time at CBGB and the New York scene, Patti Smith said it was a reclamation of rock ‘n’ roll, but we created it and we’re gonna take it back. Let’s take it over. (applause. Eddie drinks wine) I’m up here for a bit... I need to... It may have to happen again, because Thurston and I were talking, and now it’s Disney kids singing songs written by old men and being marketed to six and seven year olds. So some kind of change might have to happen again soon. But that’s a whole ’nother thing.

After the initial surge of the late ’70s, commercially the “Ramones” were never embraced. Bands around them were, but never them. Virtually ignored by radio, ’80s MTV and even other artists, they never stopped and regardless have a following worldwide that’s as devoted as ever.

I went with them once to South America. There was 50,000 people. Riots for tickets. People screaming outside. It was the reaction I always thought they deserved.

When punk finally broke in ’91, the “Ramones” still weren’t brought along for the ride, even though the bands “Nirvana”, “Rancid”, and “Green Day” wouldn’t have existed without them. Punk bands’ first or second records now sell ten times the amount of records the “Ramones” did throughout their career of 20-something records. That’s why I go over to Johnny Ramone’s house and do yard work three times a week, just to absolve some of the guilt. A bunch of people do it. Bono and Edge do their windows. Kirk Hammett, the guitarist from “Metallica”, he dusts, house cleans, makes French toast... that’s a true story. Even Kurt Cobain wanted to be as good as the “Ramones”. The list is endless. Turn page.

They never had a top ten hit. You know it’s crazy when Phil Spector produces your record and you still don’t have a top ten record. But it’s really circumstantial. It doesn’t alter the fact that they were one of the most important bands in rock ‘n’ roll. They accomplished a lot for a punk band. Most of the others, like the “Sex Pistols”, crashed and burned. Most punk bands pretty much crashed and burned. In the “Sex Pistols” case, thank you Malcolm McLaren for being an ego-driven fool or fuck for the non-edited version of this VH1 televised event.

They existed for 22 years with the same level of intensity the whole time. They may not have gotten along the whole time, but that was touring for 22 years in a van for fuck’s sake, so you have to understand... it’s a highly respectable thing to travel in a van and not go up to a tour bus, not get your separate planes because you don’t get along with the other guys in your van. It’s torturously insane to stay in a van for eight years, but they did it. Even after Dee Dee left the band — and he was such a huge part of the band — he still wrote songs for them, which I think speaks to the brotherhood they had, an intense brotherhood of sorts.

After Dee Dee left, there were some intense “Converse” shoes to fill. The guy who did it, his name was C.J. For whatever reason, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chose not to include him with those being inducted. It’s a Hall of Fame thing, I wouldn’t understand. But he played 800-something shows, he participated in three or four records, wrote a lot of songs and really importantly, he was accepted by the hardcore “Ramones” fans. The “Ramones” kept playing and were able to play for another generation because of C.J. C.J.’s been working 12-hour days cleaning pollution out of the air ducts down around the World Trade Center. He’s here tonight. He might not get up here, but I was going to ask him to stand up and be recognized. C.J. Ramone! (applause)

I’ll mention that Johnny Ramone’s been an extremely great friend. His wife and he have been such great friends to me and taught me a lot about music I was too young to see. Going back to the Brenda Lee comment, and Gene Pitney... I was introduced to them by John. He’s been a tutor of sorts. The guy saw Hendrix and was sitting down. The whole crowd was sitting down. He saw “The Who” open for the “Doors”. He himself has more information than probably the institution to which he’s being inducted into tonight.

Okay, at this point I’ve spoken long enough: we could have heard three or four “Ramones” songs. And after this, I’m sure the evening will move quickly. But it’s the “Ramones” and it’s punk rock and I’m just about finished and I hope you’re okay with that. Apparently you’re not. Fuck you. Take it easy, Eddie. All right.

The last thing I was going to say was about when the “Ramones” manager Gary Kurfirst first talked to me. He said there was a night back in December of the year 2000. He got a phone call from Joey Ramone. Joey had had an accident in front of his apartment. He slipped and fell on some ice. I guess he was just lying there for a bit, tangled up. He ended up breaking his hip. He wasn’t getting any help. People were just walking by, either side of him. He was pretty upset by it. At the end, I guess he called Gary and he said, “The worst thing about it was that no one would help me. I was down and nobody would help me”.

Maybe they didn’t know it was Joey Ramone. He was tangled in black hair and they thought he was a bum or whatever. But in a way, it’s only mentioned because it’s analogous to the “Ramones” career. It’s hard. Then obviously Joey died on Easter of 2001, less than a year ago. I’m sure he would have loved to be here tonight.

The only reason I mention that is that’s why tonight’s really important and special. Because I’m sure there’s a number of bands and people who never get to be up here and never get to be brought up before all you people and applauded. I thought that would probably happen with the “Ramones”. Something very unusual is happening here tonight, and that is that this industry is paying some respect to the “Ramones”. So with the power invested in me, I’d like to induct Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Marky, C.J., which we’ve talked about. The “Ramones”.

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