Wednesday, January 31, 2024


My book Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones was published in May of 2023. I did some in-store appearances on its behalf (detailed here), and here's a peek at the notes I brought with me for those appearances: short excerpts from the interviews with Joey, Johnny, Marky, and C.J., plus a little bit of the supplemental material. I did not have any opportunity to speak with Tommy, Dee Dee, or Richie.

All of this material is from the book. I didn't use all of it at my gigs at Parthenon Book Store in Syracuse, Generation Records in New York, and Syracuse's Sound Garden, nor at the book release party at The 443 Social Club and Lounge in Syracuse. But I used a lot of it. There was also live music and onstage kibbitzing at the 443, and off-the-cuff pontificating and audience Q & A at my other appearances.

I don't have any more in-stores planned for Gabba Gabba Hey!, but I will serve if called to do so. My notes are ready! 

And so am I.

PAGE 19:

If you doubt the pervasiveness of the Ramones’ influence on pop music, look at the top of the pops. Sure, you’ve never seen “I Wanna Be Sedated” or “Judy Is a Punk” in the Top 40 listings but consider the differences between some of the chart-toppers of 1974 and the popular music of 1994, when these interviews were conducted. Some things may have remained unchanged, but there’s simply no way to get from “(You’re) Having My Baby” and “I Honestly Love You” to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and—God knows!—Green Day without at least considering the Ramones as a significant contributing factor.

And now? It wouldn’t surprise me if you saw some random kid today, someone far too young to remember the Ramones first-hand, nonetheless sporting a Ramones T-shirt. It doesn’t even matter if such kids really know the Ramones or if they just think the damned shirt looks cool. It’s evidence of the Ramones’ assimilation into the greater pop culture. In the seventies, they were outsiders, square pegs. Today, the Ramones are the Beatles, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, AC/DC, Nirvana, Batman. The Ramones are everywhere.

It sure is a long way from the Ramones’ secret origin in 1974. What, not even fifty years ago? Man, it was a million years ago.

PAGE 30-31:

Your debut album, Ramones, was recorded very quickly.

JOEY: Yeah, it was around a week [laughs]. We did it down in the bowels of Radio City Music Hall. Yeah, we did it pretty quick.

JOHNNY: It was recorded fairly quickly. We had to do something over, I don’t know what it was, but we had to go back and do a day’s work over or something. We did it in some studio that was in Radio City Music Hall, I believe.

Basically, we’d do a take, and they would talk to me and say, “Well, you wanna come in here and listen to it?” I’d go, “Why? Was it good?” And they’d go, “Yeah, it’s fine. Do you just wanna hear it?” And I’d go, “No, forget it, let’s go to the next song.”

I think I went through like six songs in a row like that, without going and listening to any of them. I figured, “All right, they say it’s fine. Why waste time going back and listening to it?” I still don’t even like doing that. I still don’t even like going back in. If it’s fine, why can’t we just do the next song [laughs]?

JOEY: Tommy and Craig Leon coproduced together. And actually, when Tommy joined the band, initially he was advising us, and we were trying to find a drummer who was more simplistic. And in those days, everybody was very ashy, very show-offish. So, eventually we just said, “Tommy, why don’t you play the drums?”

Tommy was a producer. He had worked on Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, I think he was involved with that. And he was a guitar player. So, it was kind of funny how things wound up.

Kind of a Renaissance Ramone.

JOEY: Yeah! It’s funny because everybody adapted Tommy’s drum style. You know, like Paul Cook [of the Sex Pistols], and people of that nature. It’s pretty ironic, ya know?

JOHNNY: We played a little slow then. Maybe at the time it might seem fast, but now that I listen back, we weren’t going too fast at that point. We got a little [faster] by the first album, but to me it still sounds like it drags a bit. About the second or third album, it started sounding about right.

To achieve that level of Ramones velocity.

JOHNNY: Yeah. You know everyone thought we were playing very fast, but now it needs to be stepped up a little bit. 

PAGE 33:

JOHNNY: We started out, and I think we wanted to be a bubblegum band. At one point, the Bay City Rollers were becoming popular. They had written “Saturday Night,” and we then sat down and said, “We have to write a song with a chant in it, like they have.” So, we wrote “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Somehow, in our warped minds, I think we thought we were a bubblegum group. 

PAGE 44: [Tommy leaves, Marky joins]

MARKY: Well, I hung out at CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City, and I knew Dee Dee very well. If I wasn’t sitting at a table with Dee Dee or Johnny Thunders or Jerry Nolan, I’d be at a table with, let’s see, who else? So many people around in those days. Clem Burke or people from Television or Heartbreakers. Everyone knew each other at one point, because everyone would run into each other. And that’s how I got to know Dee Dee, because how many places do you go? You hang out in two different places, you’re bound to get to know each other.

So, he told me that Tommy wanted to leave the band. So I said, “Does that mean you need another Tommy?” And he said, “Yeah, I’d like you to play with me, play with us.”

