A flier for a Halloween-themed dance party in a gym belonging to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) on October 28th, 1978.
“The Ramones are on the verge of making it big. Their dreams will come true in their quest for stardom. Now that bands like Black Sabbath and Foreigner are letting the Ramones be their opening act, it will eventually lead to the others’ demise and the Ramones’ rise. Johnny is confident that the kids will see the difference in energy, and finally let bands like Black Sabbath fade and die.”
—the words of a journalist for the Commonwealth Times going by the name “Million Dollar” Gamble in a review of the Ramones’ Halloween gig at the Franklin Street Gym.
In September of 1978, the Ramones released their fourth album, Road to Ruin which included the sing-along anthem, “I Wanna Be Sedated,” a song Joey Ramone often referred to as his favorite recording with the band. It was also the band’s first record with Marky Ramone (Marc Steven Bell) who replaced original drummer Tommy (Thomas Erdelyi). In their review for the record in 1978, Rolling Stone called it a “really good album” noting while Road to Ruin didn’t have the power of their 1976 self-titled debut, this was in no way an indication the Ramones were “losing their grip.” Since 1976 their tour schedule was relentless taking them around the world—in 1978 alone they played approximately 147 shows often playing bigger venues and college campuses sharing bills with Blondie, The Heartbreakers, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, The Cramps, and Patti Smith. One such show went down in the gymnasium of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) the Saturday before Halloween on October 28th, 1978. VCU billed the event as a “Halloween Dance” and if you were a student attending in costume, tickets were only $2.50 with the promise of a certain “golden beverage” being on hand at the show.
Illustrations and signatures from Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Marky Ramone published in the Commonwealth Times, 1978.
As a veteran participant of all things Halloween (I went out to a party last weekend dressed as Ronnie James Dio because of course, I did), I can assure you the Saturday preceding Halloween is serious business for revelers like myself. So when VCU put out the word the Ramones were playing the annual Halloween Dance and there was going to be beer, you better believe the kids came out in costume to see it all go down. A few weeks later, and as noted by “Million Dollar” Gamble, the Ramones would play a gig with Black Sabbath and Van Halen during VH’s first world tour. This event also relates back to what Gamble said in the quote at the top of this post indicating it was time for bands like Black Sabbath to “fade and die” as the original version of Sabbath was about to implode anyway. In addition to the review of the show, I also came across a very cool recollection from a former VCU student named Doug who was not only at the show, but held the dream-job position of “dressing room security.” Get ready, because Doug’s story is really, really something:
“My favorite Ramones memory was at a 1978 VCU Halloween concert in Richmond. I had just joined the school Concert Committee and was assigned to dressing room security. Basically, the job entailed hanging out with the Moans before and after the show and attending to their simple needs. I remember running back to my dorm room to get my crappy black & white TV so the boys could watch the KISS movie (Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park) before their turn on stage. I also did a horrible poster for the show with a silhouette of the band from their first album cover. Tommy had left by then, so when I got the band to autograph it, Marky Xed out Tommy’s head before he signed.
Other fond recollections include watching Dee Dee use his switchblade to carve the lining out of Joey’s new leather jacket ‘cause it was “too hooooot.” Sitting in and asking a question or two during the prerequisite backstage interview. Joey whining cause he couldn’t find his mineral water. Johnny being quiet and sweet. Marky acting dumb and silent. And Dee Dee drawing vaguely fascist graffiti on the chalkboard.
As they say, not all heroes wear capes, but, as this was a Halloween-themed event, perhaps Doug was wearing one that night. At the very least I hope he wears one when he tells this story. Thankfully, a photographer with the Commonwealth Times was there taking snapshots of fans at the show, as well as a few black and white shots of the band on stage in the gym, which you can see below. I also included the official video for “She’s the One” shot in 1978 which, until recently, had resided inside a nondescript 16mm film canister for 40 years. Rhino unleashed the video in conjunction with the release of a 40th anniversary box set for Road to Ruin late last month. Hey! Ho! Let’s GO!
Photos from the VCU gym show.
More after the jump…