By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The genie was out of the bottle. Taking their fashion cue from the new bands in London and their musical cue from the Ramones, some of the new L.A. bands shortened their hair, shortened their songs and began playing fewer chords faster. Bands like X, the Weirdos, the Zeros, the Screamers, the Germs and the Go-Go’s could now exist, have followings and make records.
A social scene formed, and the first Ramones album was played at every one of its parties, alongside Britpunkers like the Pistols and the Clash. During the early ’70s, I attended several “rock & roll revival” shows — Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Hank Ballard. I was there for a history lesson, but folks in their 30s and 40s were sayin’, “Yeah! This is how it was.” At one of the Ramones’ later shows in the ’90s, just before they broke up, I stood there boppin’ my head, thinking to myself, “This is Chuck Berry to me. This is my Jerry Lee Lewis. This is like Hank Ballard.” Kids who must have been in diapers when the first Ramones record was released were there for a history lesson. I said, “Yeah! This is how it is.”
In the wake of a Ramones tour, bands would pop up everywhere. They were as important to popular music as Elvis, the Beatles and the Stones. That important.
The Ramones were genius, and Joey was an amazing front man, the ultimate oddball lead singer for any rock band. It was probably Joey as much as anybody who pioneered nerd chic. He was also a really, really nice guy. The Ramones were a ray of hope for everyone who was sick of deadly dull corporate rock and fringed-buckskin country rock. It was as though they’d sprung fully formed like a bolt of lightning from rock & roll heaven. From their cartoon hoodlum look to their three-chord sound and the faux-retard lyrics that were actually well-thought-out and really hilarious, they were almost too good to be true.
The Ramones did a miniresidency at the Whisky, two shows a night, in ’77. They were so loud that my ears actually watered during the show. I started a punk fanzine right after that and called it Lobotomy: The Brainless
Magazine in honor of the Ramones.
While visiting Manhattan in 1978, Kid Congo
Powers and I — he was president of the Ramones’ L.A. fan club, and not yet playing guitar — somehow got roped into being roadies for the Ramones at a club called Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut. I don’t know how we were hired in the first place — we didn’t know anything about tech work, not even how to tune or plug in a guitar, let alone set up a drum kit — but we needed the money, we were broke. We rode all the way from the Lower East Side to New Haven in the back of a Ryder truck with all the amps.
I was like, “Oh! I know what roadies do — they put water on the stage!” So that was the extent of what I did before getting so drunk during the show that I passed out in the dressing room. We not only got paid, Joey helped carry me to the car. The Ramones influential? I’d put ’em on par with Elvis, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who’d disagree.