The Night the Ramones Were Booed Off the Stage of the Palace
Jamie McGann, the former vocalist for legendary Connecticut bands The Poodle Boys and The Forgotten Ones [punk name: James Methwreck], recalls the time he saw the Ramones play their first gig outside of New York City, at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT – an industrial city that was just experiencing the first pangs of a long decline that continues over four decades later.
Renovated in the 2000s, The Palace was then a down-at-the-heels former movie showplace that barely kept the doors open by bringing in concerts. And many of the shows became legendary in the rearview for having acts who were either in their prime (Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, Dave Brubeck, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Frank Zappa, The Kinks, Steely Dan, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople, Santana, Yes, Genesis) or just on the way there (Bruce Springsteen, Queen, Kiss, the pop version of Fleetwood Mac, Boston, The J. Geils Band).
And this one particular show, on July 11, 1975. What Jamie didn’t realize at the time was that he and his pals were there at the ground floor – the Ramones’ first show outside of New York City. It did not go well for the boys. They were the opening act on a bill that could only have been crafted by Satan himself. The headliners were Johnny Winter and the Rick Derringer Band …
Jamie McGann: I, for one, have memories – vivid memories with uncanny detail for someone who has logged on so many miles and done what some might consider grave cerebral damage to myself over the years in my race-with-the-devil pursuits.
OK, let me narrow it down to a single focal point – perhaps the one single focal point I have thrown out here to entice you readers into my twisted tale of discovery and derailment. And that leads us into a vivid musical memory from 1975.
The summer of 1975 was not a whole hell of a lot different than every other summer for me or us – “us” being my friends, my crew, my buds, my boys! Mis amigos, who would, without question, follow me into Hell or the spinning blades of an airplane if I so chose to lead them there! And lead them there I did on many, many occasions!
“It looked like kids from Waterbury just went up and got on stage and played! … I thought it was either the roadies, or a local band from Waterbury because they’re all dressed the same.”
We were 17, 18, we had muscle cars, we had part-time jobs and we were on summer vacation from high school, or just out of high school. Ten feet tall and bulletproof – young, stoned and immune to anything that could be remotely considered grown-up! We loved cars, motorcycles, knives, guitars, beer, pot, black leather jackets, long hair, engineer boots, girls … and we loved music! LOUD music, socially-unaccepted-by-most loud music! Music for marching ones ardent followers into …….well into whatever the fuck we were marching into at the time: T-Rex, Mott the Hoople, Slade, Sweet, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Uriah Heep, Blue Oyster Cult … and if other people didn’t like it, we liked it better!
We loved the music and we loved the members of the bands that made it! We dressed like them when we could, and we acted as we thought young, untouchable rock ‘n roll stars should act! As for myself, I knew that it was what I wanted to do at that young age. I wanted to be an alcohol-, drug- and sex-fueled rock ’n’ roll star, and fuck if nothing was going to get in my way!
Anyway, we went to see Johnny Winter because we went to any concert we could go to. That was what we did – we liked to go to concerts. He was as good as anybody. I was never really a big fan of his, but Waterbury was a great place to go to see a concert because it was kinda far away. We lived in Guilford, on the shoreline [nearly an hour from Waterbury]. Waterbury was like, you know, Detroit to us.
It was at the Palace Theater. I went to see Frank Zappa there, I saw Steely Dan. The Palace Theater in Waterbury was a cool place. It was like [Detroit’s] Cobo Hall in Connecticut, and there were the coolest-looking girls up there; they all looked like they were in The Runaways. And that was really cool. The Palace would get the bands that, you know, were not monstrous yet, weren’t so big that they’d have to be in a coliseum. And it was cool because you didn’t know who you were gonna see. Well, you know, one time we got tickets to see Mott the Hoople, and a band that we never heard of was opening for them: Queen.
I drove up there with some of the guys I probably worked with at the B.B. Mack’s Shell gas station: Johnny Todd, who was the guitar player in my band, you know, in the punk rock band, and one really tall guy that we hung out with who sorta looked like me, so, you know, people would always sort of mistake him for me, so I used the height advantage any time I could. And Billy Phillips! That was Philly.
FIVE MONTHS EARLIER: The Ramones February 3, 1975 (Not in Arturo’s Loft, as the video is mislabeled.)
So we drove up to Waterbury, and I saw what I thought were the roadies on the stage at the Palace, you know? We didn’t know who they were. We didn’t know who would open the show for Johnny Winter. Usually it would be someone like Michael Bolton, you know – he was Michael Bolotin back then, local New Haven boy who had a band back then called Blackjack, and he would get a lot of opening slots at concerts. Whoever opened that concert was not, you know, the ones we came to see or probably heard of.
