Church Street


Vinyl Sessions: The Ramones - It's Alive

Tickets £3
Doors open 12pm, show starts 12.30pm

This week's Vinyl Sessions is curated by Andy. 

Vinyl Sessions running order:

Album playback
Q&A session
short break
'Dead'Wax' session - bring along a 7" of your choice and hear a track from it played through the venue PA. This can be anything you like, for any reason – the more ‘out there’ the better. 

The bar is open throughout. 

Gabba, Gabba we accept you, we accept you one of us!

It’s New Year’s Eve 1977…. London…… Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park and one of a handful of iconic live albums in rocks lexicon is about to be recorded.

It's Alive was the first official live album by the American New York CBGB’s punk rock band the Ramones and titled after the 1974 exploitation horror film of the same name. It was recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London on December 31st, 1977, and released in April 1979 as a 2-LP set. The album draws from the band’s first three studio albums: Ramones (1976), Leave Home (1977), and Rocket to Russia (1977).

Four concerts during the UK tour were recorded, but the New Year's Eve one was chosen because ten rows of seats were thrown at the stage after the concert and it was considered the best of the performances at the venue.

Tommy Ramone "Since it was New Year's Eve, our management brought in some balloons and gave everybody these 'Gabba Gabba Hey' signs to wave around. It was very celebratory. Johnny Thunders was there, and Sid Vicious with his new girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Elton John was there, dressed up like Marlon Brando in The Wild One. We'd honed our craft really sharp by then. The Ramones' sound was basically the essence of rock 'n' roll. That's what we were going for."

The Ramones were a band of misfits from Queens, NY, who got their start in 1974 at the now infamous club CBGB’s burgeoning “punk” scene in downtown New York. They adapted their band’s name from Paul McCartney’s pseudonym, Paul Ramon, which he used when attempting to travel incognito.

At their storefront rehearsal space, drummer and producer Thomas Erdelyi, a.k.a. Tommy Ramone, assigned each of the quartet’s members their names and instruments: guitar for Johnny (born John William Cummings), bass for Dee Dee (Douglas Glenn Colvin) and vocals for Joey (Jeffrey Ross Hyman).

Johnny’s machine-like, all-downstrokes, no-minor-chords approach to guitar combined a ferocious wall of sound with brief barre-chord interludes. He chose a Mosrite guitar because, unlike the Stratocaster and Les Paul, it wasn’t identified with a rock icon; rather, it was the guitar of the Ventures, a surf-rock group with roots dating back to 1958. ONETWOTHREEFOUR was the two second command issued by Dee Dee between songs and became the bands calling card. Dee Dee’s bass provided the perfect juxtaposition to Johnny’s guitar and Tommy’s rhythm. He also wrote most of the lyrics, thus creating the mythical “downtown New York” attitude prevalent in so many of the early Ramones songs.

Joey’s vocals became synonymous with that New York punk attitude. Charismatic, shy and modest he presented the perfect foil to the band’s instrumental “wall of noise”. No wonder Phil Spector focused so much on him when later producing “End of the Century”. Stories of the sessions for that LP are legendary but that was a time yet to come.

Tommy originally started out managing the Ramones when they were a three-piece, with Joey on drums. Unable to keep up with the tempo, Joey elected to take on the role as lead vocalist and Dee Dee persuaded Tommy to take the drummer’s seat. He remained as drummer from 1974 to 1978, playing on and co-producing their first three albums, Ramones, Leave Home, and Rocket to Russia, as well as the live album It's Alive. Upon leaving school at 18 he had started working as an assistant engineer at the Record Plant studio in New York where he’d worked on the production of the 1970 Jimi Hendrix album Band of Gypsys.

Turning a cold shoulder to the prevailing disco scene, the Ramones began formulating a unique brand of monolithic rock that combined the Beach Boys’ melodicism, the innocent romanticism of doo-wop and a heavy dose of New York City attitude, all over a methodical chainsaw of raw energy.

The tour, from which the recording for It’s Alive were taken, was their third trek of the U.K. The first being July 1976, for two very successful shows at the Roundhouse and Dingwalls (both in London), which were played to enthusiastic crowds and introduced the band and New York punk to the UK. The second was a gruelling month-and-a-half tour from April -June 1977, which included most of Europe with another CBGB’s band the Talking Heads as the opening act.

The December 1977 visit was a short jaunt of ten shows that started in Carlisle in mid-December and culminated on New Year’s Eve at the Rainbow Theatre in London. The show was a perfect fast-and-furious punk attack. The party after the show was over-the-top and everybody was in a festive mood, feeling this was only the beginning of the punk revolution. The Ramones were at their prime and the album that came out of that night captured a cultural phenomenon at its peak.

The night’s set list would consist of songs from their first three albums, arguably the best LPs of their career; in other words, it was basically a greatest-hits set list. Which was fitting, considering that the Ramones’ original incarnation (with Tommy on drums) was about to play the most important show of its existence — the culmination of being on the road and honing their craft since the group’s inception in March of 1974. “This show was a big deal,” Tommy says. “We were at our peak. We were still young, and with all those years of playing together, we were in top form. It was the last show of the tour and it was New Year’s Eve.”

Sadly, It's Alive proved to be the final album from the original Ramones line-up. By 2014, all four of the band's original members had died – lead singer Joey Ramone (1951–2001), bassist Dee Dee Ramone (1951–2002), guitarist Johnny Ramone (1948–2004) and drummer Tommy Ramone (1949–2014).

Buy tickets
Share on Facebook