The Ramones Play Aberdeen, WA (Nirvana’s hometown)

Posted: August 30, 2011 in Offbeat Seattle-Related Music Stories

On March 5, 1977, the Ramones played the Rocker Tavern in Aberdeen, Washington.  The bar, like Aberdeen itself, was populated by hard working and hard drinking loggers.

Stephen Rabow, then a student at Olympia’s Evergreen State College, attended along with several friends.

A cover band opened, playing the popular songs of the day.  Bands playing Rocker’s had a very specific between-song procedure: they were expected to stop for a minute or two after each number.  During this time, couples would leave the dance floor to refresh their drinks and/or look for a different partner.  This ritual was repeated after each song.

The cover band finished its set and the Ramones began setting up their equipment.  Rabow and his friends braced themselves.  “Just the hiss of the amplifiers…[we are] like looking at each other in fear,” Rabow remembers.

The Ramones took the stage, leather-clad punk rockers fresh from New York City.  Joey announced, “Wuh the Ramones!  Glad yah heeah!” in his thick Queens accent.  Then the band did their standard ‘one-two-three-four’ and launched into a two-minute blast of deafening noise.  As was the Ramones’ style, they finished up the first song and Dee Dee immediately counted off ‘one-two-three-four’ and the band lurched into the next tune.  The Ramones continued at their frenetic pace, not allowing patrons off the dance floor.

For the audience, the scene became surreal.  “They’re stuck,” says Rabow.  “These people are stuck on the dance floor.  They don’t know what’s going on.  It’s louder than hell.  It was like an alien invasion.  They didn’t know what had happened to them.”

The entire show made it onto a 1979 bootleg recording called At Your Birthday Party.

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Comments
  1. Neil Hubbard says:

    The first time I saw the Ramones was the night before they played in Aberdeen, Washington. It was Friday March 4, 1977. My friend Robert Bennett and I, with about one week’s notice, had contacted their booking agent and gotten them to let us book an all ages show in Seattle, instead of having them play at a tavern where none of their under 21 fans could’ve seen them.

    So we went to a place in Bremerton called Natasha’s on that Friday night, to get a preview. I’ve never been to such a weird place. Bremerton is a Navy town across Puget Sound from Seattle. This place was a hang out for the Navy guys. We arrived long before the show started and helped the band load their gear in for sound check. Pop Rocks were a new thing then, and the guys in the band were fascinated by them.

    The doors to the venue opened and the Navy guys started coming in. Somehow it was legal for them not only to bring their own beer, but it was also legal for them to bring girlfriends who were under 21. So in they came, a half rack of beer in one arm and a 16 year old girl on the other. Definitely weird.

    I wish I could remember the name of the opening act, but they did Kansas covers. A perfectly matched billing, if you ask me. Once the Ramones took the stage me and my small gaggle of friends were the only people left on the dance floor. The others had retreated to the far dark corners of the club. But there was no escape from the immense intensity of sound those four boys from Queens put out. Like a New York subway train lurching between stations, they did their standard 2 minute blast, stopped, 1,2,3,4, two minutes more of blistering, blissful noise, on a repeat cycle for maybe 30 minutes. They only had one album of material at that point, so it was a rather short show.

    The most memorable moment, the effects of which remain with me today, was between songs. I was walking in front of the stage left speaker stack, when an enormous burst of feedback from Johnny’s guitar ripped out from the speakers and into my left ear. I wasn’t wearing any hearing protection. As the sound entered my ear, I felt a “twang” and my left eye suddenly began watering uncontrollably. My hearing had been permanently damaged. Ever since that moment I’ve had tinnitus–ringing in my left ear. I hear it right now as I type. At some point after that I started wearing earplugs, and as a professional bagpiper I’ve worn custom fitted musicians plugs since Bill Rieflin turned me on to them in about 1992.

    But the damage was done that night at Natasha’s–to my hearing and to my musical sensibilities. The Ramones have remained one of my favorite bands ever since. We didn’t make the trek to Aberdeen the next night, but two nights later on Sunday March 6, 1977, we promoted the Ramones and Meyce show in the Georgian Ballroom of Seattle’s Olympic Hotel, today the Fairmont Olympic. 500 leather-clad punks invaded Seattle’s fanciest hotel in what is probably the oddest punk venue booking in Seattle history.

    And today, I feel sad that three of those four original Ramones are no longer with us, and we have only the memories of their great shows, and their records, to remind us what an incredible band they were.

    • Stephen Tow says:

      Neil, that’s an amazing story! It sucks that I only have the Olympic piece of it in the book…nonetheless I’m glad it’s out there.

    • Mark Wheaton says:

      I and my friend Mike Freeman were also at this show in Bremerton. Neil’s description is entirely accurate from what I remember. Mike and I took the Ferry from Seattle and arrived very early while The Ramones were sound checking. After their sound check we sat down with them and interviewed them on tape. The backdrop of the interview was the other band sound checking. We were total dorks and the interview reveals this. But it is great to hear the Ramones talking all these years later. My favorite response was when we asked what they thought of All Girl Bands. Johnny’s response: ” Rock and Roll is a Guys Spoit” (in full Queen’s English)

      A year or so later, while working at a used record store on the Ave, the owner decided to start getting into making bootlegs. I told him about my Ramones tape, which had the interview and the entire show. (or most of it… can’t remember) He released this as a very limited edition bootleg with my felt marker cover design. Transferred from my Walkman cassette to reel to reel Called Blitzkrieg Bop and pressed on Red and Black swirly vinyl. I still have a few copies (not for sale)

  2. Mark says:

    it’s ironic because i have tinnitus from bagpipes ;)

  3. Neil Hubbard says:

    As a side note, Randy Bachman of Bachman Turner Overdrive came to the door of the Georgian room, where I was taking tickets that night. He handed me his card, and told me he wanted to come in for free. Tickets were only $5. I said “you can pay double” and didn’t let him in. His panties got all knotted up and he went to the front desk to complain about how much money his band had spent staying in the hotel and why did they let all these ruffians in.

  4. Jim Sorenson says:

    The one thing I remember from that Olympic Hotel show was that the Ramones played their set, took an intermission and then played that set all over again… The Rocker had to wait until 1979 when I went there with the Heaters (still just as weird), and Natasha’s in 1989 with Alice in Chains (flooded) lol…

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