PAGE 109:

MARKY: When I first heard the band, Ramones, the album, I was with Wayne County, and we were hanging out upstairs in Max’s and he was the DJ and he played the album and I said, “What the fuck is this?” Then I listened to it again and I said, “This is the start of something new.” For me to say that, after a life learning Beatles stuff  and playing to Keith Moon and Jimi Hendrix, it was hard for me now to realize that I said it because I really felt it. And I said to myself, I wonder if I’ll ever be in a band like this that can create something like these guys are going to create. amazed me because the production sucked on it, but there was something there that was a surge of power, energy. It didn’t mean that you had to play lead guitar for ten minutes. It didn’t mean that you had to do a powerful drum solo. As a unit, there was no spaces in the structure of the songs. There was such a barrage of eighth notes that there was no spaces. It was like a train. It was like being in a train station or hearing a jet take off. It was a combination of those two things. Then the next thing I knew, after playing with Richard Hell, they asked me to play with them. I was very happy for that.

Be careful of what you wish for....

MARKY: Ah, yeah, definitely.

PAGES 45-47

Marky’s first record with the Ramones is Road to Ruin. By now, the songs are starting to get a little longer, and the band sounds a little heavier. The album itself sounds a little more downbeat than the first three. Was that conscious, or...?

JOHNNY: You know more about this than me, I’ll tell ya [laughs]. 

[laughs] Well, I’ve been a fan, I’ve been on the outside. You’re on the inside, so you know how it happened. I just study it.

JOHNNY: You know, we try to step away and look at it, but when you’re that close, sometimes it’s hard to notice a change in the theme of the album. To me, we just write another twelve Ramones songs, whatever, and go in and record it. We didn’t really notice any different feel, until I would read reviews saying that it was kind of downbeat.

JOEY: Well, the band became stronger. We worked on that with Tom and Ed again. By that point it was more of a coproduction thing. I guess me and Dee Dee were individually writing most of the songs, but there were band collaborations as well. I wrote “I Wanna Be Sedated” and Dee Dee [with “Don’t Come Close” and “Questioningly”] was kind of experimenting more in, I don’t know, I guess country music or something like that [laughs].

JOHNNY: We tried out two songs, which I don’t like at all at this point, “Questioningly” and “Don’t Come Close.” The Ramones have always had a little bit of leeway to try out some different things. We’re not as stuck as some people might think, ’cause we’ve had pop songs, we’ve had ballads, we’ve had punk songs, we’ve done the occasional hardcore punk song. But we’ve always had a little bit of variety. People sometimes think with the Ramones, everything sounds the same. Otherwise, I don’t really notice anything particularly downbeat, but I guess you notice it. ere was no really different feeling within the band, it just came out that way. We always sort of sang downbeat type of songs, just sung cheerfully.

What particular songs are you looking at that would be downbeat?

“I Wanted Everything,” or even “I Wanna Be Sedated,” which is really a bubblegum tune.


“I Don’t Want You,” “I’m Against It,” all of that. Or “I Just Want to Have Something to Do,” which is like the best track KISS never did.

JOHNNY: [laughs] “I Wanted Everything” is on that album? That’s a good one. I like that one.

MARKY: To me, that’s like the almost perfect album. Not because I did it, because I always liked what they were doing before I was in the band. There was a little bit of lead guitar in there, and the quality of the production was real good compared to the previous albums that they did. There was a little more time taken to do it, and I was very happy with the outcome of it. 

PAGES 50-52

Also, in ’79, the Ramones made their film debut in Rock ’n’ Roll High SchoolHow did you wind up as film stars?

JOHNNY: I don’t know, [director Allan] Arkush contacted us. From what I’ve heard, Cheap Trick rejected the movie. They asked if they could come down and see us play. We set up a job someplace uptown, [at] Hurrah’s or something like that. We played the show, and they wanted us.

JOEY: We were out, we were touring, and Roger Corman asked us to be in this film, Rock ’n’ Roll High School. And Allan Arkush was director, and he was a really big Ramones fan. He told me the day he kind of had the idea for this film, I guess he always daydreamed about doing a film with the Yardbirds, ya know?

So, when he got the opportunity to make the film, he changed it. Initially, Corman wanted it to be a disco movie, ’cause, ya know, his films are cars and girls and all that. So, [Arkush] substituted the disco and the blown-up cars and the whole bit for us [laughs].

But actually, it was an all-star Corman cast. It was a real classic film. It really created a whole new genre of film a er that point, because then a lot of all these teen films started comin’ out and stealing little bits and pieces of Rock ’n’ Roll High School. But it was a great experience to do it. It felt really kind of strange because we had never done anything like this before. So, you almost felt like really kind of alien.

MARKY: It wasn’t fun making the movie. You sit around all day waiting for them to call you, and then you could just be doing one little thing for a half hour, an hour, and that’s it for the day. You sit around like ten or eleven hours.

JOHNNY: Well, looking back at it, it’s great. At the time, not particularly much fun, because you had to be there early, you had to sit around all day waiting for your part. It was sort of torturous. The people were all real nice to us, though, everyone involved with the film. But the movie, you sit around all day and just wait for your part, and it’s just boring and monotonous. And that was probably a fast- paced movie! I can imagine on big-budgeted things they must not do any work. Nothing goes fast enough for me, and that was really slow.

JOEY: It’s become a real classic film. We got friendly with [actors] Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel. I mean, there were a lot of great people on the film. And [actress] P. J. Soles, of course. [After the film came out], everybody wanted to meet P. J. Soles.

