As I’ve mentioned previously, Uncle Donnie’s been writing these things for yearsâ€”decades, even. Lev brings over another box of them every once in a while. This one dates back to 1974, and is notable for the absence of Donnie’s can’t-miss bit of advice about faking one’s demise. It wouldn’t have made sense in this context; the band he’s writing to was pretty well unknown at the time. Enjoy. – RS
TO: The Ramones
FROM: Don Skwatzenschitz
RE: Career Advice
I’ve got to say, you guys are amazing. I mean, really amazing. You blew my mind at Seymour Stein‘s birthday party at Max’s last weekend. I’ve never seen Sy look happier. Joey, you’re so tall. And your set was so â€¦ concise! Yes, concise! Thirty-one songs in 17 minutes? I mean, I haven’t been this blown away since I saw the Dead at Golden Gate Park three years agoâ€”a show in which they played for 12 hours (pretty much the opposite of concise), including a two-hour “Turn on Your Love Light!” Do you guys like the Dead? I can get you a tape of the show, if you want one.
You’re right on the verge of something specialâ€”I can tell that. It’s my business to be able to tell that. And Sy is very big on you; I wouldn’t be surprised to see you make a record for Sire next year. You’ve got some time to hone some things, though. The world isn’t ready for the Ramones yet, and I’m not entirely certain the Ramones are ready for the world. Things will go a little smoother for you, though, if you consider doing the following:
- Smile every so often. You guys look so angry all the time. This music is fun. It’s catchy. It’s fastâ€”you can be-bop around to it. Even when you’re singing “Beat on the brat with a baseball bat,” you should at least look like you’re having a good time. I mean, anyone who would actually do such a thing to a kid, brat or no, would likely be wearing a sick look of drooling glee. You guys can drool, right?
- Get a girl in the band. That chick from Angel and the Snakeâ€”what’s her name? Deb Harold or something?â€”would be perfect in your band. It’s not like Angel and the Snake are going anywhere. She could take some of the pressure off you, Joey, sing some of the songs (“Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” maybe). Maybe even play tambourine on occasion. Imagine how that would sound, having some extra percussion in the band! And she looks good, too. Face it, guys, it’s 1974 and sex sells in America. Unless you’re Gary Glitter.
- Get some new clothes. The jeans and leather jacket thing is just so Fifties. Have you ever seen a Nudie suit? You guys would kill dressed up in Nudie suits. Or even costumes. I had this great idea of having a band onstage dressed as different charactersâ€”an Indian, a cop, a biker, a construction worker. Maybe just a guy in a funky vest, as well. Would you be up for that? Think about it.
- Two words: Concept album. What do you think of that Pink Floyd record that came out last year? The one with the prism on the cover? You boys might not be quite up to stretching that far, but an album-length treatise on a single subject is something this downtown scene could use. Or maybe even stretch out in a song, like that band from England, Queen. Have you heard “Seven Seas of Rhye?” It makes no sense at all, but it sounds like they’re slaying dragons or something. Very cool.
- Work with Phil Spector. The steadiest, most level-headed producer in the biz. If you work with him, you will make your greatest music. Guaranteed.
- Take it to the people. Bar mitzvahs. Swanky hotels. Military establishments. Country bars down south. Juke joints. You name itâ€”you should play everywhere. This fast and loud thing you got going will be the next big thing. And if Sy Stein doesn’t treat you right, let me know; my buddy Clive Davis just started up his own record company, and I can put in a good word for you.
All the best,