The Ramones are hailed as one of the first and best punk bands of all time. Although their star was on the rise in 1978, everything changed when Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious was charged with the second degree murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Clubs started canceling punk shows and promoters stopped taking their calls. The entire genre had a black mark attached to it. What could The Ramones do? Well, they tried to make the transition from the clubs to mainstream rock & roll audiences.
At the behest of their booking agency, Premier Talent, the band started taking support gigs, opening up for big names such as Foreigner, Toto, and Eddie Money. As lackluster as these shows wound up being, there was one group The Ramones shared the stage with that was downright deadly: Black Sabbath.
In the book On The Road With The Ramones, the band and their tour manager Monte Melnick recall one of the two concerts the kids from Queens played with the bad boys from Birmingham.
Johnny: We were driving to a San Bernardino show with Black Sabbath and the marquee said “The Kings of Heavy Metal vs The Kings of Punk Rock.’ I thought, ‘Oh God, we’re in trouble,’ and who shows up but a bunch of motorcycle gangs and farmers throwing whiskey bottles.
Monte: Playing with Sabbath was dangerous. Their audience didn’t want anything to do with us. And they were armed! In those days they didn’t check for anything at the door and Black Sabbath audiences were the worst. It was the early days of heavy metal and they didn’t have security, no metal detectors. They’d come in with bottles and stones and would hurl them at the opening bands. That was scary. It was bad.
Joey: We didn’t fit in. It was like The Ramones and pure ignorance. Our new booking agent thought it would expand our audience. The promoter booked it like a battle of the bands. Out there in San Bernardino, it’s a bunch of red-neck motorcycle farmers, and Black Sabbath had a real diehard following. They are very loyal fans, much like The Ramones, but our audience was smaller back then. We started playing and people were holding bottles of whiskey making a motion like they were going to throw them at us. We were about 20 minutes into our set and everything in the world started coming at us -bottles, spark plugs and carburetors. We were able to dodge them all, and no one got hurt, but, we said, ‘Fuck you!’ and got off the stage.
In a 2016 interview with Uncut, Melnick recounts a few other items that were hurled at The Ramones: “Opening up for Black Sabbath—those fans didn’t want to hear the Ramones, so they started throwing batteries and ice picks. That was dangerous. The guys walked off three or four songs after that.”
Amazingly, there is an audio recording of this set. Check it out below!