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How Johnny Ramone disappointed Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz

@josephtaysom

The Ramones and Talking Heads both made their name at famous CBGBs venue and defined the concept of New York cool. However, drummer Chris Frantz never took to Johnny Ramone, and despite regularly playing together, the pair never saw eye to eye.

Johnny was always the outlier in the Ramones and, in reality, didn’t quite fit in with the ethics of the punk movement. He was a proud Republican, which immediately made him stand out to others, as his political views didn’t align with the rest of the Ramones. However, it wasn’t his politics that Frantz took issue with; instead, it was his general demeanour.

Due to their art school backgrounds, Talking Heads initially struggled to make it in New York, and it took them a while to prove their doubters wrong. It had become the central hub of punk, and although they didn’t fit the criteria, they helped make new-wave en-vogue.

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Johnny Ramone also wrote them off because of their background and felt they were pretentious. When the two bands toured together in 1977, he barely said a word to Frantz, and his cold attitude left a lasting impression on the drummer. Writing as part of his 2020 memoirs Remain In Love, Frantz discussed his early memories of Talking Heads and the hostility he faced from the rest of the scene. Hilariously, Frantz also revealed that he initially thought the Ramones were a Mexican band, but once he actually listened to them, he fell in love.

However, when the two bands spent seven weeks touring Europe in 1977, Frantz strongly disliked his experience of Johnny. “Johnny was a real son of a bitch,” he said. The drummer also recalled how the guitarist would moan about everything, referred to Stonehenge as “a bunch of old rocks”, and disliked Paris because people spoke French.

“He was like an Archie Bunker type,” Frantz told The Guardian. “I have to think his father did a number on him.” Additionally, Frantz claimed Ramone bullied Tina Weymouth during the jaunt.

Later, Ramone also spoke about the tour, and he was equally unpleased with Talking Heads. However, his issue stemmed from their education rather than their actions. He once recalled: “In April we left for a seven week tour of Europe with the Talking Heads. That was two stress factors: the Talking Heads and Europe.[…] We were on a tour bus, and I hated the bus. We really didn’t talk to them much. The Talking Heads were college educated folks, and we were street kids.”

Meanwhile, Frantz has also previously recounted being told about Ramone’s reaction to learning Talking Heads would be opening up for them at CBGBs. TThe drummer said: “Hilly [Kristal] asked, ‘Is it okay if the Talking Heads open for you?’ and Johnny said, ‘Oh yeah, they’re going to suck, so it’s no problem. They can open for us.’ [Johnny] came around toward the end, but for the longest time, he thought that we sucked.”

Even though Johnny was confrontational to Talking Heads during their tour, they didn’t let him spoil the party. Those shows in Europe remain a fond memory for Frantz as it was Talking Heads’ first trip across the Atlantic, and the good far outweighed the bad.

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