Ramones Compilation (an epic poem)

This “poem” was culled from 20 Google pages (and 34 sources) in 2018. Google was the sole search engine, “The Ramones” (or “the ramones”) was the sole search term. Google search pages were scrolled through until an article about the band was found. Excerpts from each article were copy and pasted, and then edited into the form you find here. The articles had to be by individual authors in dedicated magazines/newspapers (or webzines), rather than band websites or encyclopaedia entries. The “sampling” occurs in the sequence in which the articles were found (first-come-first-serve) regardless of the historical timeframe or publication date.

Last week I saw Dee Dee Ramone
bass player of The Ramones
rock-and-roll band
buying comic books
at the Gem Spa
candy store
Second Avenue
Saint Marks Place
I’ve spied him at
CBGB, Bowery and Bleecker
four men dressed the same
the same dark hair
the same thoughts
breathe the same energy
didn’t stop between songs
slam into breakneck unison
slamming me
in the chest

Joey Ramone — gangly
pugnacity and a noise
that could lay waste
just as Elvis Presley had done
they’re revered now
statues and streets
museums
we see people wearing
their T-shirts

Elvis Presley
The Beatles
The Rolling Stones
Bubblegum Pop
Early Heavy Metal
Surf Music

Johnny was the charismatic one
brooding
Tommy on lead guitar
Johnny on bass
“We all liked Johnny.” Tommy said, “That anger is pure.”
hauling discarded TV sets
to the tops of apartment buildings
and dropping them
then
he heard The Beatles for the first time
he got his first transistor radio
a Beatle haircut
a Beatle suit
The Beatles, The Stones
Hendrix, the Doors
Led Zeppelin
then
Johnny saw
The New York Dolls
better than the hippies
he hated hippies
never liked
that peace-and-love shit
a misfit
an outcast
a loner

It was startling
how against-the-grain
off-the-cuff
of-the-moment
a week’s worth of studio time
a four-figure
recording budget
antithesis
of
the obsessive
multilayering
of
REO Speedwagon
Fleetwood Mac
Steely Dan
Boston
Eagles
The triumph of outer-borough ingenuity
a half-hour of mayhem
The Ramones
changed everything
Their self-titled first album
named for a pseudonym
of
Paul McCartney
(Paul Ramon)
April
1976
№111
on the Billboard charts

They were
The Bay City Rollers
They wanted to be
Abba
hoping to have an album
sell six million copies
for a
budget of $6,400
Tommy
doing the fuse and bomb
artificial tape
delay
perfected by
The Beatles
slightly
change the pitch
like two people
singing
listen to
“It happened once before”
and then
“Hey, little girl, I wanna be your boyfriend”
it’s
the
same
effect

Now that they’re
all dead
The Ramones
the hottest band
in America
their first
freaking album
gold

They sounded
better through a wall
up close
the noise was too
overwhelming
for
the brain

The Ramones
CBGB
1976

The first time the Ramones
played
the Roundhouse
(legendary English Club)
in ‘76
the punks came
The Clash
The Sex Pistols
everybody
They had this habit
of initiating people
get a beer
piss into it
give it to the guy
“initiate”
“Hey, Johnny Rotten, come over here and have a beer.”
I’m pretty sure he found out
later

Joey
was the liberal
hippie
he used to do giant paintings
of
vegetables
they didn’t just stumble
on their
concepts
they were
savvy about
culture
art
Johnny
was the hippie-hating
conservative
16-year-old Linda
from Rosedale, Queens
is where
the twisted love story
begins
Someone alerted
Joey
Johnny
was in love
with his girlfriend
Here’s where things
get superweird
No matter what
they wouldn’t let it break up
The Ramones
together in a van
a business
with someone
you don’t like
still working
because you like
your job

She
and
Johnny
heard about
Joey’s death
on the car radio
en route to
Lisa Marie Presley’s
“Hey —
love
is
strange.”

A typical 40-minute
live
set
would include
20 songs
at the beginning
they kept starting
and stopping
equipment breaking down
yelling
at each other
“They’d play for 40 minutes. And 20 of them would just be
the band yelling
at each other.”
by 1975
they’d cut the rock show
down
to its essentials
this was rock
all the water
boiled out
a syrup
finish a two-minute song
and then, “1–2–3–4!”
before the audience
had time to applaud
20 songs packed
into
a 40-minute set

They wanted to be
a Bubblegum Group
The Bay City Rollers
the competition
but so weird
singing about ’53rd
and 3rd’
a guy
back from Vietnam
a prostitute
killing people
this is what we thought
was normal

I thought The Ramones
The Sex Pistols
The Clash
would become the majors
and
it would be a better world

