The date is Wednesday 19 May 1976. Most of Peel’s show that night was interesting enough. There were tracks from LPs by Supercharge, the Steve Miller band, Nils Lofgren, Streetwalkers and the Mighty Diamonds. But the last track, all 1′ 30″ of it, was ‘Judy Is A Punk’, which, as the PasB confirms, is ‘Side 1. Band 3. LP: Ramones. ‘Every week I used to go down to Virgin Records at Marble Arch, and the manager, I’m sure without the approval of Head Office, used to allow me to take records out “on approval”: the ones I didn’t want I’d return, and those I did I would have to pay for,’ Peel remembered, years later. ‘One week I took out about ten LPs, one of which was one by the Ramones, and I immediately liked several things about it: first, the simplicity of the name, it having an implication of that romantic Spanish New York thing; and also because it was a monochrome sleeve. When I put the record on, initially, because of the aggression and brevity of the numbers, I was slightly taken aback, but sufficiently excited, that I started playing it that very night.’ (Ken Garner, The Peel Sessions, p. 87)
He likened the experience to that of hearing Little Richard for the first time…once again, this caused loud complaints from his core audience-or rather, those parts of it that hadn’t been frightened off by reggae-though the band would doubtless have been disappointed to learn that the village postman brought us no turds in honour of their singular racket. (John Peel and Sheila Ravenscroft, Margarve Of The Marshes, p. 361)
In the Ramones’ sole Festive Fifty entry, Pinhead (FF 1977 #23), from their second LP Leave Home, they don’t count in the song, but they do go ‘gabba gabba hey’. And that’s just about enough to sum up a band who began Peel’s road to Damascus, his vision of a second coming for the tight discipline imposed by a two and a quarter minute rock’n’roll song. They were cartoon punks, but of the most charming and earthy kind. Their roster of sterling classsic diamonds trips easily off the tongue: ‘Judy Is A Punk’, ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’, ‘Rockaway Beach’, ‘Blitzkreig Bop’…we all know and love them, but few can readily distill their appeal.
All of them took pseudonyms with the surname Ramone, even though they weren’t family. They were formed in 1974 in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, and gigged long and hard. The songs lasted for about two minutes apiece and their sets at CBGB’s lasted around 17 minutes. It seems almost like a standing joke to relate all this, but it was true. They kick-started punk in England, though they were prophets without honour in their own land. Their sunglasses and leather jacket image was topped off by intense, three chord walls of noise that took the UK by storm when they finally played there live in June 1976 and left their indelible stamp on the Sex Pistols and the Clash, among many others (their sound being refined by the Lurkers, for instance).
They didn’t physically invent punk: you’d have to dig a lot further than that to get to the core. JP moved on from them to other bands in his own backyard, their move to more pop-oriented material in the 80s was unconvincing (seeing them on Top Of The Pops performing ‘Baby I Love You’ was rather akin to walking into the bathroom and seeing your grandmother on the bog), and Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee are no longer with us. Moreover, the song I post today is by no means their best: but if you’re nostalgic about punk and want a reminder of how it sped rock up overnight, this is as good a place as any to start.