It was a conference call from Linda Stein and Danny Fields in 1976. They told me they managed the Ramones and had a UK tour coming up. They offer me the road managing job and begin to ask me questions about what to expect in their upcoming tour of the UK. The questions were stupid and clueless. They did not know what questions to even ask. I did not know till later that the offer of the road managing job was not something they could even offer. Monte Melnick was their tour manager and driver for the Ramones from early days at CBGBs through 1996.
Danny and Linda were the Ramones’ managers for five years till their management contract expired. Fields, a brief Harvard Law School attendee was now a music biz insider. He was an acclaimed writer, editor, PR specialist and A&R person. He has an uncanny accuracy as a spotter of talent. He was smarmy but not in a business sense, more in a personal way. He liked to have a good time and he liked to party. Though, there was never a problem with it.
Danny Fields was very influential in the music biz, but he was not rich. A few years ago, a movie was made about him, titled Danny Says. I saw it and the movie gives you a sense of him. Not everyone was a Danny fan. I know both Jim Morrison and Elektra executive Bill Harvey despised him. He was funny, even witty, but he could also be quite sarcastic and cutting. My impression of him was that he was totally comfortable with himself. Danny and Linda managed the Ramones in the band’s early years. After five years, both Danny and Joey Ramone agreed that it was time to part. My guess is they had enough of each other.
The Ramones were not the commercial success that Danny Fields had hoped for. They had formed in 1974, released their first album in 1976 and had never sold a lot of records. Both Danny and Linda had no management experience. They did it on the fly and were not traditional management types. Linda was a small woman, just five feet tall, but she had a presence. I doubt that she knew what artist management should entail. I am thinking she had a good time with it. I am also assuming that Seymour Stein, her then-husband (more about him below) helped her with advice and direction.
As far as Danny was concerned, he was not a businessperson either. What he could and did do was get the Ramones known. Lots of press and exposure, but he did not know what to do with them career-wise. The Ramones themselves had a sense of what needed to be done and they had gotten themselves far enough along to warrant the next step, which was a record deal. It has been said that they were the inspiration of the three-chord sound that became the basic structure of the punk sound. Short loud songs with lots of guitar.
Years later the Ramones were more successful and made serious money touring and even headlining stadiums. Though in the beginning years it was safe to say that beyond the CBGB scene, for the most part they did not appeal to American audiences and the management team of Danny and Linda had no clout or touring experience or were really aware of what kind of accounting and tax responsibilities were called for. The two of them were interested in having fun and partying, but give em credit, they did move the Ramones’ career along. In 1977, the Ramones’ single “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” reached No. 22 on the British charts. Sheena. Insiders say the song was about Linda Stein.
It was Linda who had the London idea for the Ramones: she told Fields that the Ramones should go to Britain. The tour was just two shows that they played in London in the summer of 1976 at Dingwalls and the Roundhouse. It has been said that the Ramones were the ones who ultimately ignited the punk scene in Britain. Among the British groups that took their lead from them were The Clash and the Sex Pistols.
Linda Stein was not a shy person, and she had a forceful personality. It has been mentioned that she had a quick and loud temper. She cursed so much she could make a night club bouncer blush. At this point she is the ex-wife of Seymour Stein, the co-founder of Sire Records. Seymour later was a vice president of Warner Bros. Records, and he has left his mark on the music scene. His autobiography, Siren Song: My Life in Music was published in 2018. He is a respected voice in the music industry.
Linda’s relationship with Fields lasted throughout their management of the Ramones. After the Ramones’ contact had expired, Linda and Danny were still sharing an office but the relationship was strained. Danny said, “it was like being married,” with bickering and such. It ended with a squabble over $13,000, money that her daughter’s production company owed Fields for the use of some of his pictures. Those Ramones pictures were quite good. After his lawyer complained about non-payment, the documentary team finally delivered the check the day before they used the pictures. Linda got annoyed at Danny, which was strange because it wasn’t even Linda’s business, but perhaps mommy felt she was protecting her daughter. Danny had taken tons of pictures of the Ramones over the years. He had said, “I had nothing to do once we arrived at the gigs, so I started carrying a camara and taking pictures of the band.” It has been noted that they reconciled some years later, after they had both moved on to different lives.
