Saturday, July 12, 2014

I Don't Wanna Go Down To The Basement..But I Have To....

Hello.  Yes I never remember that I have a blog, I won't beleaguer anyone with the details of my inability to remember this, but today...I felt compelled to resurrect it.  Tommy Ramone, the last original member of The Ramones, is gone.  All of them, are now Monkey's Gone To Heaven, as the Pixies aptly sang, and seeing as how they were pretty into The Ramones, yes it's fucking relevant.

None of The Ramones lived to 65.  All of them died young, died fast, and died hard, like their music, 1,2,3,4...GONE, to the Rock and Roll High School in the sky (if you believe in that sort of thing).  As a fan, it would have been enough to have just enjoyed the amazing music, the energy-the veritable culture the 4 degenerates from Forest Hills provided, but I was more fortunate, my time slinging music in Downtown NYC providing a pathway to them directly.  More on that in a bit.

I, am from Queens NY, and to say this with pride, is a recent phenomenon.  It's only really become a badge of pride in the NOW.  My entire family having been born and raised in the 5 boroughs, most notably Brooklyn and Queens, were always very keen on anything that came from the hood, my Mom would trumpet with pride that Simon and Garfunkel were from Queens, that Jack Kerouac (she knew I loved him), lived in Ozone Park, as well as Louis Armstrong and Illinois Jacquet.  That said, until Run DMC, Kool G Rap, Nas, and Tribe Called Quest and hip hop culture changed Queen's perceptions, there really wasn't a whole lot of coolness about Queens.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Simon and Garfunkel, but it didn't have the razzle dazzle factor.

Until....The Ramones.

The first time I heard The Ramones, I was no longer living with grandpa in Queens.  I was living on Long Island in hell.  I hated everyone.  I hated my new neighborhood, I hated my new school, I hated everyone that involved me in the move.  I was also completely and utterly addicted, to music television programs.  The story of my entire life, is a common woe, that of being way too young to enjoy anything happening in your times.  I was too young to go to CBGB's (though a toddler siting there would have probably delighted the denizens), too young to go dance at Mudd Club.  Too young to wear platform shoes, or go to see my favorite band of all time, Led Zeppelin. Too young to score the requisite narcotics to dull my pain, so Soul Train, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and Midnight Special (both of which I was far too young to stay up for, but I was an expert negotiator), and even stupid dancing shows like Dance Fever, quelled my agony.  Watching those shows, I saw my future, I could escape into the wonder of being a rock star, a soul star, a dance star, anything but living in miserable Eastern LI.  I was also, partial to Sha Na Na's television program and it was HERE, introduced by John "Bowser" Bowman, that I saw....the four biker jacket clad saviors. The song?  Rock and Roll High School.  What more?  There was a MOVIE of the same name starring them.  After 30 seconds, seeing this movie, became my quest.  First however, there would be the task of getting every single album of theirs, I could find.

Thank heavens for Sam Goody.

I bought the debut and Rocket to Russia, as well as the Rock and Roll High School Soundtrack, because my new solitary mission, would be, to get someone, ANYONE to take me to see Rock and Roll High School.  I took my new records down to the basement, where I had a record player and it was the only place where I'd be left alone with my music.  Blitzkrieg Bop began it's rallying cry of "Hey Ho Let's Go," and I was gone.  GONE.  In love.  I should probably insert here, that I was not a normal child, I was a lonely child, didn't really fit it, blah blah blah, but music found me at age 6, got it's grip on me and wouldn't let go.  I should also make clear that punk rock, meant nothing to me at this point, my love for The Ramones were the same as my love for all the bands I worshipped at that time.  For me?  They were just another amazing band, and of course, they were stars, which is all I ever wanted to be. It wasn't until years later that I was informed, of course, that having an equal love of punk rock and prog rock wasn't...normal, and that the two spheres were in fact at war with each other, that in fact The Ramones were here to decimate bands I loved like Pink Floyd or.....Yes.  I was dumbfounded.  What if you love both?  What if both bands, what if punk and classic rock, jazz, blues, opera, what if it all means equally the same thing to you?  What if you choose not to choose sides?  What if you just want your punk and your polkas, in the same....realm?

My love of punk rock music blossomed of course, including other amazing bands, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Dead Boys, Dead Kennedy's, etc...but no one ever gave me that tingle like The Ramones.  The Ramones provided everything that was exciting about Rock and Roll, that part of you that wants to lick your finger and stick it into an electric socket, the same way I would feel listening to The Who, but even more base, even more depraved.  I went to see them a few times over the years live, always with a changing lineup, but the magic never diminished for me.  Those songs were bulletproof and a living testimony to the fact that all of the technical skill in the world, can not and will not, replace the skill of songwriting, and they had songs in ABUNDANCE.  One of my High School boyfriends was a hyperbolic Ramones fan, and it might have our only real line of communication, other than smoking dope and fucking.

Many many years later as a "working" (if you could call it that) idiot in Downtown NYC which makes Williamsburg look like the biggest stupid almost-ran in the game (call me old and crusty, I really don't fucking care), I had a chance to meet Joey Ramone, nee Jeffrey Hyman.  You'd never have met such a sweet soul, books and interviews can't really detail how sincere he was.  His love of The Beatles and Dylan was as pure when I met him in 1997, as it was when HE was a teen.  We spoke of music, and hugged.  The next time I saw Joey, it was late 2000, 7AM, I was staggering home from a party on Broadway and he was walking home too.  Our paths crossed, thankfully he remembered me and I said "hey man, you're up early!."  He looked uncomfortable.  I did not know him intimately enough to know he'd been struggling with Lymphoma.  He shrugged his oversized skinny shoulders and said " know NYC is often really the best when everyone is just waking up."  I gave him a hug.  It was the last time I'd see him.  Dee Dee, who I never met OD'd.  Johnny, who I also never met, died of cancer in 2004.  Today, Tommy takes his entire "happy family" back to the rock.  I can't believe in God.  No God, would take all of The Ramones away from the world.

So today, my heart is heavy and there are a lot of people whose hearts I am sure are even heavier than mine.  I want to personally thank Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy and even Marky, who I would imagine has to be the loneliest person in the world today.  Go put on a Ramones song.  Go dance.  Go celebrate their lives.  They worked harder than just about ANYONE, to give all the energy to the people.  Today, transfer some of that good energy to someone you know.  RIP.