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Baby punk

jon langford

Post your stories about the Ramones, the 80s, alt. or vintage country music, Tom Jones, "outsider" art and anything else related to this episode with Jon Langford. And consider entering our listener "ride" contest. Email us at theride@npr.org. Please give us your first name and tell us where you're writing from. Of course, we also like to get mail the old-fashioned way. Write us at: Along For The Ride, National Public Radio, 635 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001.

"...series of bad DMV shots..."
From: Donna from Birmingham, AL
Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2001 12:27 PM

I had a series of bad DMV shots (well who hasn't). One of the first ones, I looked the spitting image of Joey Ramone, another one, I looked like Marty Feldman. Oddly, I still see myself as somewhat attractive.

You are correct!
From: theride@npr.org
Sent: Wednesday, July 11, 2001 10:36 AM

Scott: Thanks for your correction of our punk rock quiz.

"...You have listed the answer as Sex...that is incorrect..."
From: Scott S.
Sent: Thursday, July 12, 2001 1:25 PM

I noted an error in your answers to your Punk Rock Quiz. 4. What was the original name of Malcolm McClaren's London boutique? You have listed the answer as Sex...that is incorrect. The shop's name was Sex when the Sex Pistols started. The shop's previous names were: Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die and before that it was a 60's rocker/Mod clothing store with another name (which escapes me right now). The correct answer is in several of the punk-based books from recent years...Please Kill Me, Rotten, etc.

Joey and my brother
From: Patch
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2001 5:26 PM

I don't believe that joey ever met my brother, but he left a lasting impression on his life. I believe the first time he saw the Ramones play was in the mid 80'son UM campus ( a little later than most of you NYers). It was in the middle of winter and freezing outside, the little room they were playing in was about a 110 degrees. Sounds familiar? Jump a head 10 year, my brother now lives in NYC hears that the Ramones are playing down the street, got the night off from work, asked girl out for the first time and took her to the show. The story ends happily married 6 years later with twins. I don't think he ever got a chance to thank joey for all he did.

"...or maybe it was a joke, but the biggest, most important joke ever, anywhere, in the history of the world..."
From: Paul, originally from the Ramones hometown of Queens, NY
Sent: Friday, June 29, 2001 6:05 PM

It was the fall of 1976 and I was 17 years old and living in New York City, but in Queens where nothing at all ever happened. A friend of mine said he was going into Manhattan to see the Ramones at Max's Kansas City and asked if I wanted to come along. I had heard the record and told my friend that it was really stupid. What, no guitar solos! But there was so little going on that I decided to tag along. I'd never been to Max's before -- a club not much wider than a hallway that had no backstage so that the musicians had to fight their way through the crowd with their guitars held over their head to get to the stage. The opening act was a 3-piece band without a record called the Talking Heads. My hopes lifted. I thought they were really cool. Incredibly (idiotically) I picked Love Goes To Building on Fire -- rather than Psycho Killer which they also played -- as their probable hit.

When the Ramones started playing I was amazed by the energy. Not only on the stage, but all around us. Besides me and my friend it seemed that everyone there knew every word to every song. To them, this was obviously no joke -- or maybe it was a joke, but the biggest, most important joke ever, anywhere, in the history of the world. There was no pogoing at this point, but there was a lot of really fevered bouncing up and down. Just as the feedback hum at the end of one song would begin to wane, the bass player would scream "One Two Three Four" and they would rampage into the next song. It was so exciting, but of course I really couldn't admit that because I had already told my friend how stupid the Ramones were. Still I felt secretly vindicated that they were from Queens.

I probably should have gone off that night and started my own proto-punk band. I had only been playing guitar for a year but I was already good enough to do that, and I certainly was filled with all the necessary misery and hormones. Instead I took the F train back to Queens and studied for the English Advanced Placement Exam. Ah well, the road not taken.

Some days later, I went and bought the Ramones album at a used record store called "the Music Box" in my neighborhood. I wanted to get it used because somehow I didn't believe the boys deserved any additional royalties since they hadn't taken the time to put any guitar solos in. The owner of the store was a guy named Dominique, who went by the name Keith West or Keith Ambrose or something when playing at Max's and CBGB's with his glam-rock band "The Brats." He claimed that his band was better than the Ramones and that the Ramones' song "Beat on the Brat" was about him, but I've read different accounts since. The Brats never put out an album, but they did make it onto the cover of the New York tabloids when some explosives they used during their stage show went awry and set some folks on fire. It went largely unreported in New York that the Ramones had been doing the same thing without using explosives.

