Rhino Historic Tours: Ramones Take Out Talking Heads

Monday, April 24, 2017
Rhino Historic Tours: Ramones Take Out Talking Heads

40 years ago today, the Ramones kicked off a European tour with their fellow NYC band – and fellow Sire Records labelmates – Talking Heads. In terms of spreading the gospel of both bands, the tour was a success, but insofar as the two groups getting along… Well, let’s just say that they’re very different people.

In David Bowman’s book This Must Be The Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the 20th Century, it’s clear that each band respected the work of the other, but the tensions between the two groups were definitely discernible, mostly because – despite the fact that they all lived in NYC – they were from two different worlds.

“In Europe, the Ramones were pretty disgusting to the Heads,” recalled Ramones manager Linda Stein. “The Heads were polite. The Ramones had no manners. They didn’t realize they had no manners. The Heads would be like, ‘We’re in Belgium, let’s have waffles.’ The Ramones would complain, ‘Where are the fuckin’ hamburgers?’ If the Heads said, ‘White,’ the Ramones would say, ‘Black.’ I was like the camp counselor.”

Thankfully, the experience of playing the actual shows was predominantly a positive one, and the Heads made a very important new friend during the course of events, as it was on this jaunt that they first met Brian Eno. Now, if only the transportation had been better…

“While the shows were all pretty incredible on that tour, the traveling arrangements weren’t ideal,” wrote Monte. A. Melnick, longtime Ramones associate, in his memoir, On the Road with the Ramones. “First of all, both bands were traveling together in one bus. Not a tour bus, but a tourist bus. Like a school bus, with flat rows and no bunk beds to sleep in. Talking Heads were all friends and we got along for the most part, but the Ramones aren’t exactly the friendliest guys in the world, especially Johnny.”

This would seem to be true, based on a remark from Johnny about an incident between him and Tina Weymouth which involved him mouthing off to her. In Melnick’s book, Chris Franz confirms, “Johnny refused to talk to Tina after that,” and Franz also recalls how Johnny complained about the decision to stop at Stonehenge, to which Johnny adds, “They were just a bunch of rocks. Who cares?” It’s also notable that Johnny is also quoted in Bowman’s book, wherein he complains about the fact that “the Heads just sat there reading.”

By the time the Ramones / Talking Heads’ European tour wrapped up on June 6, it’s fair to say that both bands were probably pretty darned ready to return. Thankfully, they left in their wake a substantial number of Europeans who were thrilled to have had the chance to see them.