40 Years Ago, the World of Music Began to Change–And No One Noticed

It was a Friday night in the summer of 1974.  New York was pretty much a hellhole, steaming towards bankruptcy and rife with crime, racial tensions and garbage. It was ugly.

And it wasn’t very pretty at a shitty bar below a flophouse hotel at 315 Bowery called CBGB. But that night, something special happened, although less than a dozen people (plus the owner’s dog) were there to witness it. A new group called The Ramones played their second-ever gig–and their first of dozens and dozens at CBGB.

The Ramones made their debut on March 30 at a place called the Mercer Street Art Centre–part of building that would literally collapse into the ground–but as a trio.  There was Dee Dee on bass, Johnny on guitar and Joey on drums.  But by the end of the night, everyone came to the same conclusion:  it would be best if Joey were to come out front and sing.  Tommy, the band’s erstwhile manager, would handle drums.

And so on August 16, 1974, after months of rehearsals, the Ramones played their first show as a four-piece in what would become their classic lineup.  And it was a disaster.

The band argued about which song they should play next.  There were false starts and re-starts. Strings were broken.  But they managed to blow through ten songs in about 20 minutes.  Witnesses weren’t sure if they were serious or if this was a big joke.  All anyone could tell was that the brudders were playing 60s-style pop songs as the speed and volume of a jet fighter.

The Ramones played CBGB two dozen times before the end of the year.  They got better–fewer onstage fights and broken strings–and a buzz began.  And eventually, the Ramones lit the fuse that we’d eventually call “punk.”

Read more at Classic Rock.

Here’s a list of every single Ramones gig from March 30, 1974 to August 6, 1996.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “40 Years Ago, the World of Music Began to Change–And No One Noticed

  • August 16, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Wow I just looked at the list of gigs.I was lucky enough to be at the June 13 1992 gig at Barrymores in Ottawa. It was like standing in front of a fuckin freight train. Awesome show. What makes that relentless touring schedule even more amazing is that they did it all in vans.no tour bus…I watched em come outta the club climb into a blue dodge van and drive away. I thought they were going to a hotel. But they probably drove straight to Montreal.just 2 show s in London in the summer of 76…2cd shows ignited the whole UK punk scene…And I’m guessing those regular gigs in Toronto did the same there for the much heard about but not much heard (by me anyway) Toronto scene. Got a list of the best first wave Toronto punk records? I know lotsa stuff from the Vancouver scene but beyond watching the crash n burn film once back in the 80s (and the sound quality on it sucked)I haven’t really heard much T.o.
    rock on mr cross

  • August 16, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    It’s very simple. No The Ramones, no Sex Pistols, no The Clash…no punk.


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