It wasn’t even the first time they had played London and it certainly wasn’t the last but when the Ramones hit the Roundhouse in 1977 it was like a blowtorch blasting everything out of the way.
Their previous show in 1976, supporting the Flaming Groovies, was the moment when they changed culture and the small coterie of fans who got it that night sped up all their youthful punk rock bands but when they returned a few months later all the new youth were there and the gigs was a perfect exercise in high excitement and thrilling music.
Never has a band been so of its moment- they looked fab- the Lewis leathers hugging them like cockroaches- Joey looked brilliantly awkward – a lanky presence like some sort of quixotic dinosaur come back to life, grabbing the mic stand and singing with that voice- the voice of heartbreak- the purest voice in the history of pop.
To his left and right Johnny and Dee Dee ran riot on the stage- throwing every pose and shape that would be carbon copied into the lexicon of punk rock and garage rock for the next 40 years – the band looked perfect – attacking in formation and somehow sounding like heaviest band in the world whilst also sounding like pure pop. The backdrop painted by Arturo Vega framed them perfectly – they were one of the first bands to understand the power of presentation with the lights and the logo and the backdrop hanging there like a monolithic machine couching the venue with its power- it’s something that every American rock band does to this day.
Of course they never got their dues at the time- the radio were terrified of them (of course- the radio always thrives on being scared of what’s really going on, it still does). They should have been the biggest pop band in the world but we had to wait until they were all dead before they were allowed this accolade.
In the 21st century it’s perfectly natural to see a Ramones T shirt wherever you turn. If we could bring them back from the dead (and they will return one day as holograms…) they would fill stadiums worldwide but we still have this filmed document of the most perfect gig ever- a band at the top of its game. A band that was funny, goofy, powerful, dangerous and heartbreaking all rolled into one- the purest and most perfect distillation of pop and rock all in one and a thrilling seat of the pants gig to boot.
Thank fuck it ewas recorded for the Its Alive album and filmed as well – an object lesson into how to deliver rock n roll.