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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