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The Story of the Ramones’ First Show

Evening Standard / Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Evening Standard / Hulton Archive, Getty Images

The Ramones’ 1976 eponymous first album was so fresh and immediate that it was almost hard to believe that they had already been kicking around New York for about two years. They actually played their first show on March 30, 1974.

The performance took place in their rehearsal space on Manhattan’s East 20th Street — then known as Performance Studios — before just a handful of friends and associates. Among them was future drummer Tommy Erdelyi, who was acting as the fledgling trio’s manager at the time.

Jeffrey Hyman (Joey Ramone) was still sitting in on drums, while bassist Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee Ramone) tried in vain to also handle lead vocals, and guitarist John Cummings (Johnny Ramone) sawed away at the first of many Mosrite guitars. (This one was previously played by a key influence, the MC5’s Fred “Sonic” Smith).

Under these retroactively curious and clearly short-lived circumstances, the brand new ensemble was only capable of cranking out seven, one-minute-long song-blasts bearing conspicuous titles like “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement,” “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You,” “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” “I Don’t Wanna Be Learned / I Don’t Wanna Be Tamed,” “I Don’t Wanna Get Involved With You,” “I Don’t Like Nobody That Don’t Like Me” and “Succubus.”

Now, as longtime Ramones fans know all too well, virtually all of these early sketches would wind up making an appearance on the band’s eventual debut — no doubt in much improved form. It was clear to all involved, however, that the group was not yet ready for prime time.

So they spent the next few months honing their craft and unique vision, while auditioning new drummers so that Joey could step to the front of the stage. They finally settled on Tommy when it became clear he could play those metronomically demanding, machine-gun-paced parts better than anyone else who stepped through the door.

Then the classic Ramones foursome at last felt prepared to play their second official show – and first public concert – in August 1974, at a year-old downtown hole-in-the-wall called CBGB. The rest is history, but even history often starts under extremely modest circumstances – like those surrounding the Ramones’ very first show.

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Next: Top 10 Ramones Songs

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