Speed kills, but speed was becoming an increasingly intoxicating element to punk rock as the 1970s were coming to a close. While the first wave of American and British punk music focused on attitude, aggression, and politics, speed wasn’t necessarily at the forefront of the genre. Acts like the Sex Pistols and the Dead Boys didn’t usually play at the blistering tempos that became the hallmark of the style, and efficiency wasn’t a valued trait.
But like everything that came and went in punk, it was up to the Ramones to revolutionise that idea. The band had a simple goal: get as many songs in the set with as humanly possible. Especially during their early days, the Ramones rarely played for more than an hour, and the band liked to use every last second. When one song ends, immediately go into the next. No breaks, no time to breathe.
By the time Marky Ramone stepped in behind the drum kit, the Ramones were pros at blasting through the maximum amount of material. With four albums under their belt by 1978, the band had so many songs that they could play for three hours, if they were a normal band. Instead, they jam pack 25 songs into just 50 minutes of time.
The extreme jolt of energy can best be seen during their appearance on German television programme Beat Club in 1978. In approximately 50 minutes time, the Ramones blast through 25 of their most beloved tracks including ‘Rockaway Beach’, ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, ‘Pinhead’, and ‘Sheena is a Punk Rocker’. The only time there’s a break comes when Joey occasionally provides an introduction to a song. Otherwise, once one song ends, the next one immediately begins.
I would have loved to see what the crowd reaction was to these American speed freaks who played around with Nazi imagery in songs like ‘Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World’. It takes quite a bit of gall to bring those songs to a German audience less than 40 years after one of the worst atrocities in history took place in their homeland. If nothing else, it proved how iconoclastic and uncompromising the band was. Besides, the song could have come and gone without anyone noticing: that’s how locked in the Ramones were at the time. Check out the full performance here.
Watch the Ramones play ‘Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World’ from the show down below.