August 01, 2004

THE SUMMER OF PUNK

In the summer of 1979 I became a punk. 25 years ago, Timmy Ramone was born.

This didn't happen all at once. The first seeds were planted about a year earlier when I happened to catch a couple of interesting LPs on the "Late Night Album Hour" on KQRS-FM (a local radio program that played an entire album, start to finish, and was a valuable service to people with cassette recorders). The two LPs I remember best from that time were Parallel Lines by Blondie (broadcast months before "Heart of Glass" became a hit) and A Tonic for the Troops, the second album by Ireland's Boomtown Rats. I became a big fan of both groups. This was a few months after I heard Patti Smith's Radio Ethiopia, which I borrowed from a local public library (believe it or not), and after seeing her perform live at the State Theater in Minneapolis in March of 1978 (my late buddy, Moldy Ramone, was there, along with my brother and three other friends).

However, I was still a little leery about this whole Punk/New Wave thing. This was largely due to negative coverage afforded it in the corporate media (the most notorious was a muckraking report broadcast on NBC's Weekend TV series in early 1977, which featured lurid images of "violent" punks fighting, spitting and throwing up on things). But, one day in the spring of 1979, I went into a popular used record store on the West Bank (the Wax Museum that was located near Cedar and Riverside in Minneapolis). The music playing in the store on that day was some of the most energetic, intense and exciting rock 'n' roll I had ever heard. I asked the clerk what was on the turntable and he told me it was a British-import record, innocuously-titled New Wave. I was shocked when I discovered that it was an anthology of -- *gasp* -- PUNK ROCK!!!

This was the music the corporate media had labeled evil, nasty and dangerous-to-mice?! Like the rest of the brainwashed masses, force fed on Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Olivia Newton-John and endless pretentious "art-rock" and heavy metal bands, I was led to believe that punk rockers were the root of all evil. When, in actual fact -- they were! But nobody said how great their music was! This LP was The Record that Changed My Life.

I bought the album right there and played it to death (and nearly drove my non-punk roommate crazy). And in June of 1979 I saw my first punk-rock show at the Longhorn Bar in Minneapolis: Richard Hell and the Voidoids (the warm-up act was another New York punk group, the Testors). The next day I cut my hair, bought a leather jacket, and Timmy Ramone was born!

I went to at least two other concerts that summer: Robert Fripp at the Walker Art Museum, also in June, and DEVO at the Guthrie a few weeks later. Other great shows in '79 at the Longhorn included The Buzzcocks with the Gang of Four, and the Cramps (I believe it was the first time they played in Minneapolis, just a week before Halloween -- "my favorite holiday," according to Lux Interior). And there was the M-80 music festival at the U of MN in September. But 1979 was capped in November of that year when Moldy and I went to our first Ramones concert at First Avenue (which was called Uncle Sam's at the time).

I also began haunting the new and used (mostly used) record stores regularly. I recall one day in July of '79 when I walked into to Oarfolkjokeopus on Lyndale Avenue. Two new albums had arrived that week: Fear of Music by The Talking Heads and the U.S. release of The Clash. I only had enough for one album. It was a tough call, but I eventually settled on the Clash album -- a decision I never regretted (though I later picked up the Heads' LP, which I also liked). I also found cassette tapes of both Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols and Power in the Darkness by the Tom Robinson Band, which I got in an unusual 2-for-1 deal at a local Musicland store.

But the store I frequented most was Northern Lights in Fridley. That's where I picked up copies of great LPs like This is the Modern World by The Jam (as a cut-out!), Rocket to Russia by The Ramones, Mission Accomplished but the Beat Goes On by The Rezillos, and Germ-Free Adolescents by X-Ray Spex -- perhaps the single greatest "punk" album of all time. I spent endless hours that summer with my beat-up old headphones on and the volume cranked up to "11".

The rest is, as they say, history.

-timmy ramone

One footnote to the Summer of Punk: Back in '79, KFAI-FM, a community radio station here in Minneapolis, had a weekly "Modern Music" show on Saturdays that featured the newest and best punk and new wave music. But even though I had an apartment in Northeast Minneapolis at the time, I was still unable to receive the signal (back then, KFAI broadcast only 25 watts from the top of the Seward Co-op). So I had a co-worker at my temporary job record the show for me. I digitized the tape and I periodically "broadcast" it on one of my ShoutCast channels. Check the Media Page for updates.

Posted by timmy ramone at August 1, 2004 11:40 AM

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