JOHNNY: So, looking back at it, great. You know, I was in a film, and that film is actually...people feel like it’s a good rock ’n’ roll lm. I saw it in a screening when they first completed the film. It was just us and a few people who were invited. And it’s just, “Oh, shit, this movie’s terrible. this could ruin our career.” I don’t find nothing funny at all, and I was, like, depressed.

And then they opened it up at the Eighth Street Playhouse there, and I waited for the movie to start. I went in, and I stood in the back of the theater. And the whole place was all full, and the kids were all laughing at everything. And I said, “Oh, great, they like it!”

It’s funny, actually. I remember the first time I saw it. It played here in Syracuse on July 6 of ’79. they played it at a club, Uncle Sam’s on Erie Boulevard East, and we all stood through the whole movie. Then a local band, the Flashcubes, played, and then you came on and played. Five bucks went a long way in ’79.

JOHNNY: I remember the Flashcubes, I remember them. So, did it go over okay?

Oh, yeah, it was great. It was terrific, it got great local press.

JOHNNY: You sit there watching it by yourself and you just think it’s really corny, really terrible....

Yeah, but that’s the whole point.

JOHNNY: I guess so [laughs]! 

PAGES 55-59

Phil Spector remixed the studio tracks for the soundtrack album. Was that your first involvement with Spector?

JOEY: Ed had done the demo sessions for us out in LA. In those days, every time we’d go out to Los Angeles, Phil would be at the shows, and he’d come backstage. And he’d always be buggin’ us about how he wanted to produce an album for us. He would always say, “Do you want to make a great album, or just a good one?” implying that if we didn’t work with him, our album would only be, ya know, decent.

JOHNNY: We wanted to get Phil at that point, keep him involved. Phil had wanted to do us, I think, almost back to Rocket to Russia. I remember definitely Road to Ruin. We kept trying to postpone it. We really did not want to work with Phil. He had done his thing in the sixties, in the early- to mid-sixties. We wanted to maintain as much control over it as possible. We had serious apprehensions about working with him.

JOEY: So, the way the Phil thing really came about was initially he wanted to do a solo album with me. And in those days, it was a little premature. And I really wanted to try working with Phil. We kind of gave it a shot. It was an experiment.

JOHNNY: By the time Road to Ruin came, we realized that, as far as becoming big, there was trouble. at punk was not taking off. Punk was already dead at that point as far as the whole movement. And we felt that maybe we needed to work with him. Maybe we needed to work with a big name for the help his name would bring.

What was it like to make End of the Century with Spector?

JOHNNY: Torture, torture. He’d be nice to us, but he’d be so horrible to everyone around. And I don’t care if he’s being nice to me. I’m sure Joey is gonna feel different; he’s like their idol, Joey and Marc. But if the person isn’t a nice guy, I don’t care if I liked his work. It doesn’t mean anything. And if he’s being nice to me but horrible to everybody else, still he’s not a nice guy.

MARKY: Well, Phil was, I guess, an overanxious perfectionist, and he would just sit there and listen to one or two things all night long. I guess he was looking for some kind of drum sound or kind of tone on the guitar or whatever. He just seemed confused sometimes when he was fighting with Harry, the engineer—Larry [Levine], I’m sorry. It would always end up like that. We would go to the studio about seven, eight o’clock at night, and we’d end up leaving around six, seven in the morning the next day, the next morning. We were used to working fast, and he was into working kind of slow.

So, it took about six weeks to do this. And it really got to the point where we were all at our wits’ end. I would end up going barhopping with Phil at night, drinking, drinking wine all night just to get out of the boredom. But then the next day, we would have to be in the studio, so I don’t think that really helped the situation. His way of working was a little different than what we were used to, let’s say, working with Ed Stasium or Tommy Ramone.

JOEY: A lot of people loved it and a lot of people felt it wasn’t...right for the Ramones, let’s say. I guess Seymour [Stein] wanted to give it a shot, and also I guess there was maybe some kind of aspect of making the band a little more commercial or something. To me, it was kind of a historical coupling in a sense, it was [melodramatic voice] “the coming together of two walls.” A real clash.

The wall of sound meets the wall of noise.

JOEY: [laughs]

JOHNNY: It was torturous. It was incredibly slow going, no communication with whatever was bothering him with the takes and all. He’d just stamp around the room and tell you to do it again, and listen to it for three hours, and then come back and do it again. He wouldn’t even do multiple takes, just one every three hours. You couldn’t get into any rhythm of the whole thing. I don’t like the album. I don’t like the production. The songs are probably fine; with Ed producing it, it probably would have been a fine album.

JOEY: For me, personally, I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot. I felt that I wrote some of my best songs on that album, “Danny Says” and “Do You Remember Rock ’n’ Roll Radio?” and “I’m Affected.” It was a very inspirational time for me. I was living at the Tropicana Hotel with a woman, and it was just a very high time for me.

I mean, I’m glad Phil Spector produced that record, because if he didn’t, it would never have sounded the way it came out. “Danny Says” would never have sounded that way if somebody else would have done it. And Ed Stasium was there. I mean, it really had that intensity.

MARKY: To this day, I’m not really happy with the drum sounds on the album. Looking back, I guess at the time that’s what Phil wanted.

