40 Years at Maximum Volume

Ramones40

I only saw the Ramones once. It was during their final tour in 1995, when they headlined the KROQ Weenie Roast at Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. My mom bought tickets to the event for my sister and her best friend as a junior high graduation gift. (Yeah, my mom is that cool.) She couldn’t afford a third ticket for me to go with them, and neither could I—but luckily, I wouldn’t need one.

On the day of the show, mom drove the girls out to the Meadows and came back home to Riverside, and later that night when it was time pick them up, she asked me to ride with her. They were supposed to meet us in the parking lot when the festival was over, but we got there early. Really early. Hole were nearing the end of their set, and the Ramones were up next.

We were there for maybe ten minutes, and mom was already worried that we hadn’t seen the girls. I told her not to worry since the show wasn’t even over yet, but just to make her feel better, we walked to the main entrance to see if we could catch them coming out. That went on for another few minutes… and then I realized how jealous I was that all those lucky people inside were about to see the greatest punk band in history… and I finally looked at my mom and said, “Fuck this. We’re going in.” And before she could say anything, I grabbed her hand and we slipped past security.

Once we were inside, I remembered the layout after having been there for Lollapalooza ’92; and since we were at a sold-out event, I assumed our best course would be straight to the general lawn seating, but I was wrong: there were closer seats everywhere because people were starting to leave.

They were idiots.

We grabbed two empty seats in the loge, settled in, and waited… Then out came KROQ’s legendary DJ Rodney Bingenheimer to introduce… “The Ramooones!!!”… and the band’s ubiquitous intro began: the theme from “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” Then the guys casually walked on stage, took their positions, Joey grabbed the mic, and two giant stacks of Marshalls exploded with the instrumental “Durango 95” (while Joey did his awkward dance on the stage), followed immediately by “Teenage Lobotomy,” “Psycho Therapy,” “Blitzkrieg Pop”… and the entire audience were out of their seats!

The Ramones’ performance was one of the best I’ve ever seen, and I’ve probably seen over 200 bands. Their intensity hadn’t given an inch after 20+ years of touring: stripped down, straight ahead, no filler and LOUD AS FUCK. Mom’s jaw was on the floor the whole time, and she saw The Doors at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go.

As anyone who got see to see them knows, the Ramones were all business and didn’t waste a second. One song ended, someone yelled the cue—“1-2-3-4!!!”—and the next song started. That was it. No preachy monologues à la Chris Martin or Bono; just pure, animal rock & roll. And they played more songs in 45 minutes than some bands have in their entire catalog.

After they closed the set with a blazing rendition of “Pinhead,” mom and I made our way across the parking lot back to the car where the girls were waiting. They were raving about Bush, Sublime and White Zombie, but when I asked if they’d seen the Ramones, they said no; they’d walked out during Hole’s set because they thought Courtney Love was a “skank” (I disagree), and they didn’t feel like waiting to see “the old guys.” My sister regrets that move to this day.

But no regrets here: I got my mom to go shoplifting* with me, and we saw one of the best bands that ever existed. I knew that set would be one of their last, and we never saw them again.

Joey Ramone died six years later, followed by Dee Dee in 2002, Johnny two years after that, and finally Tommy in 2014. So all the original members are gone… Or, maybe they’re all together right now, blasting out songs in their own private afterlife. “Gabba-Gabba-Heaven!” Maybe they’re jamming with Bowie and Prince. Or…

Maybe when I’m finished typing this, I’ll max out the volume and terrify my neighbors, as the Ramones’ glorious debut album, released 40 years ago today, rips through song after song on the turntable, the way it did the first time I heard it when I was in junior high. In fact…

Maybe I’ll crank up the other heroes too—Bowie, who left us earlier this year, and Prince just a couple of days ago—because, like the Ramones, they changed my life, and they changed the world. Maybe they’ll change my neighbors’ minds about calling the police. I’ll take my chances.

* I bought the Ramones’ t-shirt at the venue that night so the band wouldn’t get stiffed. I still have it.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “40 Years at Maximum Volume

  1. I was at that show–it was a GLORIOUS Weenie roast, and one of the best concert anythings that I’ve ever been to. And the cherry on top was The Ramones. I would see them the following year at the itty bitty venue in New Haven, CT called Toad’s Place. it was a religious experience to say the least. I couldn’t hear anything in my right ear for three days. They played for 2 straight hours, and they only “chatted” once…Just enough to retune, introduce Pet Sematary and start right into it.

    Man, that was a great band.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, small world… That’s great that you saw the whole lineup at Weenie Roast. And the Ramones… they were so damn good. We will never see their likes again. But I just saw The Damned here in CA on Wed., and they were just brilliant, one of the best punk shows I’ve seen in years. Thanks for sharing your memory.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice story Robin — thanks for sharing. My friend Walt Walker directed me to you a while ago, and I’m glad he did. For a long time, I held onto a Ramones T-shirt (We’re a Happy Family) I got at my first and only show with them, probably ’86 in Allentown, PA. I think it was one of my first mosh pits, and I’ll romanticize that as long as I can remember. You talk about your mom with her jaw on the floor, that was me too. And all those big biker guys with their sunglasses and arms folded standing around, watching. That was good business. I was in Berlin in February and they had a Ramones museum there. I didn’t go because I was with my wife on a date thing (not really date activity, there) but I did take some cool city photos of the stickers stacked on lamp-posts. Cheers to you and yours, – Bill

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Bill. Thanks for sharing that. I still have the t-shirt I bought that night. It’s one of the few that features Ritchie as the drummer on their iconic logo. (Most of them featured Tommy or Marky until they changed the logo at the end.) So glad I got to see them when I could. We will probably never see their likes again.

      Like

      • I think we’re roughly the same age. I’ve begun having to get rid of those shirts now, but it’s hard. It’s also “Zen” to do so. My favorite was a PiL shirt from 1989, my favorite concert ever. 40 minutes, the closest I ever got to the Sex Pistols but frankly, they might have been better. Depends on your POV. They opened for INXS and he would hock a luggie in the air, catch it, and rub it on his chest and leer. And he said something like, I hope you enjoy our last tune here because for the next few hours it’s fucking shit. And made that English F-you symbol. Cheers to you and yours. I played the Ramones B-side “It’s a long way back from Germany” last night thanks to this, as we’re leaving the country here and returning to the States tomorrow after being here in Europe for nine months. Bill

        Liked by 1 person

      • Man, I wish I still had some of my tees. My favorite was the original “Skully” from one of my several trips to see Social Distortion in the early ’90s. Another favorite was the Ministry tee from Lollapalooza ’92. It was their single cover for “Jesus Built My Hotrod.” My sister borrowed it for her 8th grade pictures. Very proud brother. And Ministry slaughtered everyone that day, including Pearl Jam and the Chili Peppers. And speaking of the Sex Pistols… I got to see them in ’03 with original bassist Glenn Matlock. They put on a helluva good show, and Johnny of course was an asshole… just the way we like him… haha! Hope you had safe travels back to the states. Cheers!

        Like

      • Ministry Ohio of 1990 I think ties my favorite concert with PiL. They’re funny, how they started off by selling out, got good for a couple albums (ending with that Jesus 12″) and then got terrible again. But the Mind record is pretty much perfect. Thanks for the banter and warm welcome back to the States. Feels good. Bill

        Liked by 1 person

Comment Section/Memory Hole

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s