The Ramones: A Long Way From CBGB’s

It is 1978. I am slowly coming to terms with punk rock and new wave music. My boss atRamones the Public Information Office, Steve Emmett, is tall and thin, with a neat brush cut. Steve talks about playing beach volleyball all the time. His skin is pale. I ask him about it. He tells me he uses super strong sunscreen. I ask why. He admits that he is a punk rocker. The brush cut gets brushed up when he’s out seeing bands.

He is very excited – The Ramones are playing at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

My colleague on the college newspaper, James Gibson, has two tickets to the show. He invites me to go. He’s reviewing it for the paper. I go because I’m curious. It is my first exposure to live punk rock. Talk about going from zero to sixty in no seconds.

Before the concert is an announcement: Dancing will not be permitted. Above the stage, on the proscenium arch, is a quote: “Education is learning to use the tools which the race has found indispensable.” I point this out to Jim and we laugh at the irony of The Ramones playing a venue like this. They are a long way from CBGB’s.

The band takes the stage. Dee Dee Ramone counts off : One two three four. My life changes forever. We stand up. The entire audience stands up. I can’t tell you what song they play first. Or second. Or third. But they play them all with only a four-count in between. They play four songs before they stop and Joey Ramone talks to the audience a little. Then the four-count again and they launch into another burst. When all your songs are under 2:30, you can play lots of songs at a show. This night they play everything.

We cannot stand still. Security is patrolling the aisles looking for violators of the ‘No dancing’ dictum, but we pogo wildly in front of our seats. The music is loud and fast and powerful. It MOVES me. I grin from ear to ear. I have never had this much fun at a concert, and I’ve seen a few.

The audience is a surging sea. Security guards drag a tall, thin guy with a brush cut up the aisle. It is my boss.