Marky Ramone’s punk rock memories

Marky_book_coverBy Ken Sharp

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 ‘n’ 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, spills the beans on his tenure in one of the most influential and groundbreaking band in rock ‘n’ roll history.

 

GOLDMINE: Describe the New York cultural and music scene at the time you came to join the Ramones.

Marky Ramone: Well, it was very downtrodden. There were a lot of strikes and there were a lot of homeless people. It was a pretty bad time from New York from ’74 to ’78, ’79. There were gas shortages, there was a lot of violence against people and there were gangs and a lot of police getting shot. It was just a pretty grim time in that era. Musically, there were the Ramones, there was Richard Hell & the Voidoids and there were the Talking Heads, Blondie and Television; the Heartbreakers had already moved to London. It was great. We had CBGB’s and that was our home and that was our place to play. A lot of the clubs in New York wouldn’t play our kind of music. We were up against the disco craze at the time. So we were lucky that Hilly Kristal let us perform at CBGB’s.

 

GM: Before you joined the group, had you see the Ramones play much?

MR: Oh yeah. I saw them when they were just developing, just starting out. They looked kind of glam and then eventually, they got rid of the glam and started dressing in jeans and the leather jackets. They only played for about 15 to 20 minutes because that’s all they knew at the time. But eventually as time went on, they got tighter and tighter and they developed their image more and what they eventually became. So it took a little while and then they finally did it; it was kind of like KISS in the beginning where they had the makeup but it wasn’t really professionally done yet until they got some really good people to do it.

 

GM: Tell us about your audition process for the Ramones?

MR: 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.”

 

GM: Tommy Ramone, the drummer you were ostensibly replacing in the band, was there at your audition in case you needed help.

MR: Yeah. Tommy was great to hang around, just to make sure that everything flowed in the beginning the first two or three days. Then, it came naturally to me. What I did was I got a boom box, drum pad and a pair of headphones and that’s how I learned the live album, “It’s Alive” and “Road to Ruin.” It was good that he was in the studio as the producer because he knew how to get a really good drum sound.

 

GM: Marky, you’re an accomplished drummer with much more technical skills, how did you have to adapt your style to play Ramones songs?  The songs look deceptively simple but much harder to play correctly, right?

MR: Thank you! Well, I always liked jazz drummers and I always liked Ringo. He always used the high hat with his wrists and fingers and he played it pretty quick. I used that with the Ramones and, of course, listening to the first three Ramones albums. So yeah, it was different than Dust. Dust was very technical where the Ramones were stripped down with 4/4 time signatures which was pretty easy to play but it isn’t easy to play for an hour and twenty minutes. So you’re doing eighth note down strokes on your cymbals and high hat where after a while might get a little hard to play because you’re doing it for so long. But after a while, if you do shows continuously it comes easy just like an exercise in the gym or running; the more you do it the easier it gets.

 

GM: Take us back to your first gig with the Ramones.

MR: 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.

 

GM: What songs were the most challenging to pull off for you?

MR: I always liked “Surfin’ Bird.” I liked the original but it the original was a little hard to figure, which was pretty close to the Ramones. It’s just a strange time signature, when to come in and when to do that stop in the middle. So that was just one thing that was confusing; it wasn’t hard to play, it was just confusing where to count the song so that it begins and ends properly. There were a lot of different things in it. So, that was one song I could have screwed up if I didn’t know it that well. So that was kind of like a challenge. But overall, they were pretty simplistic because it was basically just songs in 4/4.

 

GM: “Road to Ruin” is the first Ramones album you played on, what are your most vivid memories of those sessions?

MR: Well, they already did three albums that were three chords and they wanted to change a little. I understood that. I just tuned my snare drum tighter, made the drums heavier sounding and then they added lead guitar a lot more on that album than usual. And the result was basically “Road to Ruin.”

 

GM: Who played the lead guitar, Johnny?

MR: No, no. That was Ed Stasium, our producer. He played all the lead guitar on that album. That was really it. I just wanted to make it a little heavier. I understood the punk ethos and all that stuff but I think that the drum section needed to be a little heavier.

 

GM: “I Wanna Be Sedated” is a standout from that album. Did you sense it was a future Ramones classic in the making?

MR: 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.

 

GM: 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?

MR: 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 after 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.

 

GM: From your perspective, how did hailing from the NYC scene factor into the band’s sound and songs?

MR: Well, in New York everything is open 24 hours. Clubs closed at 4AM and then there were after hours clubs. It’s such an up-paced society that it definitely influenced the songwriting and probably the speed of the songs. (laughs) It really goes together, where you’re brought up, what you experienced in life at that point and you write it all down in a song.

