Friday, July 17, 2015

Questioningly: How I got thrown onstage at a Ramones concert, and the shocking thing I found out about this many years later

Nothing sez "surfing" like Joey Ramone!
This is a story about the Ramones. This is also a story about friendship…and betrayal. Well, kind of. Let me explain.

I was running along the Hudson River in lower Manhattan last week, listening to the Ramones on Amazon Music, when I was struck by an amusing notion – that the Ramones were a big part of the soundtrack of my childhood. No wonder I’m weird; I grew up hearing about pinheads and lobotomies and hustlers and shock treatment and cretins and thorazine and carbona (not glue).  

I first heard about the Ramones in 1976, when I was nine years old. My brother Patrick started sneaking into CBGBs when he was 13 or so, and he saw the Ramones for the first time that year. Patrick brought home the band’s first album and played it incessantly, bought each one of the other Ramones’ albums as they were released, and saw the Ramones in concert a bazillion times. (In later years, my brother ended up introducing his daughter Amy to the Ramones when she was nine, taking her to a show!)

Now, I didn’t like or understand their music at first -- it sounded like "nightmare music," to use my mother's expression. But by the time of “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” or so, I finally “got it.” (I also thought Riff Randell was awesome – she was who I wanted to be, but I was never as cool as her!) And I remember hoping that the Ramones' Phil Spector-produced "End of the Century" album would be their breakthrough record.

You have to remember that the Ramones were basically never popular or cool in the mainstream until after they had broken up. They weren’t doing Archie comics with the Ramones back then, or playing their music at baseball games!

The album my brother brought home.
Spike Lee’s movie “Summer of Sam” wasn’t a great film by any means, but one of the things that rang true to my brother and me was the way the Adrien Brody punk rock character got treated poorly, beaten up, and even suspected of being Son of Sam! My brother got a lot of grief for his Ramones fandom. As did I, when I did a report in elementary school music class about the band and everybody laughed at me and mocked me. 

Back then, punks were seen as weird and creepy and dangerous. Like Sex Pistol Sid Vicious, who stabbed his girlfriend to death, then ended up ODing on heroin. 

Take a look at this hysterical “20/20” news report on punk rock to see what I am talking about when it came to how people thought of the music genre then.

So that rebellious edge was very appealing to me. I was so much into music back then -- straight-ahead rock, as well as new wave music, hip-hop, and punk, of course. But I gravitated towards punk music -- and the punk look -- more than anything else back in the day.

I also used to go to shows all the time in high school and college. As time went on, I got to see the Ramones, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, and other punk bands in concert. I slamdanced a lot and even ended up with a black eye one time after a night in the mosh pit at a Circle Jerks show!

I went to some of these shows with my good friend Bobby Meehan. We both attended the University of Texas at Austin and we were both huge music fans.  So it was natural when the Ramones came to town that we would go see them together. As best as I can tell, it was January 1988 when we saw the Ramones in concert at The Back Room, a small club in South Austin.

My friend Bobby, fellow Ramones fan
The most noteworthy thing about the show was that I (unintentionally) crowdsurfed and literally got thrown on stage during the show. This happened during “Surfin’ Bird,” if I remember correctly. Back then, I was six feet tall and about 150 pounds or so, and I was wearing leather (I wore lots of leather back then – it was the 80s!) and Chuck Taylor high-tops. 

That night, some guy who was much taller and bigger than me recognized me from school. He felt that I shouldn’t be at the show. (Suffice it to say that my politics were much more conservative back then than they are now, and this annoyed him! I guess I was supposed to be at a Lawrence Welk show or something!) So this guy said something to me to that effect, asking why I was there. Then he literally grabbed me, picked me up and held me above the crowd.

You know how musicians sometimes stage dive into the crowd? Well, this was the opposite. I was being held above the crowd by punk fans I didn’t know, crowdsurfing without intending to! I couldn’t get down by myself, and I was terrified that somebody was going to drop me. I screamed, “Bobby, help me!”
After all these years, Bobby is
still smug and unrepentant!

But that didn’t help. All that happened next was that the crowd ended up tossing me onstage with the Ramones! While it was kind of cool to be on stage with the band, I was scared when I got thrown through the air that 1) I was going to crash into someone – or something – onstage and get hurt, or 2) I would somehow get thrown out of the concert (no pun intended!).

Fortunately, neither thing happened. Shortly thereafter, after that, someone in the band’s security detail ended up tossing me off the stage, but I was able to resume watching the show with Bobby. Luckily, I emerged unscathed from this scary event with nothing but a good story. As time went on, I really liked telling this story, as it showed my punk bona fides.

Fast forward to this past weekend. After thinking about how the Ramones’ music was so important in my early life, I thought I should ask Bobby for his recollection of the night I got thrown on stage. Here’s how it went down: 
No, Bobby. This is what cool looks like!

Me: “I was just thinking about us at The Ramones today! Was going to Squawk about it. Remember when the guy threw me onstage at The Ramones' show at The Back Room? I am pretty sure Surfin' Bird was playing, but I can't say 100% for sure. What a moment!

Bobby; “YES!! I conspired with those guys to get you up over the crowd and near the stage. Squawk it!!! I remember that, Blitzkrieg Bop and Bonzo Goes To Bitburg. I totally slammed during those songs!”

Me: “Did you really? I thought that guy just found me at random!  I remember calling your name for help! Who knew that you conspired against me! I WILL be Squawking about this!”

Bobby: “That guy knew we were together, so he and his buddies asked me to help them get you up.”

Say what??? I was shocked to hear this. My good friend Bobby (who shared my politics then, by the way) was partially responsible for me being thrown onstage at the Ramones concert! And I had no idea of his role in these shenanigans. Until now. 

I will get you for this, Bobby!  Well, not really. I actually think the whole thing is actually hilarious. And makes a good story even better. So thanks!

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