The “customer experience” approach was necessary if the U.S. army were ever going to get the Iraqi people to trust them. It’s an approach that goes back a long way as Jean Larteguy’s novel The Centurions illustrates. The novel focuses on the experience of a number of French officers captured by the Vietminh at Dien Bein Phu in 1954. According to Thomas Powers the French had a similar approach to the Americans in that “they believed that firepower, mobility, and professional soldiering would beat any ragtag army of guerrillas.
It’s incredible that the U.S. army still had the same culture in 2003 that it had at the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. The soul searching that went on in its aftermath failed to address the fact that not all battles would fit the head-on conventional model that had existed in the leadership’s mindset since the end of the Second World War.
“Tell me how this ends” asked David Petraeus of a reporter embedded with the 101st Airborne Division as the U.S. army rolled through Southern Iraq en route to Baghdad. It was March 2003 and a few weeks later President George W. Bush famously stood in front of a banner that declared “Mission Accomplished” on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln which was sitting off the San Diego coast and had just returned from the Persian Gulf.
They were the world’s first genuine punk rock band. It’s tempting to surmise from the omnipresent t-shirts, name checking, and countless rip off merchants that the Ramones were one of the most successful bands of their time, but apart from near god-like status in Latin America, and a punk-crazed late 70′s United Kingdom, they never rose above club-status at home in the United States. Their best selling album was Ramones Mania a “Greatest Hits” compilation that sold only 500,000 copies. Luck never seemed to be on their side and in a four year period between 2001 and 2005 the band’s three most influential members, singer Joey, bassist Dee Dee and guitarist Johnny, all passed away.
So what then is The World’s Smallest Ramones Museum doing in La Sirena, the stylish Mexican restaurant, situated in the seaside village of Malahide, North County Dublin? I sat down for a delicious chicken burrito (plug intended), a killer Margherita and more than a few Coronas with my longtime friend, La Sirena’s owner and punk rock lover, Colin Ring to discuss.
The World’s Smallest Ramones Museum in a Mexican Restaurant in a seaside village on Ireland’s east coast – Why?
That’s easy. My partner Aoife, who is La Sirena’s co-founder, told me to get the stuff out of the house as it was cluttering the place up. It was all lying around in harms way on book shelves, so the restaurant is probably safest place to keep it all. Besides when you collect something it’s nice to display it.
Are there actual vinyl records inside those album covers?
Yes…I still listen to vinyl, and I have other copies of those records at home that I still listen to.
What do your customers make of the museum?
Some are confused by it as they’ve no idea who the Ramones are/were. People up to the age of thirty usually haven’t a clue but after that most people know them. A couple of weeks ago a New York couple in their mid-fifties arrived into La Sirena. They were just off the plane, dressed in black, and shaking their heads in disbelief looking at a Ramones museum in suburban Dublin. The guy had seen the band three or four times, and as I’ve seen them a few times too we had a little laugh about it.
Who does it resonate with the most?
Gentlemen and ladies of a certain vintage…let’s say forty plus!
What’s your favorite item?
Good question…I think the “Swallow my Pride” single, which was released on Philips Ireland. It’s very rare. They actually brought out three or four singles from their second album Leave Home on Philips Ireland. Back in the 70′s a country like Ireland would press its own version of a single or LP no matter how obscure it was. There’s also a copy of Pleasant Dreams – their sixth album – in there which my brother Emmet got signed by the band in Comet Records in 1980. I remember seeing one guy get a full-sized baseball bat signed that day. I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on that. I actually have a mini-promo baseball bat from 1977 in there along with a used pleck that Johnny threw into the crowd in the TV Club in June 1985.
Wow! How did you get your hands on that?
I didn’t, my brother Emmet did. He had to literally scramble and kill for it.
Do you ever play some of their tunes over the sound system?
I very occasionally play some of the softer Joey stuff like “Baby I Love You.” It’s a family restaurant so I can’t exactly play tracks like “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” or “We’re a Happy Family.”
