Music keeps you moving. Lenny the mechanic once said “Work without music on? Fughedaboudit.” While not true 100% of the time (sometimes it’s nice to be absorbed by the silence, the space between the sounds), there have been plenty of hours in this workshop where the music set the beat to move to and kept things rocking AND rolling for those few extra tasks or the extra juice to get after the big one.
This week it’s been The Ramones. Long before I was communing with nature and carving the wood, waxing philosophically from little spaces in the woods of the Texas “Hill Country”… I was an east coast kid with Road To Ruin on vinyl and Rocket to Russia on cassette. I can’t remember which came first, but it changed everything that came after. I almost started a band called Johnny Vomit and the Scumbags to play my little songs about springs from a couch poking my ass, little red wagons, and spontaneous combustion… you know, the usual. It was some of my first songwriting and I still have the tapes. Under lockdown.
Yes, friends, before “Rock to the river, wind to the tree, one drop of the rainshine in search of the sea” there was “I sat on a couch and a little spring stuck in my ass, a little spring; a little spring; a little spring!” However Cro-Magnon, one in some way begat the other, much like a lot of music woven into the DNA of pop traces back through original punk right to Joey, DeeDee, Johnny, and Tommy (and then Marky - “Mooahkey” - they were all from New York). They cast a mold and forged themselves as originals.
Usually in the little green workshop where the woodchips fly, it’s music; in the shop next to it where assembly happens (and I type all of this stuff) sometimes it’s an interview or documentary playing while I wire and fit and nut and string. This week, docs on Joey (inspiring) and DeeDee (harrowing), and about the tribute concert to Johnny. And the first album, which is – as my Grandmother would say – “Full of piss and vinegar.” But it’s good piss and vinegar, it still makes me smile, still fires something up further inside, and to ever see where one is going one must know from whence they came.
And the Ramones occupy a very sparse and special spot in my heart with the likes of Tascam Porta-One 4-tracks, eating a pizza from George’s watching a Cape Cod sunset at Red River beach, the woods in which I dwell, a certain old ratty Road Runner, Toole’s A Confederacy Of Dunces, and bowls of Asian noodles.
I saw the Ramones once, on the Too Tough To Die tour. 1985. Providence, RI in a small concrete venue with Neutral Nation opening. NN rocked, but then after a short break, in an instant the lights went down and “Onetwothreefour” and all hell broke loose for the next half hour. No pauses. No banter. No quarter. I had never experienced such a thing. “Onetwothreefour” I was up front but didn’t last long and sort of jostled to the DeeDee side of the stage by the main speakers. I think it rearranged my molecules. “Onetwothreefour” Joey the singer looked like a giant praying mantis. I couldn’t BELIEVE the intensity they created and sustained. It was incredible. “Onetwothreefour” Like, 16 songs in 20 minutes.
Now, I know to some of you who feel music is exclusively brain surgery to be performed by only the most qualified, this is an abomination. But really it’s art and expression and there’s room for it all and room to enjoy it all for whatever one particular flavor brings. And lemme tell you, I was in that room and it was allllllright. It inspired me to no end and I took the bits that were transferable and planted them as seed in my life and in others’.
For years when a student was a rocker and gearing up for their first gig, I would show them this picture of The Ramones as an example of how you don’t just inherit the stage, you TAKE it. Not the leather, not the style of music; but that intensity, that do-or-die, that sustained focused explosion. That’s how things happen. The chance comes and you TAKE it and go all in… whether it’s a gig, time to write a book, a life or death moment, deciding to live a dream, or a piece of land and you need a place to live and you look down and there’s a hammer in your hand. Game on right now here we go “Onetwothreefour!”
Make something happen. Something’s gotta give.
Listening to: Ramones stuff and some nice Latin guitar smooth jazz. It’s a balance, you know!