When the Ramones arrived to play their first-ever shows on European soil with a gig in London during the summer of 1976, they aimed to douse the English capital with some New York cool — as well as old school pranks, one of which Johnny Rotten found himself on the receiving end of.
Their first UK show was only a matter of months after their debut record and there was a sense of intrigue surrounding the chaotic group. Even though their debut album didn’t make the top 100 in the US chart, or chart at all in the UK, that didn’t stop the band being ambitious with their first show held at London’s famous 3,300 capacity Roundhouse in Camden Town—on a bill sandwiched between Flamin’ Groovies and The Stranglers, no less.
“We decided we should go to England. So Danny managed to get us shows there, and we played at the Roundhouse, then Dingwalls, both shows with the Flamin’ Groovies,” Johnny Ramone wrote in his book Commando. “We did well there. We played in front of two thousand people. It was great to go there, it was a place where so much music history had been created.”
Ramones’ legendary manager Danny Fields had played a blinder by getting Ramones onto this tour and the who’s who of the London music scene eagerly anticipated the show, with the New Yorkers surpassing the already heady expectations that were on their shoulders.
“We wanted to save rock and roll,” Johnny wrote in Commando on the aspirations of the tour. “We weren’t against anybody….I thought the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and The Clash were all going to become the major groups, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and it would be a better world.”
Johnny Ramone may have wanted to form some kind of clique with the Sex Pistols but that didn’t stop him from unleashing his inner prankster during their first meeting backstage at the Roundhouse.
“The Ramones always put a few drops of piss in anything they give to their guests as a little joke,” the late Dee Dee Ramone told Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain in their oral history book, Please Kill Me.
“Johnny Ramone was very friendly to Johnny Rotten when they met. He shook his hand, patted him on the back and asked him if he wanted a beer. Ha ha ha,” the Sex Pistols leader apparently immediately downed the drink without hesitation.