And we saw what we thought were these roadies putting up the equipment. And then, they [the Ramones] plugged in and played. They weren’t announced; they just got up and played. You know, it’s funny because it was a long time ago, but it stuck with me for so long. They tore, they ripped into the songs kinda one after another. I don’t think they played more than four or five songs before people were booing and screaming and throwing beer bottles.
Well, of course, everybody’s going “Who’s that? Your brother?” [They were pointing at Joey Ramone]. Because I was freakin’ seven feet tall, you know, with glasses, long hair, and “Hey Jamie, he looks like you! Is that your brother? Ha ha!” I thought they were kinda cool. I mean, you didn’t know what to think. It looked like kids from Waterbury just went up and got on stage and played! I thought it was local. I thought it was either the roadies, or a local band from Waterbury because they’re all dressed the same.
But, unlike the band, I wasn’t wearing a leather jacket. Of course, we always had denim jean jackets and cuffed sleeves – Lee. Of course. It was always a Lee denim jacket. Yeah, still to this day.
“They tore, they ripped into the songs kinda one after another. I don’t think they played more than four or five songs before people were booing and screaming and throwing beer bottles.”
But they did a cover song and it wasn’t “California Sun”; it was, like, “Do You Wanna Dance?” or something like that, because I remember it might have been the last song, or one of the songs they did just before people were throwing bottles and screaming, and they were … I thought they were okay, I mean I hadn’t seen anything like it. But the thing that stuck with me all the time was that they looked like a road crew for The Who. You know, kids who were roadies!
Anyway, I ended up blown out on bootleg soapers [that night], probably the bootleg 714s, with the Mandies. Lemons or Rorers. Quaaludes! Ludes! My friends found me later in a diner down the street. I don’t even remember seeing Johnny Winter.
All through my senior year of high school, it popped into my head every once in a while: Who were those roadies? You know, who was that fucking band of roadies I saw at the Palace in July? Nothing was known about them, you know. And then, at the end of August in 1976, I went to the SVA [the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan]. I’d see you down there! I was sorta lurking around in the back as best I could look, but I, because, you know, it took a while for me to get my friends interested into actually coming to New York. They didn’t want to come to New York. That was like 42nd Street.
The kid who told me the band was called the Ramones was Johnny Quarro, who played in a band called Neon Leon. He lived on Staten Island. He was a punk rocker, and he was a real good artist, too. And he wanted to be in a punk band, and one day he goes, “You gotta go to CBGBs! You gotta see The Werewolves and The Dictators and the Ramones.” I said, “Show me some pictures of these guys.” And he had one of those Rock Scene magazines … And he points to their picture and says, “These guys.” I said, “Wait a fuckin’ minute! I think I’ve seen these guys!” It was the Ramones, and he goes, “Naaaaah! There’s no way you saw them!” “Fuck yeah, I did! Is it possible I saw them last year open for Johnny Winter?” And he goes, “Ahhh, no way! Absolutely not!” And I said, “The Palace Theater in Waterbury?” He said, “Nah! No, you couldn’t have seen them! You know, you could’ve seen them maybe in Long Island, but absolutely, you’re only able to see these guys in Manhattan.” And I’m thinking, “I know I saw these guys!”
I learned so much off of the Ramones, off that first album. And … I brought it home, and I lived with a guy who played records, like, you know, [sings], “In the jungle, the mighty jungle …” And I put on the Ramones, you know, the first song, “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and he started laughing. It was like … “You cocksucker!” … and I thought, you know, this may not be that good, but he laughed at it; I’m not gonna turn this fucker off! And I just, you know … that was it.
That record stayed on and on and on until Leave Home came out, and by then I was right in the scene, you know, I could go in the backroom, because of Johnny Quarro, at Max’s; that’s where I met Danny [Fields], and that’s where I met Paul Zone, and Miki Zone, and they were like … I don’t know if we were all the same age, but I mean, these were like real fuckin’ New York City rock stars! It was the coolest goddamn thing in the world!
POP PARTY by the Poodle Boys
We opened for the Ramones several times. You know, I spent a lot of time back and forth, to New York and Guilford and New Haven. And when I got to New York, I knew it was gonna be too hard to start a band, put a band together down there, so I did it in New Haven.
The Poodle Boys [who were featured in a Life magazine article on punk/new wave in 1980] were Connecticut’s new wave sensations! It was fuckin’ ridiculous. I mean, you know, we got to fly where the air was thin for a little while, but then, you know … ’cause the New York scene sorta dried up. I don’t know what the f- … But, you know, New Haven was so behind the times that we had our own little summer of ’77, except it was maybe ’79. And it was terrific. And all the touring bands would come to Toad’s [Toad’s Place in New Haven]. Those were terrific times.