"...[the Ramones] are to rock what Charlie Parker and friends were and are to jazz..."
From: Reuben Jackson in DC
Sent: Monday, June 25, 2001 10:54 AM

How interesting ( and ironic) that three of the most villified forms of American music spread their still despised wings in the 1970s. Of course, Im referring to disco, jazz-rock fusion and punk. And though I am a "jazz person" of sorts, I am forever grateful to bands like the Ramones for putting the "big beat" ( to use Alan Freed's term) back into what was becoming a distressingly self-important genre. They ( and a few other bands of their ilk) are to rock what Charlie Parker and friends were and are to jazz: A wake up call built upon the music's traditions.... God bless them, and God bless Joey Ramone.

"...It's been a rough year for 'us'...
From: Jack R. in Oklahoma City
Sent: Sunday, June 24, 2001 11:20 AM

Guys, I just wanted to thank you for a fairly unique experience.

Here I am, a 35 year old post-punk, cruising through OKC on my way to a hastily called Saturday meeting, when lo and behold, I get one of my favorite anthems coming from a rather unexpected source. Needless to say, I cranked it up, rolled down the windows, and sang along.

As a side note: It's been a rough year for "us": we loose Bengiman Orr, of the Cars; Douglas Adams, of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and now our pal Joey. What can you do?

Two sides of punk
From: Jackie M. of New London, WI
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2001 9:48 AM

I am a punk, though you wouldnít know by looking at me. My short, almost military haircut doesnít look shockingly spiked with gel. My hair is its original dark brown color, and I wear clean, matching clothes. But in my heart I am all punk. I write songs criticizing those who judge me and my life: organized religion, the military, and close-minded societies as a whole, all of which I have too much experience with. But in my punk attitude I play by the rules. I hold a steady, well paying job. I show up on time and work on what Iíve been assigned. But Iím always aware of injustice lurking around the corner.

My brother is your classic punk. His hair is disheveled; no hair gel or even a comb has touched it in a year. This is just the latest in a long list of hairstyles ranging from shaved to a 6 inch multicolored mohawk. His clothes never match; sometimes they are washed. Most of his clothes are self-decorated with patches and paintings. And he really should shower more in my opinion. His main mode of transportation is his skateboard, which he risks getting ticketed for on a daily basis. His political views put him at odds with almost every aspect of society.

He is viewed as a punk, a deadbeat, a troublemaker, while I am viewed as responsible, intelligent, and a good kid. Our political views are very similar, though he takes them to greater extremes than I. Does his look make him any more of a punk than myself? Society may think so, but I donít listen to society. That is the spirit of punk.

"..I listened over and over to the 2 Ramones songs.."
From: Robert W. in Edinburg, TX
Sent: Monday, June 18, 2001 2:26 AM

I must confess that I first heard punk rock when I bought the Sex Pistols Nevermind... 8-track in 1978 when I was 17 and this album was way too rough for me and I threw it away only to revive it a few months later. Meanwhile, a few days later I bought an LP that had Television, Talking Heads, Blondie, Richard Hell and the Voidoids and the Ramones. Well, to sum it up, I listened over and over to the 2 Ramones songs, Judy is a Punk and Suzy is a Headbanger. I turned it up louder and it just took hold. Even as a drunken teen I knew this was really stupid music but it was melodic, had enuf of a raw edge, was faster than anything I had ever heard up to that point to make it fun listening. Especially for this hyperactive boy. From that point on my musical taste would forever change.

I'm was raised in the southern extreme of Texas near Mexico where pop culture was at least 15-20 years behind, no exaggeration. I was the only one in my high school who actually listened and enjoyed punk rock. Everyone else thought Devo and Blondie were punk. Since I was already a socially inept outcast from this place, my habit for punk rock made people even more wary of me. Local record stores at the mall had nothing on punk rock and we had no indie stores so it wasn't until I graduated HS and moved to Austin, Texas in 1982 that I finally got to see the Ramones at the now defunct Austin Opera House. They were everything I was looking for. I saw many other "hardcore" bands but for me the Ramones - Johnny, Joey, Marky and DeeDee - were my geek heroes.

