The RAMONES – ” It’s Alive ” Best Live Albums

Posted: May 20, 2021 in MUSIC

This amphetamine-paced double-LP served as a Ramones career retrospective, smack at their peak, and shows the Queens crew almost stumbling across hardcore around the same time California was inventing it. Over four nights in 1977 at London’s Rainbow Theatre, the punk pioneers blasted through 28 songs from their first three albums. (Thanks to their tidily short length, they squeezed in nearly all of ’em.) The final LP version came mostly from the last night, charged with an energy so electric that fans are said to have ripped seats from the floor and thrown them at the stage in enthusiasm. It’s no surprise, as the entire record pulses with American punk’s promise, a spittle-spewing Joey Ramone barely pausing between “Pinhead,” “Do You Wanna Dance?” and “Chain Saw.” He even barely pauses long enough to get out all the lyrics, the band buzzing away behind him like they’re in a machine shop. During post-production, the speed was something with which even the band itself struggled to keep up. In his book, Hey Ho, Let’s Go: The Story of the Ramones, Everett True writes that Dee Dee needed extra fuel to record bass overdubs: an extra-heavy helping of black coffee.

It was Sire Records’ head, Seymour Stein who longed for a live recording of the Ramones. “Their records were great,” he said, “but there was nothing like a live Ramones show. England was a perfect place to do it, because the British audiences loved them and the Ramones loved to play there.” This may have been true the majority of the time, but, ironically, the Ramones were not loving England at Christmas time in 1977.

Legendary producer Ed Stasium recorded The Ramones “It’s Alive” 41 years ago at the Rainbow Theatre in London – a recording that many regard as one of the best live albums ever.

There was nothing to do but hang out in the room; I think that’s when Joey wrote ‘I Wanna Be Sedated.’ It was just so boring there; they literally close everything down for, like, two weeks. It was just weird! It was freezing and it was depressing.”

This was the third trek of the U.K. for the Ramones, the first being July 1976, for two very successful shows at the Roundhouse and Dingwalls (both in London), which were played to enthusiastic crowds and introduced the band to the country. The second was a gruelling month-and-a-half tour from April -June 6, 1977, which included most of Europe and the U.K., with the Talking Heads as the opening act.

Ramones lighting director Arturo Vega stated, “By December of 1977, it was the second time we were in the U.K. in seven months, and that year turned out to be the busiest touring year ever for the Ramones.” This visit was a short jaunt of ten shows that started in Carlisle in mid December and culminated on New Year’s Eve at the Rainbow Theatre in London. “The Ramones were the hottest band in the world and everybody wanted to see them live. Everybody was there,” Arturo adds. “The show was a perfect fast-and-furious punk attack. The party after the show was over-the-top and everybody was in a festive mood, feeling this was only the beginning of the punk revolution. The Ramones were at their prime and the album that came out of that night captured a cultural phenomenon at its peak.”

The plan was to record four consecutive shows at the end of the tour, December 28th-31st: Birmingham, Stoke on Trent, Aylesbury, and The Rainbow Theatre. The facility that I utilized for the recording was the Basing Street Mobile Truck (Island Records), which had a Helios console, fantastic outboard gear, and a great reputation.

Ed travelled with the band and road manager Monte A. Melnick on the “tour” bus, which was not anything like the luxury liners that one sees today. This bus was more of a coach with large windows and rows of seats. Monte would always be busy with paperwork, figuring out every logistic of the trip. Former co-manager Danny Fields (with the late Linda Stein) informed me that at every U.K. venue the Ramones played, An Indian curry was served at soundcheck to ever-complaining band members. Monte, I’m sure, was trying to alleviate this and other hazards of the road; he was the real Fifth member an unsung hero, the glue that kept the band together.

The first three dates we recorded were in clubs. Nothing special. The Ramones, the Basing Street Mobile crew, and myself looked at these shows as a run-through for the recording of the New Year’s Eve gig. The band was performing virtually the same set every night, honing the tunes and playing tighter and tighter, As with the other shows that we’d recorded over the past three days, we arrived early at the venue to set up. This was the show, and we needed to make certain that all of the microphones were placed and functioning properly, the multi-track tape machines were aligned, and that there was no hum or radio stations being picked up by the thousands of feet of microphone cable that connected the stage to the mobile truck.

 When Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy arrived for sound check, they looked around in amazement, a big wow written all over their faces. According to Monte, they had never played in such a large hall before. This was a beautiful theatre with a capacity of approximately 3,000 and a foyer with a dang fountain in it! At this juncture, the group had played only small clubs and theatres; this evening, the Rainbow would be filled with several thousand Ramones fans.

The night’s set list would consist of songs from their first three albums, arguably the best LPs of their career; in other words, it was basically a greatest-hits set list. Which was fitting, considering that the Ramones’ original incarnation (with Tommy on drums) was about to play the most important show of its existence— the culmination of being on the road and honing their craft since the group’s inception in March of 1974. “This show was a big deal,” Tommy says. “We were at our peak. We were still young, and with all those years of playing together, we were in top form. It was the last show of the tour and it was New Year’s Eve.”

The Rezillos and Generation X (featuring a young Billy Idol) were the Ramones’ opening acts. “I was also mixing for Generation X, and they sucked!” my pal Frank Gallagher says. “Although, my mix was great. But the one thing I do recall about the Ramones’ gig was that I had seen the band in America and in Europe, and the fact is that the English audiences were way more receptive and into them than anybody in America was at that time.”

In the truck, I could hear the chant, “Hey-Ho-Lets-Go!” between the songs and sets of the opening acts. As the last chords of The Rezillos’ final song faded into the ether, the crowd sensed that the Ramones were about to perform and the chant grew louder, from just the front few rows to the entire theatre rallying in unison.

In the cold London night outside of the truck, you could practically feel the electricity in the air as the Ramones were about to claim their throne.

The chant developed into a tremendous roar as the band arrived onstage. Johnny strummed an E-chord, Dee Dee tested the limits of his microphone with a healthy German “Eins,” and Tommy did some final adjustments on his drum kit. And then, heeeeeere came Joey . . . “Hey, we’re the Ramones. This one’s called ‘Rockaway Beach.’” Dee Dee belted out the infamous . . . “ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR!”.

The Ramones’ machine was in top gear, driving on full velocity until a short pause after the second song, “Teenage Lobotomy,” when Joey declared, “Well, it’s good to be back in England, and it’s good to see all ya again. Take it Dee Dee!”


And they busted into their anthem “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The punters were basking in the glory of their heroes. After “Blitzkrieg,” Joey mentioned that he didn’t feel well after ingesting some Chicken Vindaloo.

The gig concluded after 53 minutes, 48 seconds of simply the best punk rock there ever was or ever will be. It was New Year’s ’77-78 and the Ramones had played an unparalleled show, which, fortunately, had been recorded for all to enjoy for centuries to come.

On a technical note, I would like to say that, back in the summer of ’78, Tommy and I spent quite a while with the mixing, paying microscopic attention to this recording’s sound and balance. The mixing took place at the great Mediasound in New York City, at the same time that we were working on “Road To Ruin”. For reasons unknown, the LP was never released on vinyl in the United States, and the U.K. and European versions continue to be desirable collector’s items to this day. Those LPs and the subsequent 1995 CD release were made from second-generation copies, and never has there been a release from the master tapes.

Ed Stasium

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