 

GM: So what you’re saying is if The Ramones had come out of Utah the song would have been half as fast. 

MR: (laughs) Well, you never know; it’s hard to say. It’s just something we’ll never know.

 

GM: Thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense that The Ramones songs mimicked the pace of New York City.

MR: Oh yeah. I mean, you had subways, all the people walk faster, and they talk faster. It’s like any other state. Every state is different. So I guess in my opinion, with the Ramones, they absorbed all of that and then did that first album.

 

Marky Ramone. Photo by Martin Bonetto.

Marky Ramone. Photo by Martin Bonetto.

GM: Today, the Ramones are viewed as legendary icons. Did your band mates ever truly “get” how important the band was while you were still an active unit?

MR: I think when the second wave of punk came out with Green Day, 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.

 

GM: Accidental pioneers.

MR: I guess you could say that but now we have more acclaim than 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.

 

GM: Was there a leader in the Ramones?

MR: The leaders were the songwriters. Everyone had their own expertise. John was good with business, Joey was a songwriter, Dee Dee was a songwriter and I was the drummer. So the thing is everyone was an integral part of the group and one without the other the band would not exist. So without the songwriting especially there’d be nothing. So in the reality of things, it’s the music in the end that matters and it was Joey and Dee Dee who wrote those songs.

 

GM: Discuss the Johnny/Joey dynamic in the band and the psycho-drama surrounding their relationship. Was it essential to the betterment of the band to have that tension?

MR: Well, we’ll never know. Without it the Ramones might not have been what it was. But there were animosities the minute I joined the group; I could see it when I got into the van between Joey and Johnny. Was it helpful in the sound of the band? Maybe. Do I wish it wasn’t happening? Yes, because I wish everybody got along so but this is what I entered into when I came into the group and this is what I found out. Some people just don’t get along. Their politics are different and what they were interested in was different. John was into sports and Joey wasn’t into sports. John was a right-wing conservative, and Joey was a liberal democrat. Sometimes they say opposites attract but in this case not really. (laughs) But luckily Dee Dee was there and he basically became my best friend in the group.

 

GM: All bands have tension and personal issues. In terms of the dysfunctional scale where do you rate the Ramones?

MR: Well, I would say from 1 to 10, I’d rate it a 7 1/2. We all had our own rows of assigned seating in the van (laughs) and the farther away Joey was from Johnny the happier he was. But all in all, we did a 115, 116 shows a year and I only missed one show. It must have been really good because we’re not masochists and there was something there that we all knew that was good which was bigger than us and that was the band. I knew before we went on that stage or into the recording studio, all those animosities were left behind and we did the best we could whenever we played.

 

GM: By all accounts, Johnny was a task master and disciplinarian in the band. How did his background going to military school the impact on the way he ran the band?

MR: Well, that’s one of the reasons Tommy left because he bullied Tommy a lot and he didn’t like it anymore. He complained about it and I guess all that together with John being a bullying kind of guy, it definitely got to a point where Tommy had enough and he didn’t want to be in the van anymore and just wanted to be behind the scenes and produce. Johnny never came off heavy to me. His bark was bigger than his bite.

 

GM: Johnny famously brought a bag of rocks that he threw at the Beatles 1965 show at Shea Stadium, emblematic of his personality. Did he ever let down his guard and some flashes of vulnerability?

MR: We would hang out a lot together at sci-fi conventions, collecting ‘50s sci-fi posters and most of the time he was okay. I just didn’t get it. He could be a really nice guy but when he was around other people or the rest of the band or the crew right away the military school influence had to kick in.

 

GM: The Ramones musical ethos wasn’t only hot wired in punk/garage rock but many other flavors went into the soup—‘60s British Invasion, Brill Building pop, the glam rock stomp of Slade, power pop hooks of the Raspberries and bubblegum bands like the Bay City Rollers… discuss.

MR: Well, we were definitely influenced by the Phil Spector sound. We liked girl groups. We liked the British invasion—The Kinks, The Who, The Beatles, The Searchers and we also liked surf music, The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean. So you throw that up in the air and it came down a Ramones omelet. We also liked Slade, the Dolls. Me and Joey loved Alice Cooper and, of course, David Bowie, so we had a lot of influences and luckily we didn’t sound like any of them. (laughs) It’s good to copy but you can never beat the originator.

 

GM: Okay, here’s a concert bill that happened, Black Sabbath, Van Halen and the Ramones, who doesn’t belong?

