|What a performance - but it wasn’t. It was real and the most honest rock ‘n’ roll we had ever seen. Lorry and I were floored. We had seen the Rolling Stones for the first time just the previous summer (even managed to get ourselves momentarily into their inner circle, but that’s another story Go there). While the Stones remains one of the most powerful rock shows we had ever witnessed, seeing the Ramones that first time had more of a direct impact on us.We weren’t the first or the last band to trace its start back to seeing the Ramones. Some have said that since the Ramones weren’t proficient musicians they figured they could get away with it too. I thought that their simplicity is what made them so powerful. Less is more. A phrase from the art world. But it works in music, too. Think of how powerful a simple Robert Johnson three chord blues song is. Any guitar theatrics or involved vocal harmonies would only destroy the purity of the message. There’s another art world term – form follows function. The Ramones' loud, frenzied, minimalist sound delivered their message the way that no other music possibly could. Lorry and I went back to the Club the next night and the night after that. We recorded one of their sets on our cheap little Radio Shack tape deck. Played it over and over when we got home. On Sunday we re-wrote a couple of our songs in a more simplistic, harder vein. On Monday morning we placed an ad in the Boston Phoenix for a punk rock rhythm section.
|Somewhere over the years, the Ramones evolved into a cartoon-like band … maybe it started way back with those drawings in Punk Magazine, or the silliness of Rock ‘N’ Roll High School, or the way their videos were shot and presented. Maybe it was Joey’s unlikely image or personality. (He was a sweetheart of a guy who would eventually be our neighbor in New York - and someone who was very supportive and generous to Lorry and me, as he was to many on the New York scene.) But back in 1975 they weren’t a nutty but harmless rock band – they were a street gang – and a bad ass one at that. Beat On The Brat and Blitzkrieg Bop weren’t delivered tongue in cheek, nor were songs about alienation, sniffing glue, or being a male whore. This was serious business delivered at break-neck speed with no-frills power chords and a big loud bottom that bludgeoned the observer into submission. Johnny and Dee Dee looked pissed-off throughout, and they were. Kicking at their balky Marshall amps between songs, yelling obscenities at the road crew – being all around assholes, but channeling that anger back into the songs, driving them faster, louder and to the brink of utter chaos. But Joey and Tommy held everything in control. Tommy steadfastly refusing to give up the beat to the lunatics on either side of him and Joey’s voice keeping its tender sincerity through the madness as he entwined his long, thin frame around the mic stand.|
|Chapter 2. TRACKS - Inspiration and a start ...
The Ramones. My first recollection of them was their little display ads in the Village Voice. I used to get that paper in Harvard Square to keep up with the New York art scene. The ads were for CBGBs and though only about two inches across, their photo was very powerful. Mop-topped like the Beatles, but wearing shades, leather biker jackets, and torn jeans. This was definitely something different. I had no idea what they sounded like or even what kind of music they played. But that look was intense, and the name was so incongruous, summoning images of smooth latin lovers or slick gigolos. I had never seen a band with an image that looked so … well, dangerous. The New York Dolls and Iggy Pop were outrageous, Lou Reed was strange and the Stones were the baddest boys in rock, but these Ramones guys, they looked like a bunch of punks that’d just as soon pull a blade on you as look at you. I was intrigued. So some time later, when they were scheduled to play at the Club in Cambridge for three nights, I just had to check them out.
|The Ramones first Boston show - 1976 The Club - Photo/Danny Fields|
|Although he ultimately only managed us through half of one gig, without his help we would have had a lot harder time starting up a band. There were only a handful of original groups then, and few musicians had any idea what punk rock was. That would all change very quickly. As we wrote more tunes, rehearsed with Chuck at the church, came up with a band name (Go there) and searched for a permanent bass player, Richard would parade us around the Rat, introducing us to owner Jim Harold, then-college DJ Oedipus, commercial DJ Maxanne Sartori, the Car’s Ric Ocasek, rock writer James Isaacs and whoever was whoever on the Boston scene. Richard was hyping us in a big way before we even played a single note in public. With the help of Lorry's charm, he was making us the darlings of Boston's underground. I guess after awhile we started to believe the hype ourselves.|
|We got only two calls. The first was from a bass player who thought we were looking for a FUNK rhythm section. The other was from Richard Nolan. This was odd because his band, Third Rail, had opened one of the Ramones shows we had just seen. I thought his Lou Reed/Velvet Underground image was very hip for a local Boston band. He wasn’t looking to join a group, but to replace his two guitar players. Not the situation we were looking for, but he talked us into coming out to the suburban church he rehearsed at. I had traded in our troublesome Mustang for a cheap (remember the gas shortage) 1967 Cadillac Eldorado. This was their first long and low, front-wheel drive model. Not the world’s most practical car but a true rock ’n roll cruiser that had a hood that seemed twenty feet long. I thought we were making quite a wild and impressive scene pulling up to that quiet little suburban church in such an obnoxious car with our wild hair and clothes and digging guitars, amplifiers and assorted rock ’n roll paraphernalia out of the huge trunk. That is, until I met Richard. He was a lot stranger than his eerie stage image. As he led us into the church’s function hall, he filled us in on his adventures in embalming. He was a freelance mortician, thus his association with the church. An angelic, shaggy-haired kid ran around tending to his needs, as Nolan dramatically and theatrically expounded with pride on the macabre and morbid details of the jobs he had worked on as an undertaker.
There were a few other guitarists there to audition and we went at it. In retrospect, I guess the audition was just a ruse to get us into his liar, because immediately afterward Richard told us that he was looking to manage a group or two and that he just happened to have a drummer available. We went through some songs with Chuck (Angel) Myra and Third Rail bassist Jon Roy. It was the first time Lorry and I had played together with a rhythm section. We did Waiting for My Man, maybe a Stones tune and the songs we had rewritten. Damn if it didn’t sound pretty good. Well, loud and punky, anyway. Richard thought we had a lot of potential. He was going to manage his young cherubic helper, Careful Mike Quaglia, and his friends who were starting up a lo-teen band called the Neighborhoods. Richard asked us to consider having him manage us too, promising he could get us some gigs at the Club and especially the Rat which he explained was really the scene for original music. We went home, waited for other players to call. They didn’t. We called Richard back.
Leader of the dark and moody Third Rail. The part-time mortician became Tracks' manager
|Tracks...the Wild Ones|