Yesterday marked the 41st anniversary of the Ramones’ debut album: 14 punk classics blowing minds across the planet in just 29 minutes. Tragically, all four original Ramones have passed, but in Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy’s honor we look back at other efforts that changed the world without a moment wasted.
Abe Keeps It Quick
November 19, 1863
Abraham Lincoln did not live in an age of brevity. The famed orator and politician Edward Everett also spoke at Gettysburg and later wrote to the President of his Gettysburg Address: “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” This was not an exaggeration: he really did talk for 120 minutes. History remembers Lincoln’s 273 words, less so Everett’s 13,000-plus.
Four Minutes of Fury
September 14, 1923
Heavyweight champ Jack “The Manassa Mauler” Dempsey’s bout with Luis Angel “The Wild Bull of the Pampas” Firpo at the Polo Grounds in front of 80,000 fans featured more action than Floyd Mayweather’s entire career. The first round saw Firpo knocked down seven times and Dempsey knocked entirely out of the ring. Dempsey took down Firpo twice more in the second, with Firpo failing to rise after his ninth knockdown overall. In total, the two men combined for 11 knockdowns in four minutes (one every 22 seconds) in a fight that inspired a legendary George Bellows painting and set a standard for brutality every combat sport tries to equal.
Elvis and Ed
September 9, 1956
Ed Sullivan had a variety show, which meant that when Elvis came on he was just one element in the mix. During his first appearance, the soon-to-be King performed a total of four songs: three known today by pretty much everyone on Earth (“Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog,” “Love Me Tender”) and a fourth now a bit more obscure (“Ready Teddy”). A record 60 million people watched, translating to a still-unmatched 82.6 percent of the viewing audience. Elvis soon dominated the radio, too, topping the pop, R&B and country charts. Video above is actually from his second appearance but… you get the idea.
The Beatles Pull an Elvis
February 9, 1964
The Beatles outdrew Elvis with 73 million viewers for their debut Ed Sullivan debut. (Or maybe fans were excited about some of the night’s other entertainments, including impressionist Frank Gorshin, the cast of Oliver! and comedians McCall and Brill.) The Beatles played five songs total, with four Lennon-McCartney’s (“She Loves You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “All My Loving”, “I Saw Her Standing There”) and, naturally, a track from The Music Man (“Till There Was You”). Two months later it paid off, as the week of April 4th the Beatles held all five positions in the Top Five.
Clay Crushes Liston, Becomes Ali
February 24, 1964
It was the night he went from Olympic gold medalist Cassius Clay to heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali. Just 22, “The Louisville Lip” was the decided underdog to Liston, unbeaten in his last 28 fights. For maximum scariness, he was also an ex-con with reputed mob ties. Yet Clay dominated the fight—with the exception of the fifth round, when Liston either accidentally or intentionally rubbed something in his eyes that temporarily blinded him. Liston didn’t come out after the sixth round, giving Clay the title after eighteen minutes of boxing. Clay soon announced his new Muslim name and began the remarkable, controversial career that established him as “The Greatest.”
All of Evel Knievel
Prior to Robert “Evel” Knievel, “lunatic on a motorcycle” was not a path to fame and fortune. Yet his jumps had a remarkable knack for captivating the world, whether they turned out well clearing 15 cars (above) or less so (the fountains at Caesar’s Palace). With each jump only lasting seconds, he translated maybe a minute of time actually spent in the air into decades of notoriety.
April 23, 1976
The Ramones’ self-titled debut is timeless, and not just because they play so frickin’ fast. (Again, 14 songs, 29 minutes.) They created an instantly iconic look with the leather jackets, jeans and Converse and an even more iconic sound: It’s arguable they never really evolved beyond this record, but they didn’t have to. While they failed to crack the Top 100—albums that open and close with tracks referencing the Nazis rarely do—you only have to count the Ramones T-shirts being proudly worn all across the globe to know they were bigger than the Bay City Rollers.
The Free Guarantee
We are not a patient culture, particularly when it comes to food. Domino’s Pizza’s “30 minutes or it’s free” guarantee remains a key milestone in people being able to know exactly how long something will take. There was only one downside to this promise: car accidents by drivers rushing to beat the clock. After some multi-million dollar settlements, Domino’s ended the guarantee in 1993.
May 16, 1983
When you perform one song and it overshadows the rest of Motown, you’re pretty good. “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever” was a TV special with a loaded lineup, including Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and many more. What’s remembered is Michael Jackson. Not so much the reunion with the rest of the Jackson 5, but his solo effort immediately after. While “Billie Jean” was already a hit, when he performed a move where he seemed to walk forward while moving backward it went from “Awesome!” to “He’s a warlock!” (Seriously, listen to the crowd reaction when he does it just after 3:30.) His album Thriller soon went from “hit” to “phenomenon”, with over 30 million sold in the U.S. alone and estimates as high as 100 million worldwide.
July 27, 2004
When Barack Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he stepped to the microphone a 43-year-old Senate candidate in Illinois who back in 1995 had published a book called Dreams of My Father. Just 18 minutes later, he had established himself as a force in the Democratic Party, so that at the next convention he was the presidential nominee and at the one after that the incumbent president. Whether you think his administration is to be celebrated or scorned, this speech is where it all started.