The Ramones
from
unstable backgrounds
because
it’s not that civilized an art form
punk rock
from angry kids
who feel like being
creative
with three singles
getting within spitting distance
of the Top 40
with nothing to do
at all
in Forest Hills
a suburb of New York City
so
you have to be really
creative
doesn’t have real gangs
they have punks

What
did
you
do
in
Forest Hills
We stuck out
unsuccessfully
robbed stores
broke into the wrong store
half of us caught
the reason
our group got together
was that
they stopped playing the music
we liked
on the radio
great songs
real rock and roll
loud
fast
fun
basically
that’s what we are
rock and roll musicians

Are
all
your
songs
mean
Sure, most of them are mean
some of them are just
nasty
we have to try being
nasty
and mean
because we’re nice
yeah
deep down
we’re nice

And are
you
all
heterosexual
We don’t want to say that
every now and then
it’s O.K
whenever there is time
if we’re heterosexual
yes, we are heterosexual
Groupies are just
very enthusiastic fans
that’s all
none of us
are really into
sex
anyhow

Next to him
in a dressing room
on the Ramones’
UK tour
December 1977
Johnny confirms Dee Dee
is
“the only real beach-goer”
surfing elements
creep in
Sheena is A Punk Rocker
Joey’s self-described
“surf/punk teen age rebellion song”
Rockaway Beach
a pure ocean breeze
through
cobwebs
demented take on
The Trashmen’s Surfin’s Bird
wide-eyed version of
Bobby Freeman’s Do You Wanna Dance
covered by Joey’s
beloved Beach Boys
1965
one of 14 songs
on their third album
August 1977
a “room sound”
an ambience technique
a converted Baptist church
on West 57th Street
an in-your-face
bare-boned mix
just the band going at it in the studio
minimalism
at its best

The Ramones
Iggy Pop
The Velvet Underground
Patti Smith
Andy Warhol
Jim Morrison
Nico
The New York Dolls
Malcolm McLaren
Richard Hell
Jack Nicholson was at the Whiskey
to see Iggy
so what?
You’re sort of restricted
there’s armed guards around you
keeping people away
sort of the opposite
what you were doing
this is what you wanted
to be famous
you needed police barricades
outside your hotel
that’s the price

The hardest-working band
in rock and roll
history
started playing shows
pretty much never stopped
Aug. 6, 1996
their last show
ever
touring nonstop
for over
20 years

Listen to the first album
now
it sounds quaint
a fluke quartet
the same last name
two people with guitars
the same haircuts
individual
but
a perfect groupness
12 minutes later
after they had done
17 songs
they asked, “So, did you like us?”

Joey
the quiet one
never talking
didn’t want to sing
the geek of the universe
I was in awe of
his sense of humor
his ability to mock
deride
dismiss
with a chortle
he would send people
to the guillotine
He made me nervous

Johnny knew
the important fans
the kids at the door
bringing other kids
He would give strict orders
not to start
the engine
until we had signed
every autograph

Sid Vicious
a massive fan
Regis Philbin
interviewing
The Ramones
on a nationally broadcasted
morning show
1988

Their music is
fast
aggressive
funny
sarcastic
blurring the lines between
pop
trash
trying to situate music
into a context
of
cultural poetics
seemingly anti-intellectual
the presumed
amateurishness
in the lyrics
irony
shock
low
high
low-brow fields
links between poetry
and
the punk
Velvet Underground
Lou Reed
Delmore Schwartz
Richard Hell
Tom Verlaine
Arthur Rimbaud
Paul Verlaine, respectively
Patti Smith

On the surface
the lyrics of the Ramones
are anti-intellectual
they clearly
weren’t reading
Rimbaud
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
got it
wrong
you’d think the Rock
Hall would
at least
get their
shit
straight
Sid Vicious in a swastika shirt
for punk fans
not even be the most
offensive thing

I’m the one
who’s heard hundreds of thousands of records
Ramones
Talking Heads
Madonna
Depeche Mode
The Beat
Echo and the Bunnymen
Soft Cell
R & B stormers
Fats Domino’s
“Ain’t That a Shame”
Joe Turner’s
“Shake, Rattle, and Roll”
I saw the Ramones
rehearse
in 1975
and I signed them after
they slammed
eighteen songs
in twenty minutes
“This was the filthiest sugar and the sugariest filth”

Punk was Glam’s
next
logical
step:
T Rex
Sweet
Slade
Gary Glitter
Suzy Quatro
Mud

I remember the first time I heard
Ramones
I was 14
The shock that shot through me
the blare
blurs
slurs
stopping
starting
sneering
leering
one after the other

The guitar salesmen
hated Ramones
like I hated
Eat a Peach
(The Allman Brothers)
The guitar dudes
would send the vinyl
flying down
the basement stairs
a fresh copy
would hit
the turntable
like replacement troops
in a war

