They looked like they came out of a manhole cover in the deep bowels of New York City.
Four punk rock ragamuffins decked out in torn blue jeans, matching black leather jackets and bowel haircuts. These were The Ramones.
Armed with three chords and firing off compact two minute punk manifestos, lean on economy and heavy on hooks, their bratty fusillade of sound and fury set the stage for the glory days of punk rock’s first shot heard around the world.
In quick stead, they cleared a path for all to follow; from the Sex Pistols to The Clash, Green Day to Rancid, their searing musical mark on the rock and roll battlefield is unrivaled.
Today, drummer Marky Ramone is one of the last men standing in The Ramones brudda-hood—the original lineup of Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Tommy, are now all sadly deceased.
In his new book, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life As A Ramone, co-written with Rich Hershlag, Marky spills the beans on his tenure in one of the most influential and groundbreaking band in rock and roll history.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Tell us about your audition process for the Ramones?
Marky Ramone: Tommy was leaving the band and he told Dee Dee about it. I already knew these guys because they used to come see my first band, Dust, which I didn’t know until I joined the Ramones.
Tommy suggested to Dee Dee that he should ask me at the bar at CBGB’s if I’d be interested and I said, “Yeah, let’s go to a rehearsal studio and see how it works out.” So we did four Ramones songs and then the next thing I knew, Johnny approached me and said, “Are you in?” And I said, “Definitely!”
They liked my drumming and gave me a demo of Road to Ruin, the first album I would record with them and their live show which I had to memorize; so with the demo and the live album that was together was 40 songs. I had two weeks to learn them and the first song I recorded with them was “I Wanna Be Sedated.”
Rock Cellar Magazine: Take us back to your first gig with the Ramones.
Marky Ramone: It was in Poughkeepsie, New York. We didn’t have time to rehearse. We did rehearsals in the city and I went there knowing I had a job to do and I did it. There were no mistakes. Believe me, I would admit it. It was the first show, everyone was there. There was no stress or anxiety. I just did it because it was so ingrained from rehearsing every day four or five hours a day on my own and then going to rehearse with them in a studio two to three hours a day.
So at the end of the show everybody was like nothing happened, like it was business as usual, which was a good feeling.
Rock Cellar Magazine: I Wanna Be Sedated is a standout from that album. Did you sense it was a future Ramones classic in the making?
Marky Ramone: Well, it was very catchy. It’s funny because that was one of the songs when I got the tape and I rehearsed to it in my home, I just couldn’t stop singing it. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I knew that the chorus would stick whenever it played and it’s obvious today that song had something special.
But back then, I was just able to put it down on records in two takes.
Rock Cellar Magazine: How did The Ramones view its UK counterparts, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, The Damned and The Jam? Did the band forge camaraderie between those bands or was it more of a competition?
Marky Ramone: Well, we knew that they took a lot from the New York scene and we were very grateful for that because they knew a good thing when they saw it. (laughs)
So they liked Richard Hell, they liked the Ramones, they liked Blondie, they definitely loved the Heartbreakers with Johnny Thunders and the (New York) Dolls. When I went over there to tour with Richard Hell, The Clash was on the bill. There was a competitive camaraderie, let’s just put it that way.
We were friends but in the music business you are competitors. But every band was different. The Clash took from the Ramones and the (Sex) Pistols did but we were there in ’74, ’75 and the first album came out in ’76 and the first punk albums in the UK came out in ’76 and ’77 but the bands didn’t form until a year after the Ramones started. They were very impressed when the Ramones went there for the first time to play.
They were all in the audience studying it, watching it and then they started counting 1- 2-3-4 before each song like The Ramones did, wearing leather jackets, sneakers. I gave Joe Strummer his first pair of Converse sneakers. They were very impressed by the New York punk scene.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Today, the Ramones are viewed as legendary icons. Did your bandmates ever truly “get” how important the band was while you were still an active unit?
Marky Ramone: I think when the second wave of punk came out with Green Day, the Offspring, Rancid and even Joan Jett and people like that using Ramones rhythms in their songs and also bands like Pearl Jam, U2 and KISS doing a cover of Do You Remember Rock ‘N Roll Radio?; there were bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica doing Ramones songs.
You also had Lemmy from Motorhead writing a song about us (R.A.M.O.N.E.S.) so we kind of “got” it and we were very grateful for that. We never thought that that we would be creating something brand new, we just did what we liked doing and then it ended up like that.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Accidental pioneers.
Marky Ramone: I guess you could say that but now we have more acclaim that ever, which is unbelievable. I would give anything for Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee to see this. Tommy saw it–he was alive until last year so he was very happy and grateful for that. Obviously a lot of these bands and individuals saw something good enough in us to integrate it into their music.
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