With tattered jeans, grungy black leather, long unruly hair and three fatal chords that reverbed round the world, The Ramones made as much of an impact on the punk movement in the '70s as Louis Armstrong did for jazz in the '20s, or as The Beatles did for pop-rock in the '60s. While Iggy Pop and The Stooges may have carved the ten commandments of punk into the sternum of late '60s youth, it was these four misfits from Queens that preached it to the downtrodden masses in the '70s with crude anti-anthems like "Beat On The Brat," "I Wanna Be Sedated," "Teenage Lobotomy" and "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue."
Sadly, despite a recent new wave of punk, with the somewhat watered-down but still spirited likes of Green Day, Blink 182, and Rancid spreading the saliva-stained word to the kids of today, the Ramones lead singer and fountainhead of punk, Joey Ramone, has recently left us after a fatal bout with lymphatic cancer last April.
In the wake of this devastating loss to the music world ConcertLivewire contributor Maggie St.Thomas has interviewed the three remaining Ramones - Marky, Johnny and CJ., unearthing many human elements (loss, bitterness, sorrow and hope) from them. We begin our three part series of Ramones interviews with drummer Marky Ramone (aka Marc Bell.)
Maggie- Aside from your new band Marky Ramone & The Speedkings, what have you been doing since the disbandment of the Ramones?
Marky- I've been doing spoken word tours around the world. I started it in London, then to Ireland, Holland, England, and various coasts of America. I worked on Joey's solo album with him, and I play with the Misfits.
Maggie- Oh yeah! The Misfits played the Warped Tour. How was that?
Marky- It was great! We blew all those imitation punk bands away! New school is just a copy of the old school. We were only on there for 8 days cause we had other sorts of commitments, and I'm not necessarily a Warped Tour guy. We don't want to be tagged as a Warped Tour band because then you get lumped into that category of bad shorts, stupid sneakers, and bad sunglasses. And I don't want to be in that category.
Maggie- You mentioned you're on Joey's solo album. When will that be released?
Marky- Next February or March.
Maggie- Are there any special treats you can share with us?
Marky- We do a Ramones style, Ramones speed rendition of "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong.
Maggie- Could you tell me about your relationship with Joey before his passing?
Marky- First of all, I was the only Ramone to see him in the hospital and I was the only Ramone who played on his solo album. We were the closest. We fought the most but we made up the most. Johnny & Dee Dee didn't talk to him at all for 18 years and they never made up, but that's their choice, they had deeper issues.
Maggie- I know I'm going to touch on a perhaps sore and personal subject for you, but could you tell me why you weren't at Joey's 50th birthday bash?
Marky- When Joey died, his mother inherited his estate. The Ramones were going to play the show, but the brother wanted to sing with us. We wanted Joe Strummer to do it, Rob Zombie, and Eddie Vedder. He insisted that he sing so we told him to go fuck himself, and we didn't go and we told a lot of the other bands not to go or play. The only bands that really played were Cheap Trick and Debbie (Blondie), and Debbie said she really felt weird there, you know, and when the lights went out a lot of the kids thought The Ramones were coming on stage and all they saw was a spotlight and the banner and they were disappointed. And now, everyone knows that it was the brother's fault because he had delusions of grandeur. That's what happened.
Maggie- I know a lot of your hobbies include a lot of books and films. A lot of horror movies?
Marky- More sci-fi horror movies, posters, things like that. But mainly sci-fi stuff.
Maggie- What are some of your favorite movies?
Marky- "Alien," "Aliens 2," "I.T.," "Godzilla," "Prophecy," "Monster" and John Carpenter's "The Thing."
Maggie- What types of books do you read?
Marky- I like adventures and biographies. I also like magazines. Believe it or not, I read the N.Y Times entertainment section and the headlines because I'd like to know how in this world anybody voted for Bush.
Maggie- That whole presidential crap was all rigged anyway. Tell me what kind of musical artists do you enjoy listening to?
Marky- Heartbreakers, L.A.M.F. live at Max's. Me and Johnny (Thunders) and Jerry (Nolan) were very close. (Sex) Pistols of course.
Maggie- Do you have any stories you can tell me about Johnny Thunders?
Marky- (hysterical laughter) Yeah! I've got a lot of stories about Johnny Thunders I could tell you. I used to smoke pot with them in Chinatown. It was Thunders and Dee Dee and Richard Hell and Jerry Nolan. I was never into heroin, you know, I was into drinkin'. So this is like '77, '78, '79 and they'd all be high off of dope (heroin), they'd be different, you know, slackin' off. We'd end up going to the bar and havin' a few drinks after it wore off. And I'd still be the same, you know what I mean?
Maggie- According to what you know and remember, can you tell me who really wrote "Chinese Rocks?"
Marky- Dee Dee.
Maggie- Was Johnny [Thunders] there?
Marky- Johnny was there but Dee Dee wrote it. Johnny was busy writing his own stuff around the same time he was writing "Born To Lose," and "Too Much Junkie Business."
Maggie- What has been the reaction of fans seeing you now and how is it different than when you were with The Ramones?
Marky- It's, you know, a drummer being in a band playing drums. I don't expect any more or less. I'm not the whole Ramones. I never expect to be. I play a lot with different people. As long as it's fun, I'll still be doing it. The money doesn't mean anything anymore. The Ramones did good financially. If I wanted to I could retire but I enjoy playing. I worked very hard and I did the right thing with my money. I didn't squander it, and I always suggest everyone do that 'cause when you get older you're gonna need something, right?
Maggie- Tell me about your new band Marky Ramone & The Speedkings?
Marky- We'll have an album out within the next few months. It's faster, it's more about girls and sex, cars, gasoline and oil. The realities of women and guys and what they really lust for. It's just a side project I have.
Maggie- What's the most important thing you learned from The Ramones that you will never forget or leave behind you?
Marky- How to treat people right. You know, don't act like a rockstar, just be yourself. I hate rockstars.
Maggie- It's quite funny, actually, how some people can take themselves too seriously.
Marky- I hate that shit! Its bullshit! And then you've got these guys saying, 'Well, I have no time to sign your autograph,you know, fuck you,' and they walk away. I learned that you had to be really appreciative to the people that like you.
Maggie- Do you have any last words?
Marky- Yeah. My email is on the Ramones Official website www.officialramones.com, Joey's solo album is coming out February or March, me and the Misfits are going to do a new album together, and the Speedkings album will probably be coming out in 2 or 3 months. And my spoken word shows will start happening again when I'm not doing this.
Part Two of "The Ramones Confidentials" with Maggie St. Thomas' interview
with co-founder and guitarist Johnny Ramone.
Part Three with CJ Ramone