The Ramones, a New Punk Band, Play One of Their Very First Shows at CBGB (1974)

“Ramones Reunion Near­ly Com­plete,” announced The Onion just about ten years ago, after the death of the band’s gui­tarist John­ny Ramone. His band­mates Joey and Dee Dee Ramone had each tak­en their leave of this mor­tal coil a few years before, and now, with the pass­ing of drum­mer Tom­my Ramone, all the group’s orig­i­nal mem­bers have gone to that big CBGB in the sky. In the video above, you can see the Ramones play­ing at the small CBGB down here on Earth — way down here on Earth, giv­en the set­ting of down­town Man­hat­tan in 1974. That year alone, after the rev­e­la­tion they brought about after first tak­ing the stage in their bangs, ripped jeans, and black leather jack­ets on August 16, they played the now-his­toric rock club no few­er than 74 times. Show length aver­aged about sev­en­teen min­utes, which means this video, at just sev­en min­utes, includes quite a few songs. The setlist includes “Now I Wan­na Sniff Some Glue,” “I Don’t Wan­na Go Down to the Base­ment,” and “Judy Is a Punk.”

This per­for­mance hap­pened on Sep­tem­ber 15, 1974, six months after their debut at Per­for­mance Stu­dios in March of that year. They would­n’t sign a record­ing con­tract until late the next year, but they would do it because the wife of Sire Records co-founder Sey­mour Stein saw them at CBGB. Though the Ramones always prid­ed them­selves on the raw­ness of their sound, this show catch­es them at a moment when, though they’d already armed them­selves with looks and the atti­tude that made them instant icons, they still had to feel their way through exact­ly what this “punk rock” thing would turn into. You can see their music tak­ing an even clear­er, more dis­tilled form in the 1977 CBGB set we fea­tured last year. They may have lived fast, the Ramones, but they played even faster. Could they have done it with­out the bor­der­line-unpun­k­like skill of their drum­mer?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Ramones in Their Hey­day, Filmed “Live at CBGB,” 1977

The Ramones Play a New Year’s Eve Con­cert in Lon­don, 1977

CBGB’s: The Roots of Punk Lets You Watch Vin­tage Footage from the Hey­day of NYC’s Great Music Scene

Watch the Sex Pis­tols’ Very Last Con­cert (San Fran­cis­co, 1978)

Rare Live Footage Doc­u­ments The Clash From Their Raw Debut to the Career-Defin­ing Lon­don Call­ing

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (4)
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  • Road Cat says:

    Tom­my was my dear­est and old­est friend.
    We grew up togeth­er in For­est Hills Queens New York.
    I went to Stephen A Halsey Jr High and For­est Hills High school with him.
    He got me to pick up the bass gui­tar and enter into the crazy world of rock music.
    We played in sev­er­al bands togeth­er (Tri­ad & Butch) here in NYC over the late 60’s and ear­ly 70’s. We built and man­aged Per­for­mance Stu­dios in NYC, a recording/rehearsal stu­dio the Ramones start­ed in. I worked with him when he was in the Ramones and well after he left. He had an advanced musi­cal fore­sight, well ahead of the times in form­ing and being part of the Ramones. He was a great musi­cian on the gui­tar, then the drums, lat­er on the man­dolin, ban­jo, fid­dle and many more instru­ments. His musi­cal expanse bridged from Punk to Indie Blue­grass.
    I mourn the pass­ing of the last of the orig­i­nal Ramones, my friend and a true musi­cal vision­ary.

    Monte A. Mel­nick
    “On The Road with the Ramones”

  • Danny Fields says:

    This is incor­rect:
    “They wouldn’t sign a record­ing con­tract until late the next year, but they would do it because the wife of Sire Records co-founder Sey­mour Stein saw them at CBGB.”
    To begin with, “the wife” had a name: Lin­da Stein, if you please.
    Lin­da did not see the Ramones first at CBGB, but at a club called “Moth­er’s” on West 23rd Street.

  • Craig Leon says:

    Nor was she the first per­son at Sire Records to see the band.

  • Craig Leon says:

    Sor­ry I did­n’t real­ize this was from 2014. Obvi­ous­ly put up in trib­ute to Tom­my. So you the end the oth­er bit does­n’t mat­ter. What does mat­ter is that they made fab­u­lous fun music that peo­ple still remem­ber so many years lat­er. Who cares about the oth­er stuff? Only train spot­ting idiots.

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