There they were, my four brothers under our family name: RAMONES. The photo was black and white, the four of them leaning against a wall—Johnny, Tommy, Joey, and Dee Dee. Johnny looked especially smug, proud of his little caper, and Dee Dee was wearing one of my old pairs of tennis shoes. Tommy, the pathetic weakling, was standing on his tiptoes in a vain attempt not to be the shortest…
The precisely dictated roar of The Cuckold’s Inspired Vesicle filled Dave’s apartment with my brothers yelling over the top of it. What can one say about such a tragedy, about such a perverse conflict between idiocy and prodigy? I could have listened to it all day, over and over; such was its pornographic appeal. I knew that my brothers had inadvertently stumbled into a genius of their own. As the man behind the mess, it was easy for me to hear how the contraption failed to gel on a quantum level, but the average listener would absolutely never notice this. I got into a heated debate many years later with Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, on the corner of 100th and Amsterdam when I attempted to explain the quantum failure at the heart of all of my brothers’ records, to which he responded, “Get the fuck away from me.” In short, to the common listener it would appear that RAMONES manages to reconcile the vast spaces of relativity with the tiny spinning worlds of the quantum to such a point that any number of physicists—if they gave it the time—would have found the road map to the God particle, if not the particle itself.
But I knew otherwise. As the unwitting wellspring for the entire massacre, I could see the conflicting formulas in my mind as clearly as Mozart saw his symphonies. I heard the violent dissonance on the micro-level and it made me sick, yet I could not stop listening. I furthermore knew that only I would hear this dissonance, and thus would convince nobody of my authorship. It filled me with rage and surrender when I heard that undetectable conflict rendered: the untenable juxtaposition created a sound that I instantly knew would change the face of music forever. My brothers were destined for greatness.
I was destined for the gutter. Granted, I might get lucky on my way and pass a vomitorium where I could immerse myself in its overflowing tanks for a few moments, but why make the road to destiny unnecessarily circuitous? No. The fastest way from one point to another is a straight line, and I certainly wasn’t going to test the dictum.
I spent the rest of the day listening to the record. I planned on listening to it 100 times, unsure if the formula indicated pure pain or a road to sweet masochism. Either way, I wasn’t one to shy away from experimentation in the pursuit of progress. As I explained, the noise consisted of an essential clash: my brothers’ hackneyed plagiarism twisted to fit the rock and roll format conflicting with the perfection of my original vision. The result was a compact enigma, a seemingly simple drawing in the air that revealed myriad complexities after prolonged contemplation. On the one hand, the purity of my quartets was utterly mangled by their transcriptions to rock and roll—it was the musical equivalent of watching Camille Saint-Saëns’s Swan getting shoved live into a woodchipper. On the other hand, the revolting belching mess known as rock and roll got an overdue spring-cleaning thanks to its forcible superimposition over my Quartet Cycle. RAMONES essentially put an end to all the desperate, ill-informed flailings of the stinking long-haired idiots that called themselves musicians as they dug around among each other’s crab-infested pubic mounds in their futile search for the next big thing.
The result was a brain-rape as far as the destruction wreaked on me and my art went, but that desecration and my personal misery would be overshadowed by a positive corollary effect: the creation of perfect rock and roll. RAMONES was the long overdue silver bullet that put rock and roll in the grave. And thank God for that, because even knowing that such a thing as Prog Rock existed was enough to inspire wistful daydreams about having one’s skull split with an axe.
As time bore out, rock and roll didn’t die without a fight. In fact, if you open your front door right now you can still see it in its vulgar death throes: skin blue and rigid; gangrenous extremities; penis grotesquely erect and twitching as it towers over the ossified landscape; eyes gone white; face twisted in abject horror at the realization there is no oblivion but rather despair’s eternal continuation; thrashing and squealing and praying for forgiveness. This bizarre Rasputin seems to go on and on, the irony being that premature attempts to desecrate the corpse are the very things that keep the monster on life support.
In a perfectly functioning universe, the release of RAMONES would have silenced rock and roll. The natural ebbs and flows would have moved on unimpeded. Instead, we were almost instantly tortured with “bands they inspired,” tortured with the nightmarish fact that at every concert, kids in the audience indeed went out and bought guitars, somehow completely missing the true meaning of the situation. It was a baffling phenomena—it was as if a horde of desperate gold miners had finally discovered the biggest vein of gold the world had ever known, and then they proceeded to bore into it searching for gold, or as if the announcement that a renowned doctor had finally cured cancer resulted in millions of people around the world enrolling in medical school with the objective of curing cancer. The cancer was cured, folks. Rock died on April 23, 1976 because my brothers finally brought it to life, and therein manifests the contradiction at the matter’s core—my quartets and rock and roll are so diametrically opposed that they reached around time and touched each other, finally uniting relativity and quantum.
How could I have known in the spring of ’76 that this reality would be condemned to wander the wilderness for more than thirty years before anyone would turn to face it? There I was, sitting in Dave’s apartment taking the bitter with the sweet: yes, I’d been screwed up the ass with a galactic chainsaw on the one hand, but on the other hand I could unequivocally depend on a future devoid of The Spin Doctors. It should have been like traveling back in time and killing every single dictator-to-be at the point of birth, thus sparing the world centuries of atrocities, but somewhere along the line the formula had derailed, some drunken dyslexic fuck-up swapped an operator for a variable, and now somebody somewhere is not only listening to Bittersweet Symphony, but attributing its creation to the jerkoff pretending he’s a hard guy in the creatively provincial video. And if you think that means I’m letting you two Englishmen off the hook, you’ve go another thing coming, lest we forget the “punk influenced” Respectable or When the Whip Comes Down: you’re welcome. Anyhow, the point is that what should have been wasn’t, and instead of putting an end to all misery, RAMONES pointed the way toward endless musical genocides too numerous to mention.
About sixteen hours later Dave nudged me and told me he had things to do. I could have begged—I estimated I had about eighteen or nineteen hours of listening left before I reached 100—but I thought, ‘Why bother?’ By about the fortieth listen of I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You, I got it—they didn’t want to walk around with me. And by the fortieth listen of Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World, it sank in—tomorrow was already here.