JOHNNY: And “Baby I Love You,” I didn’t play on that. Once they were bringing in an orchestra, I said, “I ain’t sticking around.” Yeah, Joey and the orchestra. That’s the worst song we’ve ever done, I believe. That’s a black mark that still bothers me.

Yet it was the Ramones’ biggest-ever hit in England.

JOHNNY: That probably makes it even worse. It probably took care of our career in England at that point.

JOEY: “Baby I Love You” was, I think, Top 8 or something like that. 

But you were prophets without honor in your homeland.

JOEY: No. I mean, people were really excited by us overseas. We were like a breath of fresh air for them, and they were waiting for [it]. Like in England, every week pretty much there’d be something new happening, I guess, [but] later on. So, up until Rocket to Russiawe were darlings of the scene. But we earned it, ya know?

Then the British press seemed to turn on you.

JOEY: They turned on us on Road to Ruin. But then they apologized after the damage was done. “Oh, this album is great!,” ya know? And in those days, the press was so powerful in England—it’s still pretty powerful—but there was a point where the reviews really kind of decided if the album was going to sell or not, or flop. The English press have always been sort of famous for destroying careers, and making and breaking, let’s say.

“Do You Remember Rock ’n’ Roll Radio?” was the first of the radio critiques from the Ramones.

JOEY: Yeah. It was about disenchantment with the state of radio. Ya know, growin’ up on radio and it being really important, it turned you on to all the great artists. And then radio, it became big business. It seemed like it was just happening in America, but it was really happening all over the world.

Some of the lyrical themes on the album seem more overtly political than the Ramones had ever been before. “All the Way” and “High Risk Insurance” in particular show more of a right-wing political bent.

JOEY: Right. Well, those songs were written by [John]. John was a Republican. Dee Dee would flip-flop. Me and Marc, in those days...the breakdown, John’s a Republican, I’m a Democrat, Marc’s a Democrat.

There was a real growth of self, I would say, you know what I mean? at’s the best way to describe it for me anyway. But yeah, I mean earlier on with the logo...we were, you know, patriots....

It probably reflected the mood of the country at the time.

JOEY: Right. Well, Dee Dee, that was kind of where his head was at in those days.

And moving along.... 

PAGE 85: [Dee Dee leaves, C. J. joins]

JOHNNY: It was rough. Right away, I had everybody around me all saying, “Well, you better stop doing it now, you’ve gotta stop doing it now.” And I go, “You’re crazy, there’s nothing to this. I’m gonna find somebody, I’ll find a young Dee Dee, and it’s not gonna be no problem at all and it’s not gonna deter us in any way.” Totally optimistic about the whole thing. But everybody was saying it to me, you know? [laughs] I thought there’d be no problem at all. I was being naïve about it, but the first person to come down to try out was C. J. And right away, just like I thought, there’s gonna be no problem at all. This guy’s good already; we’ll just keep trying ’em out, there’s gonna be a million Dee Dees coming in here, young Dee Dees. We tried about seventy-five more people, they were all horrible [laughs].

MARKY: And, of course, you got to go through everybody because the people find out about it and they work hard at it and you have to give them a chance.

JOEY: But when C. J. came down, he kinda had it. He kind of had what we were looking for. He seemed kinda cool. He was kind of like a young Dee Dee, I guess. He had the right attitude and the look.

PAGE 87-88:

How did you become a Ramone? How did that come about?

C. J.: A friend of mine who played in a band with Joey’s brother called up another friend of mine and told him about it. They told me, yeah, the Ramones are auditioning bass players. If you want to audition, you got to be at the studio by like six, so this is like...they called me at like three, you know? I live like two hours from the city in rush hour traffic. So, it didn’t give me much time, but I figured out a couple of songs and jumped in my truck and took a ride to the city. I was the first one to audition, too, which was kind of neat. And I guess I must have auditioned a couple of times over the course of a month or two. And they ended up taking me.

JOEY: I guess with him, his story was that he went AWOL. He was in the Marines, and he heard that we were looking for a bass player and he came down to audition, and when he was accepted, he had to go get a passport and then the government got wind of his social security number and where he could be located. They came and picked him up and took him away to the brig.

And we waited for him.

C. J.: Yeah, yeah, yeah. After I auditioned a few times and I thought I would be getting a gig, I tried getting a discharge from the Marines ’cause that is what I had been waiting on, but I don’t think they ever planned on giving me one. When I called them to find out the details, they ended up sending the cops to my house. I was arrested and ended up doing almost a month in the brig in Quantico, Virginia, right across from the FBI training headquarters.

JOHNNY: C. J. gets arrested for being AWOL from the Marines, and now I started getting concerned and worried. And then C. J. gets out of the [Marines]—God was looking after us. He said, “Well, I’ve given the Ramones a hard enough time, I’ll give ’em a break.” [laughs] So, C. J. comes out, and C. J.’s great.

C. J.: I know Johnny liked me from the start, you know. I think he was the one who was pushing to get me into the band. I don’t know about Marky and Joey. From what I understand, Johnny was the only one who really thought I had what it took.

JOEY: And actually, C. J. coming into the band at the time, it was fresh blood, new blood, and he brought a new excitement into the band.

