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by Christopher J. Kelter - April 22, 2001

    It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Joey Ramone on Sunday, April 14, 2001. While I cannot say that I was a big fan of Ramones, I can say that Ramones had a significant impact in my musical education.

    During my early high school years (the early '80s, if you care) I never really listened to punk. I was too busy listening to Led Zeppelin, Rush, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica and Dokken to be bothered with punk. A friend of mine was kind enough to share with me the merits of hardcore bands like G.B.H. and Black Flag as well as punk bands such as Ramones with me. I borrowed records (vinyl!) and tapes from him and the 'education' had begun. Although I knew I'd never really be a big fan of punk or hardcore at least now I could speak intelligently about some of the bigger names in those scenes.

    Once I was in college in the late '80s, a guy who lived in my dorm was instrumental in opening my ears to bands such as Sex Pistols and The Dead Milkmen. My dorm mate spoke highly of Ramones and I was unable to escape the Ramones so long as he was around. Since I was never shy to listening to new music Ramones became a steady albeit small part of my musical diet.

    After college I moved back to my hometown and as the early '90s rolled around I could easily identify the most popular Ramones tunes such as "Blitzkrieg Pop" and "Rock 'n' Roll High School" as well as easily identify a Ramones song even if I wasn't familiar with the tune. Also, there wasn't a party I went to that I didn't hear "I Wanna Be Sedated" - that inescapable melody brings me back in time no matter when I hear it. 

    One of my co-workers was a big fan of the Clash and Ramones. Since the Clash had broken up it was agreed that if Ramones should tour the Baltimore area then it would be required that the two of us attend a Ramones show. I was actually thinking about reneging on my promise to attend the Ramones concert when I learned that Saigon Kick, hot on the heels of their self-titled debut, were the opening act for Ramones - I then realized that I couldn't miss this concert.

    So, in a way, you can say that Saigon Kick are actually responsible for me seeing Ramones live in concert. Although my motivations for attending the concert were not directly related to wanting to see Ramones, I still consider myself fortunate to see Ramones. My buddy and I got the venue early (Hammerjacks - RIP); after waiting in line for what seemed like ages, we were able to secure a good spot in the balcony at the left side of the stage. As we sat through Saigon Kick's set it was obvious to me that nearly everyone in attendance was there to see Ramones and Ramones only. 

    Once Saigon Kick finished their set, anticipation filled the air as Ramones fans were doubly excited that Ramones were going to hit the stage.

    I have strong memories of the concert. True to form, Ramones played every song at the same blistering pace no matter what speed the song was originally recorded. Fans of Ramones were absolutely maniacal. A furious mosh pit formed below on the floor in front of the stage. It was a true mosh pit, as well; it was the kind of mosh pit that everyone willingly became a part of with the physical nature of it never sinking to violence. Much to my astonishment, Ramones fans were coming up from the floor to the balcony and then jumping into the seething swarm of bodies in the mosh pit below. It seemed a near continuous flow of human flesh was making the venue alive with adrenaline. 

    Luckily for me, despite the swift pace of the set, I could actually pick out the songs I knew. However, I admit I relied heavily on my buddy to tell me which songs were being played so that I could sing and chant along during the verse parts that I knew how to sing. There were enough chants of 'hey-ho, let's go' to make it the kind of 'sticky' memory that is not easily forgotten.

    With fondness, I will remember Joey Ramone as a true original in the wide array of musical characters the music industry has spawned. To Joey Ramone, I say "thanks for the memories."

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