Saturday, 2 June 2012

35 Years later - The Ramones Vs John Cooper Clarke

On the 6th June 1977 my life changed. That was the day I saw the Ramones, The Talking Heads and the Saints at the Roundhouse. That was the day I was bitten by the punk rock bug. I was fourteen years old and had never even considered playinga guitar. I only went because my sister had a spare ticket and I was at a loose end. That weekend there was a bank holiday for the queens silver jubilee. I wasn't at that point too aware of the music scene. We didn't have wall to wall TV and music, downloads or Ipods. It was all vinyl. The only two music shows were Top of the Pops and the Old Grey Whistle Test, which both ignored punk rock. I had seen the Sex Pistols on the Bill Grundy show. I thought it was hilarious, but they seemed like aliens from another planet. Unlike today, there was no flood of twittering. I'd never even seen a computer, let alone used one then. My musical tastes at that point were T Rex, Bowie and the Rolling Stones. I knew every bar of every verse of every song on "Sticky Finegrs" backwards. I had even spotted the mis-edit in "Bitch". It tried to explain this to my sisters but they hadn't a clue what I was on about.

I have very strong recollections of that night. The Saints strolled on and were just a kind of cool wall of noise. I knew they were Australians. I can remember Chris Bailey was wearing a mac and the music was frantic and the band looked completely out of it. Next up were Talking Heads. I fopund Tina Weymouth intriguing. As a fourteen year old boy, the highlight of the show was Psycho Killer. Not because I particularly liked the song, but because of the way Tina's breasts moved in time with the bass on the Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum der Dum bit. I didn't know any song by any band, so it was all a bit odd. I thought Talking Heads were a country and western band.

Then the Ramones strode on. Joey shouted 1-2-3-4 and 33 minutes later they finished. I was drenched in sweat and had found meaning in life. I went out the next week and bought their first two albums. I then found that due to a campaign by a Conservative MP, the track Carbona Not Glue had been replaced on my copy by Babysitter. I spent the next six months tracking down a copy with Carbona on. I also started planning to form a band. we actually had the band for a year before we had any instruments. We'd go and sing Acapella versions of songs such as "The Vietnamese Boat refugee" song to the people queueing outside gigs. On one famous occasion we took a crate of overripe bananas to Camden Town and pelted the people in the queue with them (after drinking a couple of bottles of Vodka). A reporter from the NME took umbrage at getting hit in the face with a banana and stepped out of line to take his revenge. He slipped on another banana and broke his arm, which we found hilarious. What was even funnier was the fact that he wrote in the paper that the crowd had been attacked by vicious fascist thugs chanting obscene nazi slogans and one of them beat him up, breaking his arm. He couldn't admit that he'd been called a twat by a pissed teenager singing a song slagging off the Thai government for executing refugees and he's slipped over on a banana. His story couldn't have been further from the truth, especially as one of our little gang was a Kenyan. After that we'd always give him as much abuse as possible whenever we saw him. I even wrote a letter to the NME explaining just how wide of the mark they were, but uit was never published.

Thirty five years later, I'm celebrating the diamond jubilee by going to see John Cooper Clarke at the Stoke Newington Literary festival tonight. Will it have the same effect as the Ramones? I doubt it, but I am sure it will be a great night. These days I don't drink bottles of vodka, throw bananas at journalists and laugh when they break their arms. I guess I'm still guilty of occasionally calling out a pompous twat or two. Thirty five years ago, as I got ready to see the Ramones, I had no idea what sort of effect it would have on my life. There are very few seconds of that ride I'd change. Here's to the next thirty five years.

However you spend the Jubilee, I hope you have a wicked time !


caroline said...

Mum warned me if you went off the rails after seeing the Ramones it would be all MY fault.

I hereby claim my share of Mill Hill Music Complex.

Gabba Gabba Hey!

theylivewesleep said...

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the Old Grey WHislte Test regularly championed punk rock music. Go on youtube and google Gang of Four on the Olg Grey Whistle Test, this might recap your memory

Rog T said...

You are talking bollocks. Check Bob Harris comments after the New York Dolls appearance. Punk was ignored until it couldn't be ignored anymore by TOGWT. We all hated the show. They were late in the day converts. I was there I don't need to google anything. I suggest you google "sid vicious bob harris" which will soon fill in the holes in your punk education

Anonymous said...

I was at that concert as well. Got there early - right at the front and centre. Shook hands near the end with Joey and the NME mentioned in their review that he looked scared! Great gig - still got the poster and the ticket.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading your blog remember that gig well good night also remember Tina getting the ump with some of the banter from the crowd, it's good to remember the things that happen and the people you meet than get weighed down with facts about bands and when where and how, used to enjoy the music machine gigs as well and all the free tickets for weekday triple bills and the pub gigs and the more obscure bands always enjoyed the Wayne/Jane and the electric chairs gigs and loads of other as well as the must see ones great time to remember snoopy