As one of post-1950s rock’s most important figures, Danny Fields’ most recognized claim to fame is his early management of the Ramones. Now Fields, who recently donated his papers to Yale University’s Beinecke Library, has a book, My Ramones, coming out later this month in limited edition from English publisher First Third.
“It’s essentially a Ramones book in pictures,” says Fields, who provided contact sheets with as many as 2,000 vintage color and black-and-white Ramones photos that he’d taken, some 270 of which were chosen.
“It’s called My Ramones because it’s the four Ramones I knew from the start–Tommy, Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny—even though I continued to work with them another two years after Marky replaced Tommy.”
The book, Fields adds, is dedicated to the four original Ramones along with Linda Stein, with whom he co-managed the group, and Arturo Vega, the band’s artistic and lighting director. Sadly, all are now deceased, “so I can’t spill any beans, though it’s not as if there were any! But it got so political, and by saying ‘my Ramones,’ I can cut it off at when they fired me—and don’t have to deal with the bitterness between some of the band members that happened afterwards.”
Rather, the luxury hard back volume focuses on the band’s formative years of 1976 and 1977. Most of the photos have never been seen publicly, and show the Ramones in performance, backstage and during the recording of their self-titled 1976 landmark debut album. As Fields accompanied the band all over America and Europe, he was uniquely positioned to document the Ramones at work and at ease, thereby providing an intimate look at one of rock’s truly historic acts.
Besides his introduction, Fields supplied commentary and captions for his photographs.
“It’s the only thing I did well in my life!” says Fields of his captions, though it should be noted that his colorful career also involved record company publicity for artists including the Doors, magazine editing at such publications as 16 Magazine, and authoring books on friends like Linda McCartney.
“I knew it would take forever–and I had eight nervous breakdowns! But the pictures needed captions because many books just have pictures–but no captions,” Fields explains. “I said, ‘You can’t have a picture without a caption! You need to know information about it: who’s in it, when it was taken, where it was, why he’s wearing a funny hat or whatever. And then I thought it needed an introduction, because the pictures fall into groups.”
Most of the pictures, he notes, were taken for punk rock-supportng Rock Scene magazine.
“Richard and Lisa Robinson and Lenny Kaye were the editors, and it was Lisa who told me to see the Ramones in the first place,” recalls Fields. “Every month every one of those New York bands they were following would be covered, so we had to think of new gimmicks. So we’d be on the road in Texas or San Francisco and part of my mind was always on giving Rock Scene a story for next month’s issue.”
Back home in New York, “we’d walk around Greenwich Village before soundcheck looking around, or climbing up on monuments when we were in D.C. And then sometimes there’s a picture of Joey just standing there and it’s a particularly good picture, but how much can you say about it because it’s a picture of Joey just standing there? So I go into what Joey was like, and deeper and deeper into me and the group. And one other thing applied: I was their manager, so there weren’t going to be any bad pictures! It was a good for them to learn how to be at ease in front of a camera for other photographers.”
“Also being their manager,” continues Fields, “they trusted me to be around them, even when they were preoccupied with other things. So it’s important to say that there’s no ‘never before disclosed’ information: It was all just part of the routine, which is why I was able to take a body of really good pictures of them.”
Linen bound and printed in Italy, the 176-page My Ramones is available online and according to Fields, at London bookshop/literary club The Society Club. London, of course, is particularly significant in Ramones and punk rock history.
“We didn’t know it then but July 4, 1976, when the Ramones played London the first time, is acknowledged as a seminal date in the history of punk,” says Fields.
On this July 4—40 years later–Fields will return to London for a Q&A with British music critic Barney Hoskyns at the British Library.
[The Examiner wrote the first book on The Ramones (Ramones–An American Band) and wrote for Danny Fields at Rock Video and Country Rhythms magazines.]