MR: Oh boy…At the time in America, who were they going to pair us with in ’78, ’79? Who was really there that was compatible to us? So you had us, Black Sabbath and Van Halen and we even played with the Kinks. It just wasn’t a good match. Obviously, Black Sabbath had more fans and Van Halen was in that vein of music and we were just a punk rock band from New York. Sometimes that can happen where a group is paired with other groups and it’s just the wrong combination.

 

GM: Rumors and myths surround the making of the “End of the Century” album produced by Phil Spector. Separate the fact from fiction.

MR: Phil never pointed a gun at anyone in the studio and the only the band was allowed in the studio were the band and Larry Levine, his engineer, and that was it. I was there every minute. He never pointed a gun. When Johnny said to him, “What are you going to do, shoot me?” It didn’t mean he was pointing a gun. It meant that he had two guns on him which he had a license for. He was just talking, there were no guns being pointed at him. It’s all exaggeration and sensationalism in all these Ramones books. That’s why I felt it was time for me to write a book of what I experienced, the real deal, not just to put things in a book to sell it.

 

GM: What impressed you the most about Spector as producer?

MR: When the “End of the Century” album came out, it was very different from what we did and a lot of the punk purists didn’t like it but me and Joey loved it. We liked the fact that there the meeting of the two walls of sound and Phil had a particular style that we all loved. We were amazed that his stamp was on our sound too and to me now, that album holds up more than it did when it came out, not only because of the production but because of the song selection like ‘Rock & Roll Radio,” Rock & Roll High School,” “Chinese Rocks,” “Danny Says,” all these wonderful songs that he produced. But again when it came out, it was so different that a lot of the purists later on liked it but not when it came out.

 

GM: Spector made Johnny do endless takes for hours to get the opening chord right on “Rock and Roll High School”?

MR: He had because to play (the opening chord) over and over because Phil was looking for a certain guitar sustain and  John wasn’t getting it. Maybe it was because of his Mosrite guitar, I don’t know. But John could be stubborn with playing other guitars. So Phil told him “You have to keep doing it and doing it and doing it.” When you hear that chord at the beginning of “Rock & Roll High School” you hear that chord and you hear that sustain that he was going after. Finally, after 50 or 60 takes, he got it but John thought that Phil was trying to bust his balls, which he wasn’t trying to do. Phil was known to work a lot differently than we were. Phil worked on one song for two or three months. With the Ramones, we did an album in three weeks so there was a difference of opinions there. But Phil was the producer and we weren’t going to argue with him. But you could see there was tension with Dee Dee and Johnny with Phil. Look, that’s’ the way it was. Phil was no angel either. He could get very temperamental and maniacal and crazy but we did a job and that the result, “End Of The Century.”

 

GM: “Rock ‘N Roll High School” is considered a classic rock and roll movie and a celebrated cult film. Bring us back to the making of that film.

MR: We had to get up at six in the morning and we had to be at the shoot at 8AM. We had to get up, take a shower and get ready. brush your teeth, take a leak, the whole thing and then you get down to the abandoned high school and then you wait around because the director probably has something else on his schedule to do and then he gets around to you maybe four or five hours later. We were mainly in there to perform; I mean, we only had a few lines of dialogue in the movie. Dee Dee’s line was “Hey, pizza!” and that was it. He tried to do a few lines over and over again but it was just wasting time so that’s the reason why they gave him a small line, “Hey, pizza!” I mean, how much easier can it get than that? (laughs) The film has a charm. It had a shoestring budget and it worked. Everybody on the set—the actors, actresses, the Ramones—we got to give it our best knowing it was on a tight budget.

 

GM: For a band that wrote insidiously catchy songs with monster hooks, the group never landed a big hit.

MR: Now our songs are in commercials. Now we’ve got some gold albums, we got a gold DVD; we’ve got this and that and now it’s happening! It would have been nice to happen back then but luckily it happened now so it’s better late than never.

 

GM: Where do you assign the major blame for the failure of The Ramones having a bounty of big hits? 

MR: It’s hard to say. I think we were ahead of our time. I mean, that’s really the only answer I can say. A lot of people eventually caught up, not just because of us but it was because of a lot of other bands citing us as influences. Then a lot of curiosity seekers said, “Hey, let me check these guys out.” Eventually, they checked us out and liked us and our name, our reputation and the growth of our music grew over time.

 

GM: Green Day are huge fans of the Ramones and The Clash and that DNA was a major part of their sound. When they became huge and started having hits, how did the band react to that?  In the book you state the feelings were bittersweet?

