On This Day: The Ramones Played Their First Show as a Three-Piece

On March 30, 1974, three-fourths of The Ramones performed their first show to a small group of friends and associates at the Performance Studios on 23 East 20th Street in New York City, a makeshift space put together by their band’s longtime tour manager Monte Melnick and their then-future drummer Thomas Erdelyi. Melnick and Erdelyi, who was interested in managing and producing the Ramones, were friends since junior high school and were previously in a band called Butch together.

“I can’t believe it’s 50 years,” Melnick told American Songwriter at a 2024 Record Store Day event at the former CBGB space at 315 Bowery, which closed its doors in 2006 and reopened as John Varvatos in 2008. Inside the Varvatos shop, a stage is still set, and the paint on the walls is still tattered and covered by band posters, a museum-like tribute to the bands that once played there.

Near the entryway, the original wallpaper of still-plastered band flyers has remained untouched, telling a portion of the story of the spot where the Ramones played some of their first show, those that came along with them, and long after.

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Stepping back into the venue-turned-clothing boutique, Melnick wasn’t thinking so much about the Ramones’ first show at CBGB in August of ’74 but the first time he saw them play as a band. In the first iteration of the band, Jeffrey Hyman (Joey Ramone) was on drums, John Cummings (Johnny Ramone) was playing guitar, and Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee Ramone) was the lead vocalist and bassist.

Tommy—who also co-produced the Ramones’ first four albums, including their eponymous 1976 debut, and returned to work with them on Too Tough to Die in 1984—was the band’s acting manager at the time, a role Danny Fields would later take on.

During the band’s show, they played seven songs, including “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement,” “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You,” and “I Don’t Wanna Be Learned / I Don’t Wanna Be Tamed,” along with “I Don’t Like Nobody That Don’t Like Me,” “I Don’t Wanna Get Involved With You,” and “Succubus,” which were never recorded.

“It was a bit of a mess, as you might imagine,” shared Melnick on Instagram of the band’s first show at Performance Studios, “but after that night they practiced for five months straight, switched Joey to lead vocals, got Tommy aboard on drums becoming Tommy Ramone.”

When the band was ready, and now a foursome, they auditioned to play at CBGB for owner Hilly Kristal, who said “No one’s gonna like you guys, but I’ll have you back,” according to Melnick.

“Then they made their CBGB debut on August 16, 1974,” said Melnick, “and as they say, the rest is history.”

Melnick remained the band’s tour manager for 22 years and 2,263 shows. “I spent every single day of my life with the Ramones, the hardest working band in rock and roll,” Melnick said in his 2003 book, On the Road with the Ramones. He added, “I consider myself lucky to have worked with a great band like the Ramones and to be part of rock and roll history.”

The Ramones’ Performance Studios Setlist, March 30, 1974:

  1. “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement”
  2. “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You”
  3. “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”
  4. “I Don’t Wanna Be Learned / I Don’t Wanna Be Tamed,”
  5. “I Don’t Wanna Get Involved With You”
  6. “I Don’t Like Nobody That Don’t Like Me”
  7. “Succubus”

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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