Being a fan of mostly Top 40 music in my younger years kept me away from a lot of the Alternative and Punk music I would grow to love in my later years. The Ramones was one of those bands I knew about in the late 80s but never got into until many years later.
One concert I wish I had attended but I skipped out on because of my then-lack of interest in the Ramones was the ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK TOUR featuring The Ramones, Debbie Harry, Tom Tom Club and Jerry Harrison’s Casual Gods, literally a who’s who of New York music royalty.
The ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK tour found its way to Portland, Maine’s then-Cumberland County Civic Center on July 7, 1990, a Saturday night no less; the perfect time to see a show like that! Ramones, Debbie Harry and three-quarters of Talking Heads. Must have been amazing! Damn. O well. No going back now, unless I find a working DeLorean somewhere…
The best I can do at this point is write about my love for the Ramones now.
Last week, during my 3-day, 3-night trip to New York City, one of the highlights was visiting the Queens Museum with my dear friend Shawn (the museum has the Unisphere in the back of the building, you know the one). Opening just 4 days before we trekked to the museum was the incredible Ramones exhibit, HEY! HO! LET’S GO: RAMONES AND THE BIRTH OF PUNK.
All four original members of the Punk Rock legends – lead singer Joey Ramone (1951–2001), guitarist Johnny Ramone (1948–2004), bassist Dee Dee Ramone (1951–2002) and drummer Tommy Ramone (1949–2014), were from Queens (Forest Hills to be exact), and my friend Shawn even has a view of the spire atop the Forest Hills High School, where all four Ramones attended high school; a Rock, Rock, Rock and Roll High School indeed.
“The Ramones all originate from Forest Hills and kids who grew up there either became musicians, degenerates or dentists. The Ramones are a little of each.”
—Tommy Ramone, first press release for The Ramones, 1976.
Shawn and I saw the exhibit almost 15 years to the day of the passing of Joey Ramone, who died on April 15, 2001 of lymphoma, just a month shy of his 50th birthday. Hard to believe he’s been gone 15 years already, and still hard to believe they’re all gone now.
The band’s fifth studio album, 1980’s END OF THE CENTURY, was the Ramones’ highest-charting album in both the U.S. and the U.K., reaching Nos. 44 and 14, respectively. From that album, “Do You Remember Rock ’n’ Roll Radio?” was the opening track of the album, an album produced by Phil Spector, many years before the super producer – who had worked with the likes of John Lennon, George Harrison, The Righteous Brothers, The Ronettes, Ike and Tina Turner, and Leonard Cohen – was convicted of murder this week in 2009.
“Do You Remember Rock ’n’ Roll Radio?” is a bit of a departure for the band, which features a piano, trumpet, horn, saxophone and a synthesizer, on top of the traditional guitar, bass and drums, but is a departure that has endured for more than 35 years. The song was covered by KISS, appeared in the third SHREK film, and most-recently, appeared in a Cadillac commercial.
I’ve loved being involved with radio for the better part of 31 years, and if anyone ever asks me, “Do YOU remember rock ’n’ roll radio?” I’ll proudly say, “Hell yeah! The Ramones live there…”
If you’re interested in the Ramones exhibit, HEY! HO! LET’S GO: RAMONES AND THE BIRTH OF PUNK, and if you’re in the New York City area, I highly recommend you check out. It will be on view at the Queens Museum until July 31, 2016, and then the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles on September 16, 2016 through next year. Go to QueensMuseum.org for more info.