He seemed to revitalize the band to some degree.

JOEY: He did revitalize the band. Because there was a lot of infighting, there’s always been a lot of bullshit in the band between me and John and stuff. But having him in the band just kind of made everything better all around. It was kind of a revitalization. It was great. 

C.J.: It’s a big compliment, but the way I look at it is that anybody that would have come into the band would have revitalized the band. I don’t know if it would have been as much, or it could have been more. I just stepped into a situation where the band really needed a change. They’ve been doing it for so many years, for so long doing the same thing, and when Dee Dee left, that was their chance for a big change. I don’t know if it really had so much to do with me as just the idea of somebody new and excited, somebody happy to be there back in the band. 

PAGE 117-123:

We’re Outta Here!

After the Blitzkrieg Ends

I Dream of Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, Tommy (and occasionally Marky, Richie, C.J., and/or new recruits)

I occasionally dream about the Ramones. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s happened a few times. In the dreams, they’re still alive, still playing. Sometimes the personnel have changed, and there are newer Ramones in place of some veteran Ramones. As I dream, I don’t know if I’m aware that Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy have all gone to that great Fifty-Third and Third in the sky. I generally don’t dream of interacting with them; I’m just there, standing in the back at a crowded concert hall, enjoying the live sound of the group I call the American Beatles, the greatest American rock ’n’ roll band of all time.

My most recent Ramones dream was different. I met Joey Ramone at a café. We sat and chatted at a little table, awaiting our drink orders. Joey was excited about a brand-new Ramones single. “This is gonna be a hit,” he said, “This one’s finally gonna be our hit single!”

Joey produced a Walkman or an iPod—you know how dreams are—and played the song for me. It was poppy and fast and catchy, like a Ramones record should be. But the vocals weren’t what I expected. It definitely wasn’t Joey singing.

I asked Joey, “Is that C. J.?” Joey’s expression changed. “No,” he said, a tinge of melancholy in his voice. “We got a girl singer now.” He sighed, a saddened tone in his voice. “This is gonna be a hit.”

I woke up. And I was sad, too.

The Greatest Record Ever Made!

This entry was originally written for my book-in-development, The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but is not included in that work. An infinite number of tracks can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

THE RAMONES: I Don’t Want to Grow Up

Written by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan
Produced by Daniel Rey
From the album ¡Adios Amigos!, Radioactive Records, 1995

There would be no hit records. The road to ruin reached its predetermined end.

In 2002, Spin magazine ranked the Ramones second on its list of the fifty greatest bands of all time, with only the Beatles perched above them. Writer Marc Spitz explained the rationale of placing this seemingly misfit Carbona Quartet just a step below England’s phenomenal pop combo:

“Punk rock exists because of the false assumption that the Ramones can be imitated. ‘1-2-3-4!’ Three chords. ‘Second verse, same as the first.’ Technically speaking, it’s simple. Legend has it that in every city where the Ramones played in support of their 1976 debut, a handful of punk kids started up bands, thinking that they could do it, too. But the Ramones’ loud-fast style masked a pop genius. Slow their tempos, and you’ve got Beach Boys harmonies. Replace lyrics about sniffin’ glue and eatin’ refried beans, and you’ve got the Ronettes. Give everyone matching leather jackets, and you’ve got the punk-rock Beatles. Just four lads from Queens who birthed thousands of bands, then blew each one away.”

I believe I may have dropped the magazine at that point just so I could give it a standing ovation.

We have not yet created a language that can adequately convey the sheer, visceral thrill of that precise second when I realized the Ramones were...perfect. Just perfect. Punk? Sure, yeah. Rock ’n’ roll? Oh, God, yes. But also, power pop, bubblegum, every great song ever played on any AM radio ever conceived on Earth or above, all distilled into this massive, physical presence that’s simultaneously as heavy as a truncheon and as light as helium candy. Pop music, played loud, played fast, and played for keeps, our hearts sustained by its velocity, our souls redeemed by its purity, our faith in the transcendent power of music restored by forceful melody, accomplished as easily as the above-cited count of 1-2-3-4.

And for all that, the Ramones never had a goddamned hit record. Not in America anyway. “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” charted. “Rockaway Beach” made it all the way up to #66 in Billboard, and a cover of “Do You Wanna Dance” wrote finis to the Ramones’ brief three-part invasion of the lower half of the Hot 100, all accomplished in 1977–78. Like the immortal “Blitzkrieg Bop” before it, “I Wanna Be Sedated” did not chart. “Do You Remember Rock ’n’ Roll Radio?” did not chart. “Rock ’n’ Roll High School” did not chart. Radio’s ears were closed to the Ramones. Retail declared them niche, cult...lesser. MTV all but ignored them.

The Ramones pretended not to care. They insisted that hit records never mattered to them. Their practiced scowls feigned indifference to what the buying public thought of them, and hid the fact that they were lying through their teeth.

Of course the Ramones wanted hit records! They’d come of age in a time when the greatest records were hits, from Del Shannon to the Dixie Cups, James Brown to the Beatles. They never outgrew the quaint notion that the best stuff could be the most popular stuff, the most popular stuff  the best stuff. They didn’t want to grow up. They couldn’t.