I’d already tried
pot
this was my new
drug

How can it be
they’re all dead
when
Ted Nugent
is still
alive

Even Bruce Springsteen
was moved
seeing The Ramones
in Asbury Park
New Jersey
wrote Hungry Heart
for the band
his manager
made him
keep the song
and
it became
a hit single

They are all dead

A faded 1975 news release
on the wall
reads
“their sound is not unlike
a fast drill
on a rear molar”

If you liked The Stooges
you were going to be
friends
three people
liked The Stooges
everybody else was violently
against them
boys in ripped jeans
and jackets
along the highway ramp’s banister
smoking
sniffing
drinking
it was a line of kids
doing all kinds of pills
whatever new drug
was around
and
playing
stickball

Drummer Tommy Ramone
the last surviving
original member
dying in
Ridgewood area of Queens
New York
Born Erdelyi Tamas
Budapest
emigrated
America
1957
grew up Forest Hills
Queens
Known as T. Erdelyi
or Tom
on first three
epoch-making
Ramones
albums
with guitarist
John Cummings
from
Tangerine Puppets
later
Johnny Ramone
Tommy Erdelyi didn’t know
what to expect
guitarist John Cummings
bass player Doug Colvin
bought instruments
the week before
the only thing any of them
knew
about
drummer Jeffrey Hyman
was
he liked
The Stooges
The New York Dolls
The formula the Ramones
laid down
that afternoon
on East 20th Street
and Broadway
waging
a campaign against fills
of any kind
The first LP put the bass
in one channel
the guitar
in the other
they slagged Commies
Reagan
songs about Freaks
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Tipper Gore
an ace sense
of dynamics
an almost-pat movement
from verse
to chorus
to bridge

If everyone who ever bought
a Ramones shirt
bought a Ramones album
they’d be as big as
fucking
Aerosmith

It’s the story
of punk
a rejection
of platitudes
of singer-songwriter
soft pop
that dominated the charts
1975
chart toppers
Captain and Tennille’s
“Love Will Keep Us Together”
Glen Campbell’s
“Rhinestone Cowboy”

Punk
notoriously
resistant
to interpretation
full of
contradictions
diverse as Blondie
Talking Heads
Ramones
Patti Smith
The Sex Pistols
The Clash
The Dead Boys
all signed with
powerful labels
a savage
kind of beauty
in disintegration
in the feeling of disintegration
through art
a savage
beautiful
sort of way
“Judy is a Punk”
the first line
not about Judy
but Jackie

On the first day of recording
Rocket to Russia
August 21, 1977
Johnny Ramone
holding a copy of
The Sex Pistols’
“God Save the Queen”
pissed off
“robbed”
by the infamous punk
ferocious
buzzsaw
sound
“These guys ripped us off
I want to sound
better ”
Rocket to Russia
the band’s highest-charting album
to date
a disappointing number 49
on the Billboard 200
the album
heavily hyped
the new thing
“punk rock”
hook-laden tunes
“Sheena is a Punk Rocker”
only #81
Billboard singles chart
the British group’s
loutish
behavior
“gobbing,” rioting, hard drugs
and so forth
tanking Rocket to Russia
The Ramones
masquerading as
inbred
cretin
siblings
from scuzzy
art-rock scene
so fantastically dumb
it could only be genius
not helped
by Joey’s
peculiar enunciation
words strung
together
syllables alone
consonants jettisoned
in a frenzy
They print lyric sheets
allowing scholars
to study
such gems
lines repeated
as many times
as possible
in two minutes
flat
I was devastated
when
I learned
they were not actually
related

But my life wasn’t
so bad
for a
blue collar
suburban kid
working at Burger King
with
Styx
Journey
Boston
Kansas
BOC
REO
BTO
My buddy
picked me up
in a Gran Torino
Saturday night
more than enough time
to buy a black
“I was at the Foreigner concert” T-shirt
that’s when my music world
fell off its
axis
four disheveled figures
started playing noise
hardly music
antithesis of
Foreigner
unseemly
vs. pretty
garage
vs. studio
pissed-off
vs. happy
I smelled like a mixture of
sweat
beer
and pot

We were the people
who hung out
on street corners
who were a little bit
dangerous
slightly criminal
good-bad
but not
evil

I fell in love with
sociology
it became my
rock & roll
being on street corners
young
cultivating the fine art
of hanging out
you study sociological
research methods
theories
you realize
I was a deviant
I was in
a subculture
I was
marginal

Countless young, pissed-off, alienated
outsiders-for-life
missed dances
bad dates
brilliance
without the studied
self-awareness
almost sadistic
tear through
songs
bashing them senseless
to get to the next
one

