The Ramones Refused to Film This Scene in ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’

The Ramones are rock n’ roll legends. They already were in 1979 when they starred in the movie Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. The high school musical has become one of the iconic movies featuring musicians over the last 40 years. Shout! Factory celebrates Rock ‘n’ Roll High School with a 40th anniversary Blu-ray release, and the bonus features are full of awesome Ramones stories.

L-R. Joey Ramone, Marky Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone | Gai Terrell/Redferns

Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Marky Ramone came to Riff Randell (P.J. Soles) and Kate Rambeau (Dey Young)’s high school to rock and stick it to the stuffy principal Miss Togar (Mary Woronov). Soles, director Allan Arkush, co-writer Richard Whitley and Marky Ramone himself share some stories on the 40th anniversary Blu-ray of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and you can hear more from them and costars Young, Woronov, Clint Howard and more filmmakers on the Blu-ray.

Before The Ramones, these bands were considered for ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’

The idea for Rock ‘n’ Roll High School began when Allan Arkush was in high school himself, dreaming that a rock n’ roll band would come blow up his school. This was the ‘60s.

“The Ramones hasn’t been invented yet,” Arkush said. “I needed a nasty band to come and play. I needed The Rolling Stones. I would fantasize the Stones on those high school steps. Or if The Stones couldn’t make it, it was the Yardbirds.”

Rock ;n' Roll High School 40th Anniversary Blu-Ray
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School 40th Anniversary Blu-ray | Shout! Factory

Co-writer Richard Whitley revealed other bands they approached first.

“In the early drafts of the script it just said, ‘The Band,’” Whitley said. “Riff Randell’s character was obsessed with ‘The Band.’ They met with Todd Rundgren. He wanted it to be more socially relevant, like If. Then we heads Cheap Trick wanted to do it. They would’ve been great but they wanted 50 grand which was way too much for [producer] Roger [Corman].”

Warner Bros. suggested Devo and another major family band to Arkush.

“We felt that Devo had too much of their own thing going on,” Arkush said. “Then they talked about another band that were really wild and they might work if you could control them. That was Van Halen.”

The scene The Ramones refused to film 

Now it’s impossible to imagine Rock ‘n’ Roll High School with any other musicians than The Ramones. They still had notes though. Richard Whitley described a scene they had to cut. They were going to have the band open their dressing room closet and find it full of jeans and leather jackets in clear dry cleaning bags. They said no.

The Ramones
L-R: Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, Joey Ramone, Marky Ramone | Peter Noble/Redferns

“They didn’t want to make fun of their image,” Whitley said.

They did film some other scenes reluctantly. 

“They hated when the guitars had to cross in the hallways,” Arkush said. 

Joey Ramone | Michael Putland/Getty Images

The band did, however, get into the spirit of improvising. 

“John gave us the idea of putting the kick me sign on Ms. Togar,” Arkush added.

Marky Ramone shared his favorite scene. 

“The funniest part of the movie to me was when we approached the front of the movie theater with Rodney Bingenheimer driving the four door Caddy convertible,” Marky Ramone said. “There I am hitting my drumsticks and trying to dance. It’s pretty weird. We look like aliens just landing.”

Dennis Quaid liked The Ramones more than P.J. Soles

To play the ultimate Ramones fan, P.J. Soles had to study. Allan Arkush gave her a Ramones tape but it was her then-husband, now a major A-list star, who dug the music. 

“In that fourth audition Allan gave me a cassette of the Ramones,” Soles said. “I took it home. I was married to Dennis Quaid at the time. I put it in the cassette player and he kinda liked it. I just went around the house screaming, ‘Oh my god, what is this? Is this music?’”

Extras paid to be in ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School was a low budget that couldn’t afford to pay extras. They were, however, putting on a Ramones concert. So they charged $1.50 per ticket for people to come be in the audience for six hours. 

The Ramones in concert
L-R. Johnny Ramone, Joey Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone | Roberta Bayley/Redferns

“We get every crazy punker in the world in there,” Arkush said. “You can see Darby Crash from The Germs, members of the Alley Cats, The Bags, Circle Jerks in the audience. Six hours later when they realized they were only going to hear the same six times over and over again, they would get mad and we’d get them out and we’d bring in a new crowd.”