Is there a Ramones meal on the menu?
No there isn’t. The band loved their Mexican food. They used to thank Taco Bell on the back of their albums so I’d like to think that all Mexican food is Ramones food, well maybe Ramón’s food! Hmmm I suppose we could change our Monterrey Burger into a Ramones Burger , but really you’re stepping into Thunder Road Café territory there.
The best rock ‘n’ roll band in the world ever! Period! They actually changed my outlook on music when I was 15. I heard “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” on Radio Luxembourg and I’d never heard anything like that in my life up until then. I also started listening to the Clash and Sex Pistols around that time but the Ramones were different. They moved me mentally and physically. The more I found out about them the more I realised that they’d discovered this blue print. They’d taken garage rock and surf music and melted it down to the bare essentials, making it impenetrable for 99% of the population. If you were in the 1% that got it you were a member of that club.
Their first gig in Ireland was at the State Cinema in Phibsborough in 1978 with maybe 300 to 400 people seated – well seated for the first two minutes anyway. I was at that show and I also saw them play twice in Berlin and twice in Brixton.
New York punk versus English punk?
That’s a big statement!
Well who did Hendrix or the Beach Boys influence? Who did Dylan influence? Donovan that’s who! The Byrds?
Well Big Star, Teenage Fanclub!
That’s not a proper answer.
What’s your favorite album?
Probably Rocket to Russia. It was still the original line up with drummer Tommy, they had really got their sound and lyrics together, and they were still projecting a united front. I hate to say it but it was Johnny’s favourite album…that’s probably because he put a lot of thought into the guitar sound. After that album Tommy left, and they wound up despising each other. How they lasted as long as they did afterwards is incredible.
What do you think Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee would make of the museum?
I reckon they’d love it. Even though they hated each other they loved their fans.
Does anyone associated with the band know about the museum?
Yes, both Arturo Vega and Monte Melnick have been in touch. Vega is the New York artist who allowed both Joey and Dee Dee to move in to his loft. He designed the bands famous logo and attended every Ramones show bar two. He popped me an email and said that he’d come to La Sirena for a beer the next time he was in Dublin. Monte Melnick was their tour manager for their entire career.
So anyone who arrives into La Sirena wearing a Ramones t-shirt gets a free Margherita?
Hmmm, yes, could do that I suppose.
Describe the restaurant.
It’s exactly the kind of restaurant I’d visit if I didn’t own this restaurant!
For more information on The World’s Smallest Ramones Museum @ La Sirena visit their Facebook page here.
Whatever about the platitudes and tributes to Margaret Thatcher, I'm really only interested in one thing. Will Elvis Costello make good on the promise he made in the song "Tramp the Dirt Down" off 1989's Spike.
Well? Will ya Elvis?
Douglas Rushkoff’s interview with FastCompany gives an interesting insight into the message behind his new book, Present Shock. I found these quotes particularly interesting:
”Presentism is the acknowledgement that human beings exist in a unique temporal landscape in which not all moments are the same. We’ve been taking digital technology and pushing it into service of the old, but working in an increasingly digital environment means forcing our digital operating systems to conform to human time, rather than the other way around.”
”If we stop believing in a future, if we stop doing things for something else but start doing them for now, some fundamental things change. Retirement becomes less about how much money you can squirrel away now and much more a matter of participating and contributing to your own community now so that they want to take care of you. … We’re going to move into a world where your retirement will be more secure if you’ve made lots of friends with young people rather than collected lots of dollars.”
Rushkoff is giving a talk about the book in my favourite bookstore, City Lights, San Francisco, later today at 7 pm.
In one of the more irreverent and entertaining TED talks I've seen recently Larry Smith tells us that you'll fail to have a great career, unless....you do all those things that hold us back: taking risks, being afraid to look like an idiot, giving yourself completely to what you're doing, and building relationships - the messiest and most intimidating thing of all for many - with people.