The Ramones were used to
screaming fans
but in a country reeling from
fascist dictatorship
this noise
was on another level
punk
by 1980
a fading fad
many considered punk
a fading fad
13,000 Spaniards crammed
into Madrid’s
bullring
a country reeling from
fascist dictatorship
The Ramones
the gods
the gates opened up
the same emotion
as the Holy Door
of Santiago
security guards jumping
from backstage
beating
each
and every
one
of us

Punk is not a specific
sound
Discharge
Throwing Muses
Cockney Rejects
Stereolab
Dream Syndicate

But I have something
to get off my chest
I hate The Ramones
there
I’ve said it
the punk impact
inventive
as incendiary
as thoughtful
as terrifying
The Ramones were not
part of this
that’s where punk ethos
started
and finished
no intention
a novelty band
no agenda
nothing to say
Steve Jones
seeing people
with long hair
flared jeans
turn up
with spiky hair
drainpipes
homemade t-shirts
clearly
things were changing

The Buzzcocks
The Clash
The Slits
Wire
Siouxsie and the Banshees
The Damned
The Exploited
the stereotypical punk noise
was never set
and perhaps
The Lurkers
Sham 69
never existed

The Recording
Industry
of America
certified the album’s
gold status
exactly 38 years
after its
debut

Ridiculous
if The Ramones
played songs like
“Warthog”
“Psycho Therapy”
“Pinhead”
in their sixties

Joey dying of
the effects of lymphoma
in 2001
drugs took Dee Dee
Johnny prostate cancer
in 2004
Tommy bile duct cancer
in 2014
Joey sings “I don’t want to live my life again”
the band plagued
by bad luck
electrical problems
Joey blighted from birth
constant foot infections
the removal of
conjoined twin
severe
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Dee Dee
a lifelong struggle
with drugs
Tommy?
he was just unlucky

Once
in the late or mid-’70s
or late-’70s
we pulled into a gas station
Kwiki Mart
or whatever
in Texas
the attendant looks at me
looks at the band
and says,
“It’s so nice of you taking care of
these handicapped people.
It’s nice to see that.”

The original crew
hasn’t been seen together
since an event at
Virgin Megastore
Times Square
July 20, 1999

Afterword

In regards to plagiarism, or what can be more benignly referred to as “sampling”, in which one side of the equation peremptorily dismisses any creative effort based on the works of another musician, dispensation, in my case, might include the explicit admission of my method and that I will be happy to provide a list of my sources (by email). Regardless, I can still intuit potential sensitivities, in particular when one of the participants is directly quoted from an article or interview (which I have decontextualized).

For that matter, I now cite the most pertinent (or “famous”) individual sources, which include Linda Danielle, Johnny Ramones’ wife; Hilly Kristal, owner of CBGB; The Ramones’ manager, Danny Fields; Interview Magazine’s Catherine Guinness; Talking Heads’ bassist, Tina Weymouth; Seymour Stein, co-founder of Sire Records; Donna Gaines, author of Why The Ramones Matter; Henry Rollins, formerly of the L.A. punk band, Black Flag; Monte Melnick, The Ramones tour manager; and of course the individual members of The Ramones — Dee Dee, Joey, Johnny and Tommy.

I “sampled” lightly. I did not extract heavily from any one article. I made sure to move on quickly as the abundance of material was readily apparent. And so, as far as the esoterica of law, Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law pertaining to Fair Use states (among other things) in consideration of what might constitute plagiarism: “amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole”.

It then appears that “sampling” or plagiarism (of any variety) is, ultimately, as legally ambiguous as what constitutes pornography, a thing decided on a case by case basis.

The Ramones are mythic, and suitable subject matter for a contemporary epic. The fact that all of them are dead only helps that circumstance. But they are also decidedly anti-mythical, of the so-called low-culture variety. It’s difficult or antithetical to “deconstruct” them; to apply the same long-winded discourse that one might apply to Bob Dylan. Yet, they were right in the thick of it; of the cultural capital of these United States at the opportune moment of 1970 whatever (along with the rest of them). If “of so-called low-culture variety” they are also High Pop, a circumstance that allowed me, with pleasure, to simply cut and paste the names of the people and the bands that swirled around them, whether they were influences, on the scene, or on the periphery.

What the myth makes clear is that The Ramones wanted to be Pop, to be a popular band, in the top ten; to give Madonna a run for her money. But being from no-where-ville, going to shitty schools, coming from broken homes, and on top of that, coming under the pervasive influences of AM radio, B Movies and TV, they were acclimated to something quite at odds with avant-garde high-modernism. But regardless, they inherited, through the probable osmosis of bands like The Rolling Stones and The Stooges, the inclination and freedom to compose sick, subversive lyrical content, which is a tenet of sympathetic Dadaists everywhere; a circumstance that wasn’t going to endear them to the top ten.

Musical music, historical and cultural connections

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