I stepped into The Warwick Public Library this morning, it’s where I do most of my writing for publication these days, and lo and behold, there it was, The Ramones, and me, sharing the spotlight. Who says dreams don’t come true!
It’s 1977, I’m fifteen and inside The Living Room, a Downcity nightclub with a bad reputation. Drugs, fights, debauchery-the kind of thing that sucks any self-respecting high school kid in the seventies right in. It’s late, I had concocted an elaborate ruse to get the night off from the family, which by today’s standards didn’t need to be all that elaborate, what with no tweets, Facebook, cell phones and GPS we were pretty much able to lead the life of our choosing without much interference.
This night, a week before Thanksgiving, everything changed.
I’m surrounded by people much cooler than me, dressed in black leather jackets, torn blue jeans and t-shirts. It’s mostly guys, but the girls there were just my style, a little dangerous, reckless and totally out of my league. I’m milling about, getting a feel for a world that was completely new to me, this being only my second time here, last week being my first. Steppenwolf played that night, they of the famous Born to be Wild, and all that went with it. Tonight’s crowd is edgier, more vibrant, There is electricity in the air, I can feel it and have no idea why.
Midnight. Closing time is at one. The crowd is getting restless. I’m getting worried, it’s a school night and I have to show up the next morning or my entire fabrication of the night’s events will be exposed for the lie that it was. I can’t leave though, just can’t. Something is about to happen and I have no idea what but absolutely cannot miss it. The house lights are dim, a cocktail waitress gracefully slides through the crowd that has grown to capacity now, people shoulder to shoulder looking forward at the stage. The waitress finds me. Again. I’m almost out of money but I think she likes me so I give her five dollars for the two dollar draft and tell her to keep the change. I’m rewarded with a smile that stays with me to this day, thirty-five years later. Money well spent.
A chant begins from the back of the room, now packed with a thousand people. “Hey, Ho-Let’s Go! Hey, Ho-Let’s Go! Hey, Ho-Let’s Go! Its contagious, I join in, somehow making it to the front of the stage without spilling my beer. The chant continues, I’m shouting Hey, Ho-Let’s’ Go! The lights go down, it’s pitch black. The crowd erupts. A roar louder than any I had heard at any Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Steppenwolf or Foghat concerts I had been going to. Four silhouettes take the stage, the crowd gets louder, somehow.
Above it all come the four words that changed everything, Dee Dee Ramone gets things rolling..
The lights come on, the crowd goes crazier still, pandemonium breaks out on the dance floor, my beer goes flying and I am in the middle of the original mosh pit, where I stay for the next hour, lost in blissful happiness as the Ramones crank out one two minute song after another, never taking a break, just letting it roll.
Then they left. A fifty minute set that left the crowd exhausted, covered with sweat and completely satisfied.
I asked for a black leather jacket for Christmas. Some days I wish I still had it, and could wear it just one more time and let everything go.
And here I am, Forty years later. Me and the Ramones, together still!