When I’m lyin’ in my bed at night
I don’t want to grow up
Nothing ever seems to turn out right And I don’t want to grow up

The Ramones’ final studio album was 1995’s ¡Adios Amigos! Its stated intent to be the Ramones’ farewell effort was tacitly understood to carry an asterisk: the final album* (*unless this one’s a hit). It was not. But Jesus, it should have been.

The album opens with a supercharged Ramonesifed reading of Tom Waits’s “I Don’t Want to Grow Up,” a triumphant bludgeoning that plants its feet and establishes one last Rockaway Beachhead. There would be no hit records. That 2002 Spin piece concluded, “Like sharks, the Ramones never evolved. They didn’t have to.” Growin’ up is for squares, man.

The Ramones weren’t gonna do it. We don’t have to do it either.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Joey Ramone 1951–2001

Ths reminiscence of Joey Ramone and what the Ramones meant to me appeared in Yeah Yeah Yeah magazine in 2001.

The Ramones were the greatest (i.e., my favorite) American rock ’n’ roll group of all time. They were second only to the Beatles in my personal pop pantheon, and I’ve taken recently to referring to them as “the American Beatles.” And if that statement makes you roll your eyes or presume I’m kidding, then you’re a cretin, plain and simple. Granted, the Ramones never came anywhere near the Beatles’ massive record sales—if the Ramones were ever to issue a counterpart to the Beatles’ 1, they’d have to use a negative number— but they were just as important, just as invigorating, just as much the salvation of rock ’n’ roll as that other Fab Four.

The passing of Joey Ramone was not a surprise—many people knew how sick he was, though few spoke of it—but the news of his death on Easter Sunday still hit hard, making my eyes sting and my teeth clench. I never met Joey (though I had the pleasure of doing a very lengthy telephone interview with him several years ago), but I still felt a sense of personal loss.

And it is a personal loss, really. My life would be at least a little bit different if not for the Ramones, and my view of music would be radically different. I’ve written elsewhere of how the Ramones’ 45 of “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” is the one record that changed my life, the magical track that opened my eyes and ears to a new sense of how great and transcendent rock ’n’ roll could be in the (then-) here and now, not just in the Beatle-occupied past.

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard the Ramones—I’d been requesting selections from their debut LP for play on my college radio station, and was already becoming a fan—but when I bought that single out of curiosity and finally let it play, I was hooked, body and soul, now and forevermore.

And it friggin’ MYSTIFIED me that the rest of the world didn’t get it! Why weren’t these guys on the radio? TOP 40 radio? When the “Do You Wanna Dance”/“Babysitter” single came out in ’78, I was convinced, CONVINCED that it’d be a double A-side pop radio smash. And I’m still right that it should have been; the rest of the world is wrong for not making it so.

I saw the Ramones...what? Nine times, I think. The first was in ’78, on an incredible triple bill that gives me chills to consider even now: the Ramones, the Runaways, and the Flashcubes, for four bucks at a dive called the Brookside in Syracuse, NY. A little over a year later, they were back in Syracuse (at a recovering disco called Uncle Sam’s), this time with an exclusive Central New York debut showing of their new movie, Rock ’n’ Roll High School, followed by blistering live sets from the Flashcubes and the Ramones. (All for five bucks—still a bargain, inflation be damned!)

The personal importance of that second show cannot be overstated. Earlier that week, a good friend of mine had killed himself—blown his brains out, the bastard. He’d come by to visit me the very night he died, offering no clue of his intent, nothing I can pick up on even in hindsight. It crushed me, and I couldn’t even bring myself to talk with anyone much about it. The night after his death, I went to see the Flashcubes play at a private party, numb, pissed-off, devastated, and determined to have a good time. I got stupid fucking drunk, the way that only emotionally charged teenagers can do, and held on to the Flashcubes’s super-charged show as if my own life depended on it, and then got up to go to work the next day. Never told anyone at work what had happened, never gave any reason why I was more sullen and tightlipped than usual. None of their fucking business. Went to the wake, though not the funeral. Spent a lot of time being angry and depressed.

And at the end of that hellish week, the Ramones came to town. Believe me, out of all the shows I’ve seen over the years, no two were more important to my sanity and well-being than the above-mentioned Flashcubes gig and that incredible Ramones show at Uncle Sam’s. Lou Reed was right: My life was saved by rock ’n’ roll.

The still-lingering emotional punch of that week heightens my awareness of what the Ramones (and the Flashcubes) have meant to me, but even without the tragedy, the facts remain: I would not have ever written about music professionally if not for the Ramones. Just as they inspired a DIY revolution in rock ’n’ roll, they were one of the key catalysts of my first setting fingers to typewriter to pound out my thoughts on music. My first-ever piece of rock writing was a critique of the state of music in 1977, extolling the virtues of the Ramones. I still regard the Ramones as the single most exciting live band I’ve ever seen (at least on the days that I don’t award that designation to the Flashcubes). More than any other band, even more than the Beatles, the Ramones still inspire within me a near-religious belief in the power of rock ’n’ roll music. There has never been another band like them, nor will there ever be.

