August 16, 1974: The Ramones First Concert

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The Ramones 1976 self-titled debut

It wasn’t a shot heard ’round the world… not quite yet. But in due time the very first show by The Ramones at the downtown Manhattan club CBGB proved to be auspicious.

Technically, it wasn’t their first public performance. The Ramones did play as a trio in a showcase at Performance, a rehearsal space on E. 23rd St. in Manhattan run by their their soon-to-be manager Tommy Erdelyi and future road manager Monte Melnick, on March 30, 1974. The line-up was Joey Ramone (Jeffery Hyman) on drums, Johnny Ramone (John Cummings) on guitar and Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin) on bass and lead vocals.

Dee Dee was unable to sing and play simultaneously, so vocal duties were handed off to Joey, who proved to have the same issue. It was decided to bring Joey upfront and and find a drummer. Auditions were unsuccessful, and since Erdelyi had been schooling drum candidates during the process on how to play the group’s stripped-down, back-to-basics style, he eventually signed on as drummer and became Tommy Ramone.

CBGB was a music club on The Bowery opened by New York bohemian scene veteran Hilly Krystal in December 1973 with the intent of booking, as the initials implied, country, bluegrass and blues acts. Guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd of the band Television persuaded Krystal to let them start playing there, and their friend Patti Smith and her band soon began playing there as well.

The Ramones show on this day started off with Dee Dee counting off the first song (and all to follow in years to come) with what would become the band’s trademark “One/Two/Three/Four!” Legs McNeil – soon to be the cofounder of Punk magazine and later the coauthor (with Gillian McCain) of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk – describes what he witnessed that night: “They were all wearing these black leather jackets. And they counted off this song… and it was just this wall of noise… They looked so striking. These guys were not hippies. This was something completely new.”

Related: Our interview with Ramones’ manager Danny Fields

The Ramones would sign with Sire Records and release their self-titled debut album in April 1976. Shows they played later that year in London and Los Angeles (both opening for the Flamin’ Groovies) would galvanize the nascent punk scenes in those cities. The Ramones went on to release 13 more albums and tour almost non-stop until 1996, and are considered the epitome of the punk rock sound that would inspire a paradigm shift in rock music.

Watch the Ramones at CBGB filmed later that year

Related: Our Top 10 Classic Punk Rock Songs

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  1. mick62
    #1 mick62 17 August, 2021, 11:16

    God bless the Ramones.

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  2. rakman41
    #2 rakman41 17 August, 2023, 18:17

    The 2nd time I saw The Ramomes was Valentines Day, 1980, at StonyBrook University. Our seats were 2nd row, right in front of the speakers. I couldn’t hear for 3 days. It was GREAT

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