“And you may ask yourself, well… How did I get here?” is a line from the Talking Heads classic “Once In A Lifetime.” Of course Talking Heads, like the Ramones, are an original class of 1976 graduate of the CBGB Punk Rock explosion. Just recently, the RIAA announced that almost 40 years since its 1976 release, the Ramones’ genre defining, self-titled debut has finally gone Gold, selling 500,000+ copies.
Punk Rock has become a musical institution in America in the past four decades and nowhere is that more clearly visible than in the Vans Warped Tour, now celebrating its 20th anniversary with dates running from 6/11 to 8/3. One Orchard label, Pure Noise, has 8 bands alone performing on Warped Tour, including Cali’s breakout success The Story So Far, and veterans like Massachusetts-based Vanna and Four Year Strong.
“The Ramones have one Gold record to their name,” KISS’ Gene Simmons told Consequence of Sound once referring to their comp Ramones Mania. “But they meant nothing. They never succeeded, failed, in fact.” But history has proven otherwise. Although Ramones peaked at No. 111 on the Billboard 200 and “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” never became the hoped for radio hits, SPIN named Ramones #1 in 50 Essential Punk Records, and it was inducted into the Library of Congress, along with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Janis Joplin’s Cheap Thrills.
The Ramones and the other hard touring bands of their era like Talking Heads, Blondie, Patti Smith Group and Devo (whose Something Else For Everybody is also being distributed by The Orchard) singlehandedly created a Punk Rock touring circuit that previously had not existed in 1976. Today, getting the crucial support and live exposure is so much easier — young bands just plug in to Warped Tour‘s festival, playing short sets and meeting fans afterwards at merchandise booths to swap stories and autographs. Warped Tour is so successful in 2014 that many bands schedule their releases around it. The Story So Far‘s Songs Of, Vanna‘s Void, Handguns‘ Life Lessons, Heart To Heart‘s Dulce, My Iron Lung‘s Relief, Four Year Strong‘s Go Down In History, To The Wind‘s Block Out The Sun, Brigades‘ Crocodile Tears — all will benefit from the audience reach and impact of the Tour. Some of these developing acts will eventually grow like The Story So Far to be mainstage headliners someday.
And that is the Ramones legacy all these years later: non-stop relentless touring, taking the live Punk experience to their fans and creating your own definition of success. Punk may have evolved into many sub-genres over the years — from Hardcore to Emo, Screamo, Metal Core and so on — but its impact today can be felt on the Warped Tour, in Vans footwear, at clothing based mall outlets like Hot Topic and in the latest generation to emerge from the streets of Noo Yawk City like Brooklyn’s Cerebral Ballzy who just this week released Jaded and Faded on Cult Records, a label run by The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, a man and a band clearly influenced by the CBGB era DIY Punk aesthetic. Punk Rock, like Rock & Roll, is here to stay!