Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thirty-seven years ago this week the Ramones became A Thing

Thirty-seven years ago this week I first handled a copy of the first Ramones album. I was standing by an import van in South Molton Street in the West end of London.

It looked funny. They looked funny. That look wasn't yet A Thing, as we say nowadays.

We played it in the shop and didn't know whether to be excited by the headlong swing or amused by the comical conciseness. We settled for being both excited and amused.

There they were, already fully formed and, as it turned out, fully developed. It only took one play to get the whole idea, whether you thought that idea was a life-changing manifesto, a brilliant conceptual wheeze or a giant full stop. There was no mystery, nothing to be gained by digging deeper, nothing that grew on you.

Some people loved them. In a way, even though I've got lots of their records, they left me a bit cold. I once spent an afternoon with them in a Chinese restaurant in Cambridge and they were your average, slightly whiny American rock band.

It doesn't matter what I think of their music. Here's the thing I'm thinking thirty-seven years later.

The day before we heard The Ramones we couldn't have imagined them. The day after we heard the Ramones we could no longer imagine the world without them.

Thirty-seven years ago I found a new way of describing things. A bit like the Ramones.


  1. Is it also that thing of an extraordinary band just suddenly arriving on the scene, without the usual career-building years of touring and gigging to get their name around?

    And wasn't the same also true of Roxy Music?

  2. "The day before we heard The Ramones we couldn't have imagined them. The day after we heard the Ramones we could no longer imagine the world without them."

    Nice. This is a neat synopsis of the cultural impact of all original and distinctive art.

  3. I remember thinking similar about Sparks...and more recently British Sea Power (who had both probably been working for ages to become overnight sensations). To me it was a universe already mapped and you could take it or leave it. I took!

  4. Looking back, they still seem a very strange and untypical band. They don't sound like anyone else who emerged in the UK punk scene, or really in the American punk scene, partly because they were very hard to copy. The only bands they have much in common with were the rest of that CBGBs contingent - Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Blondie et al, who also didn't sound much like anyone else, or each other, who just played their own stuff partly because they didn't have the requisite skills to play anybody else's.
    I often feel that not enough credit is given to that fantastically powerful sleeve - the image, the huge bold lettering, the still-enduring crest on the back... it's a perfect pop/rock artefact...

  5. Reminds me of this bit off of the Simpsons