I really, seriously must thank Joey and Co. for bringing rock and roll back to its hard core roots because my early childhood was so full of *** negative disappointments that everyday I stole away to my room and jumped around to The Ramones and of course the Sex Pistols. I love music so much and not surprisingly, everything I enjoy now is most assuredly influenced by the Ramones. Thanks Joey, for making my ****ed-up teenage years a little more bearable. Gimme Gimme the RAMONES!



"Who on earth was that?" not realizing I had been charging up her long distance bill. "It's Joey Ramone, Mama!"
From: Caroline Langston-Jarboe (who works at NPR)
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2001 3:15 PM

When I was 13 years old, I talked to Joey Ramone for an hour on the telephone long-distance from my mother's house in Yazoo City, Mississippi. I had just gotten turned on to the Ramones the summer before (this was 1981), after Rock and Roll High School aired on The Star Channel, a kind of low-rent HBO that was the only cable movie channel available in the Mississippi Delta. I immediately went out and bought the Phil Spector-produced album End of the Century, which had been released the year before.

Interestingly, this was right around the time that there was a minor New Wave movement going on in Mississippi, and I felt into it immediately, as much as an eighth-grader at a tiny private academy (established 1969) in the middle of a cotton field could. I bought cans of pink-tinted Nestle hair spray and made my older brother sneak me into a Jackson nightclub called "Skidmarks," which was located in a strip mall on the road to the airport and was where people went to go slam dancing. Along the way, I also developed one of those obsessive, sturm und drang adolescent-girl crushes on Joey Ramone, which on the face of it would seem to be more the kind of reaction one would have about Rick Springfield, or Luke from General Hospital.

One day I read in Trouser Press magazine that Joey Ramone's real name was Jeffrey Hyman and that he lived in between New York's East and West Villages. I immediately, of course, called New York Information and found that there was just one listing for that name in that area of town. I remember that my hands were shaking as dialed the number on the black rotary telephone that sat on its little secretary in the downstairs hall. It was around 7 o'clock on a weekday night, and that familiar voice immediately picked up the line. Breathlessly. I said that I was Caroline Langston, I was 13 years old, and was calling from Yazoo City, Mississippi. I can't imagine what he thought after that, but he did seem completely happy to talk to me all evening. I told him how much I loved the Ramones, and that they were my favorite band, but I didn't tell him how I had secret fantasies of getting married to him in St. Patrick's Cathedral wearing a purple rip-stop nylon dress, with E. Power Biggs playing the organ.

At one point, as if he couldn't even believe that we were having this conversation, he asked me to put my mother on the phone, who got on the line and introduced herself as "Mrs. John A. Langston," and said that she was "happy to meet" him. She answered a few questions from him about Yazoo City, then got off and whispered to me, "Who on earth was that?" not realizing I had been charging up her long distance bill. "It's Joey Ramone, Mama!" I spat back, exasperated that she couldn't remember who he was when I talked about him all the time.

The conversation ended with Joey saying that I should call him up if I ever came to New York, a city to which at that point I had never been. During the next year, my romantic allegiances moved on to John Lydon (nee Johnny Rotten), and so I started acquiring Sex Pistols and Public Image Limited albums and trying to talk with an English accent. But the very next fall, as I was on my way up the East Coast to enter a boarding school in Massachusetts, I looked up from a dinner table on West 57th Street and remembered Joey Ramone's invitation to call him if I came to - as I was learning to call it - "The City." After dinner, I went to the phone and dialed the number; he answered the phone just as quickly as he had done before. I reintroduced myself and he immediately remembered who I was. "So can I come over?" he said. I am sure now that he cannot have been serious, but in his tone there was just enough of a faint hint of pleading to make me replay it over and over in my mind, later that night in the dark, lying in a makeshift bed on the apartment floor with the unfamiliar city sounds filtering through the window.

I thought about what it would be like to finally come face to face with my skinny-bodied punk avatar, whose dark hair and long white fingers were in one form or another forever to resurface in my life, in the features of boyfriends and characters in stories I'd written. "I don't think so," I said, then added, "I'm sorry," just before I hung up the receiver.