Relive The Ramones’ first-ever filmed performance at CBGB’s in 1974
In 1974 the musical climate was rife with glam rock, glittering eyeshadow and stinking disco-breath. One band determined to flip the script firmly on its greasy head was The Ramones and they started their punk rock revolution at their spiritual home: CBGB’s in New York.
We take a look at one of the iconic punk outfit’s first-ever filmed performances at the legendary punk venue and see the leather-clad band at their frenetic and ferocious beginnings.
Only five years after the free-love-mecca of Woodstock was trampled on by hundreds of thousands of hippies and beatniks, The Ramones represented a whole new type of rock and roll, they were the A-bomb ready to reduce the ‘peace and love’ into smithereens.
The Ramones were not satisfied with the folk sensibilities of the sixties, nor were they swayed by the alien glitter of glam rock, Ramones were staring down the barrel of a new youth movement, and they made it happen with a simple rallying call: “One! Two! Three! Four!”.
Built on three chords of fury and two-minute tracks ready to whip the hair off your head, the band were a force to be reckoned with. Wearing leather motorbike jackets, high-top Converse, and ripped jeans, the Ramones cast aside the sixties and paved the way for a multitude of bands to come. The quartet wasn’t scared to be themselves and they refused to conform to any standards the rock and roll royalty liked to set out. “Eliminate the unnecessary and focus on the substance,” Tommy Ramone would say on the band’s ethos many years later.
One eyewitness to the scene was iconic music journalist Legs McNeil, the future co-founder of Punk magazine told History.com: “They were all wearing these black leather jackets. And they counted off this song…and it was just this wall of noise,” McNeil later recalled. “These guys were not hippies. This was something completely new.”
The band were comprised of Douglas Colvin, John Cummings, Thomas Erdelyi and Jeffrey Hyman, better known to the world as Dee Dee, Johnny, Tommy and Joey Ramone and they were something completely new and nobody quite knew how to handle them. So new in fact that the world didn’t have a name for the type of sound the quartet produced, in fact, it wasn’t until 1975 that McNeil would coin the term “punk rock” and label those who wished to remain labelless.
The footage below is of one of the earliest shows the band ever performed and sees them in fine fettle. Having first taken to the stage in August of 1974, this footage is from just a few weeks later at the same iconic venue. It sees the band, at their third ever show, perform three known tracks ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement’, and the punk anthem ‘Judy Is a Punk’—all with the same fervour and fury that would make them a hit with the pent-up youth of America.
In the clip, there are two major things to note. Firstly, yes, the sound quality is pretty awful but it’s punk so what did you expect? But we will admit, when we say ‘pretty awful’, we mean utterly terrible. But secondly, and far more importantly, it really doesn’t matter.
The Ramones and punk, in general, has never and will never be about the quality of the sound. It is and will always be about the power of the emotion behind the songs and performance. If poor quality sonics upset you then go listen to prog-rock with your dad.
Watch below the first-ever filmed performance from The Ramones at CBGB’s in 1974.