Upon first spotting it, I was struck by two things, although the first turned out to be a telling mistake. I wrongly assumed the band was pictured under the dilapidated marquee of the then-soon(ish)-to–close St. Marks Cinema on Second Avenue, but then quickly deduced that it was actually the old Fillmore East a few blocks to the south. That fact leant the picture some extra significance.
If you’re not familiar with it, the Fillmore East was storied San Francisco rock promoter Bill Graham’s East Coast operation, and a revered venue that played host to the crème-de-la-crème of rock’s hirsute old guard from 1968 to 1971. Artists who played within its walls include Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, the Grateful Dead, CSNY, the Plastic Ono Band, Jefferson Airplane, Van Morrison, the Byrds, Iron Butterfly, the Allman Brothers and even Led Zeppelin, among many others. The venue was closed for whatever reason in 1971.
I’m obviously projecting way more onto this photo than was probably intended, but something about the image of the young, jocular, leather-clad Ramones, literally laughing under the genuinely rotting marquee of one of the previous generation’s hallowed rock cathedrals almost too perfectly encapsulates their punky iconoclasm. But however poetically symbolic it seems, that’s ultimately a bit of convenient revisionism and not entirely true. The Ramones actually had a lot of love and respect for genuine rock and roll as a canon they initially aspired -- and expected -- to be accepted by, as opposed to one they strove to destroy.
Today, the building that used to be the Fillmore East is now a bank, and the four original Ramones -– having been finally inducted into the (largely meaningless) Rock & Roll Hall of Fame alongside many of the afore-cited luminaries who played at the Fillmore East –- are all dead.
I mentioned in the second graph here that there were two things that struck me about this photo. What’s the other thing? Well, in staring at this picture for a while, there was something that bugged me that I couldn’t put my finger on for the longest time -– something that seemed wrong or out of place.
Then, it hit me.
Can you spot what I’m talking about?
Tommy Ramone’s wearing boots (i.e. not sneakers).