Sunday, July 13, 2014

John Carlucci Talks About The First Time He Saw The Ramones

With the passing of Tommy Ramone this weekend the social networks have come to life with photos and stories and fascinating tributes. (Not just about Tommy, but the Ramones in general.) It is especially cool to read stories from those who were in NYC during the '70s and actually caught a glimpse of punk history from the bar room floor. John Carlucci of The Speedies fame (also played bass with the Fuzztones for a stint) had a unique perspective on the NY underground scene - that of a highly impressionable teenager.

John Carlucci onstage w/ The Speedies
at The Rat in Boston, circa 1979
The following was posted on his Facebook page, and with his permission, I am sharing it with you.

My First Ramones Show

 I've been wanting to sit down and write this story for quite some time now. I did a few blogs in the My space days, but life got in the way and I never had the time. Hearing that Tommy Ramone passed away yesterday brought back some memories. So I thought I would share...I was inspired by some of the blogs & postings  I have seen today from others, Andy Schwartz, Chris Morris, Richard Manitoba & Binky Phillips to name a few.

 I grew up in Queens NY. I lived in Elmhurst, worked in Jackson Heights, & hung out a lot in Corona. I went to Newtown High School, and graduated in 1975. This was the same High School that Syl Sylvain, Arthur Kane & Johnny Thunders from the NY Dolls attended. It was also the High School Gene Simmons of Kiss attended. I knew I was musically inclined from the age of 6, but it was not until I was 14 that I purchased my first bass guitar. I saved the money I made delivering pizza after school, and purchased a 1969 Fender Jazz bass through a friend. The bass came from We- Buy Guitars on 48th Street & the person my friend got it from was Fred Smith,  who would become the bass player in Television. (At the time, he played with Blondie)

 Like most teenagers in the 1970's, I  listened to The Who, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Mott The Hoople, Bowie, Slade etc. I played in bands, but for the most part, we jammed in basements & garages around the neighborhood. 

 Then I discovered the NY Dolls in Rock Scene Magazine. I saw an ad in the Village Voice that they would be playing a small club on Queens Blvd called "The Coventry", so along with my two High School buddies, Joe Katz & Bill Muller. we hopped on the #7 train and went to the show, The drinking age in 1973-74 was 18. We were 16, but no-one cared & we were in. That night, I discovered a whole new world. A world where the bands on stage & the audience were the same. There was no barrier as I had experienced in typical Rock Concerts at large venues. Here the bands mingled with the crowd, and it was as if we were all in this together. The electricity in that room was something I never felt before.  In my gut, I knew I was witnessing something special. There was another band on the bill that night that I discovered for the first time, they called themselves, "The Dictators" They were brilliant.  I liked this new world. I wanted to explore it more.


RIP Tommy Ramone 
 As the weeks went on, I kept my eyes on the Village Voice ads to see who was playing the Coventry. I went a few times and had a few hits, but more misses, nothing as inspiring as the Dolls/ Dictators show I had seen previously. Then one day, we saw that the NY Dolls were playing the Coventry again. (Or so we thought) and we decided to go. When we got there, we realized it was not the Dolls after all, but a new band by "X NY Dolls members, Johnny Thunders & Jerry Nolan". They were a trio billing themselves as "The Heartbreakers". The third member was Richard Hell on bass.  He had just left Television, to be replaced by Fred Smith. Johnny & Jerry still had long hair.

 The opening act that night, were called "The Ramones". They all wore leather jackets, played cheap pawn shop guitars, and played really really loud. So loud, that it was impossible to hear the singer.  There were maybe 20 people in the crowd.They were nervous. They argued onstage, yet they kept playing at breakneck speed, what seemed to be the same 3 chords over & over for twenty minutes. The muted vocals, along with the 1-2-3-4 counts were barely audible, so I thought they played one 20 minute song. Then they unstrapped their guitars and bass & let them drop to the floor. The singer threw down his microphone and just like that, they were gone. This was 1974, before they had released any records. They were so weird, that we decided we had to see this again. A few weeks later, I noticed an ad in the Village Voice for a club called C.B.G.B's. The Ramones were listed for the following weekend, so we went. The PA at C.B.G.B's was much better than the one at the Coventry. I now realized that they actually played 14 two minute songs not the one 20 minute song I thought I had heard at " The Coventry". Plus, I could now hear the singer, & the lyrics were brilliant.  From that moment on, I was hooked. I went to these clubs every weekend. I finally got up the nerve to test the waters and see if I too could play on this club circuit.  Had I not seen The Ramones, Dolls & Dictators, & absorbed their DIY ( Do It Yourself) spirit, I doubt I would ever have gotten the nerve to get onstage myself.  Now I never made a million dollars playing in music, but I did land a major label record deal (on RCA), & I toured the world in bands. Music has taken me to many places. I have met many friends, even my own wife, through Music. Without the inspiration of bands like The Ramones, Blondie, The Dictators & the NY Dolls, I might never have gotten out of the old neighborhood.


John Carlucci as he appears today

John Carlucci grew up in Queens, New York and currently lives in Los Angeles. He has recorded or performed with Sylvain Sylvain, Clem Burke & Frankie Infante, Ian Astbury, Lemmy, Dave Vanian, The Ghastly Ones, The Beat Killers, The Hexxers, Rik L Rik, Deke Dickerson, The Sprauge Bros. Dawn Shipley, Truly Lover Trio, Nikki Corvette, The Odd Squad, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang & The Mighty Manfred.

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1 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have the same name as you (exactly!) and I live in Queens (currently). Not in Elmhurst, except in Astoria. Nice background of how rock n roll was important back then. Would like to take a time machine into those times.