All this seemed unimportant when Linda was found dead in October 2007. She was discovered in her Fifth Avenue apartment, bludgeoned to death. At the time of Linda’s death, she was a successful celebrity realtor, having found luxury apartments in Manhattan for clients like Sting, Billy Joel, Calvin Klein, Elton John, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Donna Karan, and Andrew Lloyd-Webber. She had got her start in real estate when she sold her ex-husband Seymour’s apartment.
Real estate was a natural for Linda. She was comfortable dealing with famous people and knew how to handle them. She was quoted as saying, just treat them as fifth graders. She had the balls to shepherd these deals. If there was a co-op board to deal with, Linda could do that too. New York magazine noted that she once snapped at Angelina Jolie to “get that fu*king vial of Billy Bob’s blood off from around her neck” before it cost her the approval of a co-op board. To get approved by a co-op board in Manhattan is as difficult as joining a secret society.
Her murder was front-page news. At first the police initially suspected some of the men from her past relationships. However, they had building security video of Linda’s assistant in the building around the supposed time of the murder, but that was not enough for the police to go on.
After four or so days the press had unearthed some prior discrepancies in Linda’s assistant’s past. The press started hanging out in front of her place in Brooklyn. Their presence was making a scene and they impeded her comings and goings, while peppering her with questions. The assistant called the homicide detectives to ask for protection from the press. They met with her in a nearby diner in Brooklyn and then moved her to a police station in the Lower East Side.
By the next morning they had gotten Linda’s assistant to confess to the murder. The story that the papers reported was that she beat Linda to death with a yoga stick. She said Linda was constantly annoying her and had made a racist remark earlier that day. She claimed that Linda was always trying to get her to smoke pot, and that on the day in question Linda was blowing smoke in her face, and the assistant snapped. It was over quickly, and Linda died in a pool of her own blood. At the end of her trial, the assistant was convicted of second-degree murder and of the theft of tens of thousands of dollars. She was sentenced to anywhere from 25 years to 32 years to life (sources vary) in prison. Later, she recanted her confession.
The press made a big thing out of the assistant being picked on by Linda, and while that rings true, what wasn’t really addressed by the press was the fact that she stole thousands of dollars from Linda. I guess justice was served, but to me that it seems like the theft of the money was probably the real motivation.
Linda was a cancer survivor and had had a double mastectomy and reconstruction a few years earlier. She had recently gotten a diagnosis of cancer’s return, this time in the brain, and even though it was early on it was a scary diagnosis. Linda was on medicine that had some profound and serious side effects. Though the prognosis was still fairly good, she was suffering and perhaps Linda thought the writing was on the wall. It was also reported that the daughter said, “Mom would have liked all the drama about her death, as opposed to a quiet spiral downward to a certain and perhaps painful death.”
Danny Fields had first seen the Ramones in CBGB in the mid 1970s. Tommy Ramone been calling him and begging him to come down and see the show. When he did, Danny was convinced that they were going to be a big act. So when he spoke with the band afterwards in front of CBGB they asked if he would write about them, and in response Danny said he wanted to manage the band.
Tommy answered, saying, “lots of people want to manage us. We need $3,000 for a drum kit. And if you can come up with that, maybe you can be our manager.” Fields related, “I went to Florida and asked my mother for $3,000 to invest in a band that I really believed in, and she did it. Because of my mother, it was the Ramones and me together as a team…and we were off.” Then he called Linda and told her she had to see the Ramones. She did, and was convinced and converted. They arranged an audition for Seymour Stein at a rehearsal space on 20th Street and Broadway. Seymour signed them to Sire Records and the rest is history.
All the band members adopted pseudonyms ending with the surname “Ramone.” although none of them were biologically related. They were inspired by Paul McCartney, who would check into hotels as “Paul Ramon.” The Ramones performed 2,263 concerts, touring almost nonstop for 22 years. It has been said that they were the best bad band of their time.
Portions of the research for this article are from “Death of a Broker,” New York magazine, November 16, 2007, and other sources.
Header image: the Ramones in concert, Toronto, Canada, 1976. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Plismo.