On July 4 of 2001, as my wife, daughter, and I were walking to our car after a fireworks display in Syracuse, my wife stopped me and asked me to listen. I didn’t pick up on it at first, but slowly I began to make out the sound of Joey’s unmistakable Hey, ho, let’s go! blastin’ outta someone’s car speakers somewhere. It almost brought a tear to my eye. It always brings a smile to my face. I’m pretty sure it always will.

If you like what you see here on Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do), please consider a visit to CC's Tip Jar

Carl's new book Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones is now available, courtesy of the good folks at Rare Bird Books. Gabba Gabba YAY!!

If it's true that one book leads to another, my next book will be The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). Stay tuned. Your turn is coming.

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, streaming at SPARK stream and on the Radio Garden app as WESTCOTT RADIO. Recent shows are archived at Westcott Radio. You can read about our history here.

I'm on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

GABBA GABBA HEY! Matthew Street recommends my Ramones book


A big ol' Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) shout-out to Matthew Street, whose YouTube channel celebrates all things rockin' pop. Last week, Matthew devoted a new video to my book Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones, and I couldn't be more pleased, nor more flattered. You can see Matthew's Gabba-Gabba-YAY! at this link, or by clicking on this image:

Thanks, Matthew!

We've spoken before (but not often enough) on behalf of Matthew's efforts. Here's what appeared here previously on the subject of Syracuse's own power pop powerhouse the Flashcubes:

"The word's getting out about Pop Masters, the fabulous new all-covers album by Syracuse's own power pop powerhouses the Flashcubes. Now, no one should expect me to be unbiased about this; the 'Cubes have meant a great deal to me for a very long time, and, as I've said in other context elsewhere, why in the world would anyone ever want to be objective about pop music? That's no friggin' fun at all, my friends. Staple heart to sleeve. Testify. Believe.

"I will direct you to someone else's testimony on behalf of Pop Masters: YouTuber Matthew Street, who preaches about Pop Masters in this video. Matt also spoke at length with 'Cubes guitarist Paul Armstrong here, and this proudly biased 'Cubes fan appreciates it. Go, Matthew! Go, FLASHCUBES!!"

So! Matthew digs the Ramones, the Flashcubes, the Beatles, the Midnight Callers, and much more stuff of the cool nature. Our kinda guy! I'm a proud subscriber to his YouTube channel, and you should consider subscribing, too. Then YOU can bop like the rest of us hip folks!

Meanwhile, I'm delighted that Matthew also digs my book, and his video shows that he gets whatever it was I intended with Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones. I'm particularly pleased with how Matthew describes my interactions with Johnny Ramone, whom I'd been warned could be difficult, but...well, watch the video!  Yeah, Matthew gets it, man.

You can buy my book here, or from wherever you prefer to get your books. Thanks again, Matthew!

If you like what you see here on Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do), please consider a visit to CC's Tip Jar

Carl's new book Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones is now available, courtesy of the good folks at Rare Bird Books. Gabba Gabba YAY!!

If it's true that one book leads to another, my next book will be The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). Stay tuned. Your turn is coming.

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, streaming at SPARK stream and on the Radio Garden app as WESTCOTT RADIO. Recent shows are archived at Westcott Radio. You can read about our history here.

I'm on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

Monday, January 29, 2024

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 1218

Recently, musician Mickey Leigh quoted a New York Times piece eulogizing Mary Weiss, former lead singer of the Shangri-Las. The article mentioned Mickey's brother, Joey Ramone: "[Weiss] said the greatest compliment she had ever been paid came when she ran into Joey Ramone at the New York punk club CBGB, and he told her, 'Without the Shangri-Las, there would have been no Ramones.' ”


I don't think the Shangri-Las have ever been given proper credit. They've certainly never even been nominated for induction into The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, but to hell with that nonsense. The Shangri-Las had unforgettable hits, irresistible deeper tracks, and an enormous influence on '70s punk, especially in New York City. The New York Dolls. Blondie. The Ramones! "New Rose," the debut single from UK punks the Damned, opened with a quote from the Shangri-Las' "Leader Of The Pack:" Is she really going out with him? The Dolls stole from "Give Him A Great Big Kiss"--When I say I'm in love, you best believe I'm in love, L-U-V--in their own song "Looking For A Kiss." When the Shangri-Las attempted a comeback in the '70s, it's said (per Wikipedia, anyway) that Weiss wanted their new recordings to come from the same wrong side of town as Patti Smith. Clueless record labels said they should find somebody new, and the Shangri-Las abandoned their reunion.

Mary Weiss returned to the biz in 2007, working with the Reigning Sound for a fabulous new album called Dangerous Game, released by the visionary Norton Records, a label that understood. It was my favorite album that year, and that album and its attendant singles are the only records Weiss ever released outside of her tenure with the Shangri-Las in the '60s.

Man. I wish there had been more.

But we will keep appreciating--and playing--what we have. This week, we paid humble tribute to the legacy of Mary Weiss, with the A- and B-sides of her two 2007 singles for Norton, tracks from Dangerous Game, and a handful of absolute delights from an underrated, legendary vocal group called the Shangri-Las. We'll be playing more of them in the coming weeks. Through it all, we will continue to do what the Shangri-Las suggested on their very first single in 1964:


And that's called "sad."

This is what rock 'n' roll radio sounded like on another Sunday night in Syracuse this week. 

