For any self-respecting punk or new wave fan within shouting distance of London, there was only one way to see out the old year of 1977. On December 31, the Ramones headlined at the Rainbow, on a powerful bill supported by Generation X, the band in which Billy Idol rose to fame, and Scottish punks the Rezillos, best known for their “Top Of The Pops” hit. The Ramones’ set gave rise to what is seen by many as one of the greatest live albums ever released.
Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Tommy’s performance was being recorded for what became the It’s Alive album, named after the US horror film of the same name. It was also captured in this video now hosted on the band’s YouTube channel. The 26-minute film shows the seminal New York outfit to be on top form, and carrying their fans with them every inch of the way. The show itself featured 28 songs in less than an hour of breakneck, undiluted rock‘n’roll energy.
It’s Alive, which became a Top 30 LP in the UK, was the first of no fewer than seven live albums by the Ramones, although the two-disc set (produced by Tommy Ramone) wasn’t released until April 1979, some 16 months after the gig. As they headlined the Rainbow, the band had just released their third studio album Rocket To Russia. Their set contained songs from all three LPs to date including, of course, “Rockaway Beach,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,” each delivered with little more than their traditional “1-2-3-4” count-in.
When the album was reissued by Audio Fidelity in early 2017, Record Collector wrote of the Ramones: “As most sets only lasted about 20 minutes, they never hung around long enough to become tedious. This 1977 [sic] release, originally on Sire, is a superb live document.” Johnny Ramone himself would later reflect: “I think our peak, our greatest moment, is that New Year’s Eve show of 1977 into 1978. I think that’s our greatest moment as a band.”
Listen to uDiscover Music’s City Scenes New York Punk & CBGB playlist.