Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Ramones-- 40 Years Ago Today


I had dinner with my old friend Danny Fields today. You may know him as the guy who discovered Iggy and the MC5 or as manager of the Ramones or as the guy from the movie, Danny Says, that came out last year. I met Danny 50 years ago. I was still a teenager, in college, and he was ten years older and working in the music buisiness and seemed very much the ideal, cool adult hipster. I had booked an unknown band I had met at a tiny club in New York over the summer to play my school in September, The Doors. I went to see them at the club every night for a couple weeks while they were in New York and got to be friends with Jim Morrison, bonding over DMT, a wretched drug no one liked except he and I, and I agreed to pay them $450 for the concert. A month later they released their first single, "Light My Fire" and it exploded. Although there was no album yet, the single made them famous and the $450 fee looked like a great deal, although some students were disgrunted that I had wasted so much student money on an unknown band. It was one of the greatest rock shows I had ever seen and The Doors introduced me to their A&R guy from Elektra Records, Danny, that night.

Me, then
After the show Danny let me sit in his limo. I had never seen one except on TV and he invited me to his office if I was ever in the city. I soon was and he brought me to a closet and told me to take any records I wanted "but not more than 2 or 3 of any one title" and I felt light-headed and thought I was going to faint. It was the moment I decided I wanted to be in the record business.

Instead, I went to India. I lived in Asia and Europe for almost 7 years and when I got back, I was walking down the street in Manhattan and ran into Danny. "Oh, you've got to come see this new band I'm working with," he said immediately. I was only into Indian music-- Bismillah Khan, the Ali Brothers, Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar...-- and had no interest in rock bands. He insisted. It was at the coolest club in town and the band, he swore, was the future of rock'n'roll. I don't know why I let him talk me into it but that night I went to CBGB's for the first time, saw The Ramones for the first time and met my future boss and mentor, Seymour Stein, for the first time. And I got hooked on rock music again, or at least the version of it The Ramones were playing.

Soon after I moved to San Francisco and, as a radio dj, became The Ramones evangelist in that city. It was 40 years ago today that they released their first , eponymous, album. Later I wound up as general manager of their record label, Sire, and because I was an early champion of their cultural revolution, the company picked me to be the president of Reprise Records. I trace it all back to Danny. I was more than happy to pick up the tab at dinner tonight. This was the first single from that first Ramones album. It changed the direction of music and it changed the direction of my life (which had been pretty directionless before then.

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At 2:21 AM, Blogger Cirze said...

Thanks so much for your endearing essay.

Loved it!

At 4:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup. But none has yet touched your mom smokin' a j with Hendrix.

At 10:29 PM, Anonymous Tracy B Ann said...

Nice! I have seen this band live more than almost any other band I've loved. I dragged everyone I knew to see Rock and Roll High School. One at a time so I don't even know how many times I've seen that.

"Gabba Gabba Hey"


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