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, streaming at SPARK stream, and on the Radio Garden app as WESTCOTT RADIO. Recent shows are archived at Westcott Radio

You can read all about this show's long and weird history here: Boppin' The Whole Friggin' Planet (The History Of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO)

TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS are always welcome.

The many fine This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin' pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio:  CD or download
Volume 5: CD or download

HEY! Looking for something to read? Check out Carl's book Gabba Gabba Hey! A Conversation With The Ramones You can also follow Carl's daily blog Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) at If you would like to receive links to each day's blog, please reply to this email.

TIRnRR # 1218: 1/28/2024
TIRnRR FRESH SPINS! Tracks we think we ain't played before are listed in bold

MARY WEISS: Stop And Think It Over (Norton, single)
THE ASSOCIATION: Blistered (Collectors' Choice Music, And Then...Along Comes The Association)
JOHNNY THUNDERS: Great Big Kiss (Sire, So Alone)
NEKO CASE: Train From Kansas City (Anti, The Tigers Have Spoken)
PAUL COLLINS: I'm The Only One For You (Jem, Stand Back And Take A Good Look)
ROBIN LANE AND THE CHARTBUSTERS: Don't Wait Till Tomorrow (Blixa Sounds, Many Years Ago: The Complete Robin Lane & the Chartbusters)
THE SHANGRI-LAS: I Can Never Go Home Anymore (Mercury, The Best Of The Shangri-Las)
BO DIDDLEY: Diddy Wah Diddy (MCA, The Chess Box)
ROXANNE FONTANA: The Singer Not The Song (single)
STONEY AND MEATLOAF: It Takes All Kinds Of People (Real Gone Music, Everything Under The Sun)
THE FLASHCUBES: Come Out And Play (Big Stir, Pop Masters)
THE HAPPY EGGS: Rippy (Loaded Goat, Wake Up EP)
MARY WEISS WITH THE REIGNING SOUND: My Heart Is Beating (Norton, VA: 20 Pounders Vol. 2/World Of Pain)
WINGS: Getting Closer (Capitol, Back To The Egg)
THE SHANGRI-LAS: Footsteps On The Roof (Mercury, VA: Growin' Up Too Fast: The Girl Group Anthology)
MARY WEISS: A Certain Guy (Norton, single)
WARREN ZEVON: A Certain Girl (Rhino, Genius: The Best Of Warren Zevon)
VEGAS WITH RANDOLPH: I Got A Name (n/a, The Future Store)
BLONDIE: 11:59 (Chrysalis, The Platinum Collection)
STAR COLLECTOR: Halfway Home (n/a, Attack, Sustain, Decay...Repeat)
DWIGHT TWILLEY: Let Her Dance (Big Oak, The Best Of Twilley: The Tulsa Years 1999-2016)
MARY WEISS WITH THE REIGNING SOUND: Nobody Knows (But I Do) (Norton, Dangerous Game)
THE INCURABLES: Go Away (Big Stir, Inside Out & Backwards)
THE DUMBANIMALS: Lollygagger (Kool Kat Musik, Thrift Pop)
ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ATTRACTIONS: Accidents Will Happen (Rykodisc, Armed Forces)
THE SPONGETONES: Goodbye (Black Vinyl, Oh Yeah!)
MARY WEISS: I Don't Want To Know (Norton, single)
KLAATU: True Life Hero (Klaatunes, 3:47 EST)
The Greatest Record Ever Made!
THE SHANGRI-LAS: Leader Of The Pack (Mercury, The Best Of The Shangri-Las)
LITTLE RICHARD: The Way You Do The Things You Do (Reprise, King Of Rock And Roll)
SUPER 8: Keep Doing It (n/a, single)
PHIL SEYMOUR: Baby It's You (The Right Stuff, Precious To Me)
THE KINKS: The Hard Way (Velvel, Schoolboys In Disgrace)
TWINKLE: Terry (RPM, Golden Lights)
THE FLAMIN' GROOVIES: Tell Me Again (Grown Up Wrong!, Between The Lines)
MARY WEISS: Don't Come Back (Norton, single)
THE MUFFS: Something Inside [demo] (Omnivore, Really Really Happy)
PERILOUS: Tick Tock Punk Rock (n/a, YEAH!!!)
THE RAMONES: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (Rhino, Rocket To Russia)
NICK LOWE: I Don't Want The Night To End (Yep Roc, Jesus Of Cool)
MARY WEISS WITH THE REIGNING SOUND: Tell Me What You Want Me To Do (Norton, Dangerous Game)
THE NEW YORK DOLLS: Looking For A Kiss (Mercury, Rock 'N Roll)
THE PRETENDERS: Losing My Sense Of Taste (Partlophone, Relentless)
THE DOWNBEAT 5: Dum Dum Ditty (Abbey Lounge, Victory Lounge)
PERE UBU: The Modern Dance (Soul Jazz, VA: Punk 45, Vol. 1)
THE SHANGRI-LAS: Remember (Walking In The Sand) (Mercury, The Best Of The Shangri-Las)
THE BEATLES: I Want To Hold Your Hand (Capitol, single)
MARY WEISS WITH REIGNING SOUND: Dangerous Game (Norton, Dangerous Game)