The Last Show - August 6, 1996
"At least rock'n'roll's healthy," said JOEY RAMONE, when asked by KLSX radio's Rikki Rachtman why the RAMONES chose now to disband. Joey confirmed over and over again that Tuesday, August 6, was the last RAMONES show ever, and promised some very special guests would be on hand to see the legendary punk band into retirement. As we had never seen a RAMONES show, despite the fact that they've been one of our favorite bands since the late 70s, we procured tickets and made our way to Hollywood.
The line to get inside stretched from the door of the Palace to clear around the corner. People of every race, creed, color, musical style, age and attitude stood together. The doors didn't open until 9:00PM and the band wasn't scheduled to go on until 10:30PM so it was a great time to share (and eavesdrop upon) RAMONES show war stories.
Once inside, attendees were handed an individually numbered commemorative ticket reading, "Adios Amigos. Ramones. The 2263rd Show. Billboard Live. August 6, 1996." (The final gig was supposed to take place at the new Billboard Live club; however, that club was prevented from opening due to some last minute code enforcements and the show was moved over to the Palace).
Inside, there were at least seven cameras set
up throughout the Palace. Don't worry if you couldn't make it to the RAMONES last gig -
the whole thing was caught on genuine 35mm movie film. A final concert video is in
the works. Finally, at just about 10:30 prompt, the house lights
went down and the theme from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" was blasted
through the Palace. As it ended, the RAMONES stormed the stage, cruising through
"Durango 95" and then ripping into "Teenage Lobotomy."
Watching the RAMONES live is an amazing, multi-tiered event. First, the band: the RAMONES define tight. Their already fast songs are sped up to a fever pitch. What runs 2:30 on a CD runs about 1:15 live. In 70 minutes, they tore through 31 classic RAMONES songs and there was never a minute to catch a breath.
Before the previous song had wound down, C.J. was barking out "1-2-3-4!" and the next song began. Each song was played with fiery passion and power and with musicianship that was nothing short of mastery. After the show that evening, we overhead an attendee ask, "Why would you ever want to quit, when you've got it down that well?"
Next - as though someone had electrified the floor the minute the RAMONES hit the stage, the crowd went bananas. Crowd-surfing, moshing, the pogo - you name it, it was going on out there. And it didn't stop for the entire 70 minutes. At one point a cameraman removed his camera from its safe spot (elevated about three feet above the crowd) and ventured into the audience. It was a wonder he got back alive - but think of the wild footage he came back with.
The special guests were interspersed throughout
the evening, most of them rushing out onstage and taking their places even as the RAMONES
raced into the next song. DEE DEE RAMONE, who left the band years ago, was first, coming
out to provide the vocals for "Love Kills." LEMMY of MOTORHEAD was next, playing
bass and singing background vocals on the ode he co-wrote, "R.A.M.O.N.E.S."
RANCID's Tim and Lars came out next, playing guitar and singing along with "53rd and
3rd." SOUNDGARDEN's CHRIS CORNELL introduced "Chinese Rock" and then
bandmate BEN played bass for the tune. PEARL JAM's EDDIE VEDDER was the last special guest
of the evening, stepping out onto stage wearing a rubber mask and then ripping off in time
to sing the chorus to the Dave Clark 5's "Anyway You Want It."
Then the lights came up, JOEY RAMONE cried out, "Thank You!" and that was it. The RAMONES were no more. As one might have expected with this band, there was no hoopla, no lamenting, no "We're gonna miss you as much as you're gonna miss us," just an hour and ten minutes of severe rock'n'roll and a quick, "Good night. Thank You."
After it was all said and done and the crowd was exiting, JOEY RAMONE's words to KLSX rang in our ears. "At least rock'n'roll's healthy." How can that be, Joey, when its heart stopped beating on Tuesday, August 6, 1996.
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Copyright © 1999 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights
Revised: 29 Aug 2005 12:18:32 -0500.