Just one month after the Ramones first played CBGB in the summer of 1974, some wise soul had the foresight to bring in a camera into the seedy bar and capture three songs that they blazed through in just seven minutes. The footage is absolutely amazing,the punk equivalent of seeing the Beatles play one of their early shows at the Star Club in Hamburg.
The group formed early in 1974 as a trio, with Joey on drums and Dee Dee on lead vocals. Tommy Erdelyi soon joined on drums, freeing up Joey to handle the vocals. They struggled to find a place to play at first, but not long after getting Television and Patti Smith to play his club, CBGB founder Hilly Kristal gave the Ramones a chance, too. On August 16th, 1974, they began a residency that essentially lasted through February of 1976.
It would be nearly two more years until the Ramones released their debut LP, but this video proves they had their signature sound from the very beginning. Johnny and Dee Dee would soon switch sides of the stage, and their playing grew a little less ramshackle as the months went by. But all the ingredients that made the Ramones so revolutionary are present here. Dee Dee even kicks off the songs with “One, two, three, four!”
After opening with “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” the band gets into a hilarious argument over what song to play next. Joey calls for “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement,” but Tommy refuses to start and calls for “Loudmouth.” Dee Dee agrees with Joey, and Tommy begrudgingly launches into “I Don’t Wanna To Down to the Basement” after saying “fuck you all,” as Johnny tries to settle everyone down. It would not be the band’s last disagreement.
There’s only a small crowd at the show, but cheers still erupt when they announce “Judy Is a Punk.” It would take a lot of hard work for the rest of the world to catch on, and even at their peak the Ramones were still touring in a van and struggling financially. Only three of their singles even dinged the Hot 100, the most successful being “Rockaway Beach” at number 66.
Between 1974 and 1996, the Ramones played 2,263 concerts. This video, shot on September 15th, 1974, was their 13th.