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The Day the Ramones Played Their First Show

The Ramones
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

When the Ramones’ eponymous first album was released in April 1976, it was so fresh and immediate that it was almost hard to believe that they had already been kicking around New York for about two years. On March 30, 1974, they played their first show.

That “show,” if you can call it that, actually took place in the band’s rehearsal space on Manhattan’s East 20th Street — then known as Performance Studios — before just a handful of friends and associates, including future drummer Tommy Erdelyi, who, at the time, was acting as the fledgling trio’s manager.

Yes, you heard correctly: “trio,” because Jeffrey Hyman (Joey Ramone) was still sitting in on drums, while bassist Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee Ramone) tried in vain to also handle lead vocals, and guitarist John Cummings (Johnny Ramone) sawed away at his first of many Mosrite guitars (previously played by a key influence, the MC5’s Fred “Sonic” Smith).

Under these retroactively curious, and clearly short-lived circumstances, the brand new ensemble was only capable of cranking out seven, minute-long song-blasts bearing conspicuous titles like “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement,” “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You,” “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” “I Don’t Wanna Be Learned / I Don’t Wanna Be Tamed,” “I Don’t Wanna Get Involved With You,” “I Don’t Like Nobody That Don’t Like Me” and, uh, “Succubus.”

Now, as longtime Ramones fans know all too well, virtually all of these early sketches would wind up making an appearance on the band’s eventual debut — no doubt in much improved form — but it was clear to all involved that the group was far from ready for prime time, at this point in time.

So they spent the next few months studiously honing their craft and unique vision, while auditioning new drummers so that Joey could step out front of stage — finally settling on Tommy himself when it became clear he could play those metronomically demanding, machine-gun-paced parts better than anyone else who stepped through the door.

Thus, the classic Ramones foursome at last felt prepared to play their second official show — and first public concert — on Aug. 16, 1974, at a year-old downtown hole-in-the-wall called CBGB. The rest is history, but even history often starts under extremely modest circumstances, like those surrounding the Ramones’ very first show.

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