Changing the Face of College Radio
Carl F Gauze
God, Joey sure wasn’t too old to rock and roll, but it looks like he was young enough to die. I first heard the Ramones when working at a college station in Milwaukee, in, oh, maybe 1976 or ’77. The second Ramones album arrived, which was pretty unusual, as we were far below the promotional radar screens of any respectable record company. This was the days of disco and stadium rockers, so four tattered guys who played loud, short, and noisy songs like “Carbona Not Glue” were quite a novelty. Naturally, we felt moved to ridicule and deface the album by drawing extra scars on The Ramones’ faces, roses in their teeth, etc., all sorts of things that in retrospect were very, very punk, even before we had really heard the term. Talk about influencing a new generation.
The next summer, The Ramones played Summerfest in Milwaukee, one of the early big city sponsored music fests. The Dictators played, as well, but a different night. Summerfest was a big party. You were legal at 18, and no one really carded, and people smoked dope on the big rocks on the lake and the cops hardly busted anyone. When my buddies and I found the Novelty Stage (not the Main Stage — that was for Liberace or Manhattan Transfer), it was packed, until the boys lit off their first guitar chords. Beer Town teenyboppers scattered like roaches, and in 15 minutes, we were in the third row. Wow! There they were, ten feet from us — loud, sneering, and waving a cardboard sign saying “Gabba Gabba We Accept You.” Not sure what they’re talking about? Go rent Todd Browning’s Freaks, young slacker, and see some real horror. They did about 20 songs in 45 minutes, all sounding pretty much alike, but they moved a generation to realize there was nothing, not even a complete lack of musical sense or skill, that could keep you from hitting it big on college radio. It was a moment that could only happen in America.
Years later, I discovered where the name “Ramones” originated — Paul McCartney traveled as “Paul Ramone” for security reasons. Completely useless information, but today is the day to remember such little things.