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Silicon Alleys: Club Owner Recalls the Fights That Fueled the Ramones' Performances

LANDMARK GIG: One Step Beyond is where Dee Dee Ramone played his last show as a member of the Ramones. Photo by Bruce Alan Bennett, via Shutterstock

The date of July 5, 1989, lives in punk rock infamy, in Santa Clara and around the world. On that day 30 years ago, Dee Dee Ramone played his final gig as a member of the Ramones at One Step Beyond. That whole month in particular resonates with many locals.

Located at 1400 Martin Ave. in Santa Clara, the original incarnation of One Step Beyond, in the last half of the '80s, was probably the South Bay's first legitimate all-ages goth, new wave and punk hangout, a huge sweaty club that catered to all the outcasts back when San Jose and Santa Clara were miserable suburban wastelands. It was the only place a 16-year-old could go dancing until 3 in the morning. People even lost their virginities inside the place.

The Ramones were the band that for all practical purposes invented punk rock as we know it, and Dee Dee invented punk rock bass playing. He was also the band's primary songwriter. At One Step, the Ramones played at least one gig every year, sometimes two. Tickets rarely surpassed 10 bucks.

No one at One Step knew the 1989 shows would be Dee Dee's last with the band, but since the Ramones played there so many times, the staff felt like part of the band.

"What you saw beforehand was like you were a part of this great dysfunctional family," said Stan Kent, who owned One Step at the time. "They'd all show up and not one of them really had anything in common with the other and they were always fighting. And the thing you'll always remember is that at some point, they will defer to Monte [Melnick], the tour manager. It's like he was Dad."

The gigs in July of 1989 achieved significance for several reasons. One year earlier, in 1988, while the Ramones were in town gigging at One Step, the author Stephen King called them and asked the band to write a song for the film adaptation of Pet Sematary, his horror novel of the same name. Later that year, the band visited Stephen King's house in Bangor, Maine, and it took Dee Dee less than an hour to write all the lyrics in King's basement.

By the time the Ramones returned to One Step in July of 1989, the film was out and the song and video were everywhere. I distinctly remember Joey standing on stage, telling the crowd that the Ramones had been in San Jose when Stephen King called them.

In pure goth fashion, Kent wanted the band to capitalize on the situation by donating the proceeds from one show to the Humane Society, which was then located right down the street. The band agreed. Although the benefit show was advertised everywhere, the bureaucrats at the Humane Society rejected the idea at the last minute.

"They didn't think it was appropriate to be associated with the movie and the Ramones," Kent said. "The people I was dealing with said, 'Look, it's the board of directors, don't embarrass us by going public with this.'"

Joey was also a fan of Indian food, especially Vindaloo, so every year Kent would try to recommend a place to go, all while the band would yell at each other in the van. However, the band almost always shelved their relentless infighting once the show started, a quality that audiences rarely saw. The Ramones had a militaristic approach to getting the gig done.

"For all of their differences—and maybe there's a life lesson here for all of us—for all their differences, when they got up on stage, they did put all that aside and deliver, always, some of the greatest performances you'll ever see," Kent said. "I don't think the audiences seeing them then, and perhaps now, realized how much fighting had been going on minutes before the show, and went on right after."

Dee Dee later returned for the band's final 1996 gig in Los Angeles, but the July 5, 1989, date in Santa Clara is mentioned in every tour archive and every memoir, and even in museums, putting Santa Clara on the map all over the world.

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