MR: I wouldn’t put anyone down because the band sounded like us or used our rhythmic power with their music but Joey was a little upset over it because he felt that we should have done that. But I’m not going to put Green Day down or anyone else in that manner but the thing is it did affect Joey because he was the songwriter and so was Dee Dee so it was really basically just airing frustration.

 

GM: That begs the question, can you explain why Green Day was so commercially viable and the Ramones were not?

MR: Well, it’s probably because of the time. Their album came out 15 years later. It’s a whole new audience and that new whole audience picked up on them. When punk first came out, a lot of DJs didn’t want to play us. There were maybe a few brave DJs that played us but The Ramones were hardly played at all on the radio and of course Green Day was played all the time. So in the end radio play was very important but we didn’t really get much of that.

 

GM: Joey and Dee were the band’s main writers. Characterize what each contributed as song stylists?

MR: Joey’s songs were basically the love, pop punk songs which were great and  Dee Dee’s songs were more of the rougher, militaristic songs like “Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World,” “Commando,” “Havana Affair,” stuff like that.

 

GM: Is there a song by each that best demonstrates their unique musical personality?

MR: With Joey, “Rock ‘N Roll Radio” for sure because it just spans the whole genre of rock and who he mentions in the song and what the song means and also “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.” For Dee Dee, I guess I would say “Rockaway Beach.”

 

GM: Joey struggled with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). How did that affect him on a day to day level out on the road? 

MR: It’s a disease. It’s a sickness and what he would do is tap something and then go back and tap it again, tap it again, tap it again. Literally, it got to one point where we’d just landed in England and after we’d got into the city itself the tour manager had to bring him back to the airport to touch something. He would sit on the plane and in those days they had fabric on the back of the seats; there really wasn’t leather or vinyl. There were little squares that he would count and count and count to make sure that the numbers were right. That’s what OCD did to him but he always stayed in one spot on the stage. Maybe that was his security blanket but it definitely transformed him into one of the greats.

 

GM: Did he seek help?

MR: Yeah, later on there was psychiatry, there were medications, which eventually made it a little better but you can’t mix psych drugs with alcohol and other drugs. So I think if Joey hadn’t done those other things, the other drugs would have worked better.

 

GM: The band took part in the massive US Festival in 1982, your memories of playing that show.

MR: It was a great experience. It was in the San Bernardino desert. We played in front of 100 to 110 thousand people. It was the largest audience we’ve ever been involved with. You gotta remember, it was like a festival so we were a little leery about how we were gonna to go over because there was so many different genres of music being represented there but we won them over. It’s there on the DVD. We couldn’t stop talking about it.

 

GM: The film, “This is Spinal Tap,” is required viewing for all rock ‘n’ roll bands. Can you cite the most Spinal Tap moment in the band’s career?

MR: I used to bring my camera around a lot — my video camera. That’s how I did the DVD, “Raw,” from my Ramones library footage. A lot of times I would go through airport security and they would open up the tape and they would look at the battery. Finally, I found a way to go through and give the guard the camera, open it up and let him go through it so they wouldn’t demagnetize the tape.  In those days if you put the film through a security check it could erase everything on the tape. So that was a weird moment and also I think a turkey or a chicken was thrown on the stage and it landed around Joey’s neck. It was one of those rubber things.

 

GM: One of the band’s heroes, Pete Townshend, sang backing vocals on the band’s cover of “Substitute,” which appeared on the group’s “Acid Eaters” album. How did you wrangle Pete to take part and what was that experience like?

MR: He was a Ramones fan or he wouldn’t have done it. We just contacted his people and he did it. He did the harmonies over it and obviously we were big Who fans so we were really happy to have him onboard for that. He didn’t do it in the studio with us; he added his parts in his own studio and sent it over it.

 

GM: Ramones merch is big business. Today you see kids wearing Ramones t-shirts. How many do you venture are hip to the band and its music and how many are just tapping into a cool fashion statement?

MR: Well, I think if they get the T-shirt, eventually they want to know what it is, where it came from and what it represents and then they buy the music or if they have music, then they get the t-shirt, vice versa. I guess it depends on the individual. It’s a cool t-shirt. Like anything else, along with music there’s going to be fashion.

 

GM: Have there been any celebrities you’ve met through the years that surprised you being big Ramones fans?

MR: Oh, there’s Bono, Eddie Vedder, Rob Zombie, the Chili Peppers…

 

GM: What about non-music people?

MR: Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King, Anthony Bourdain, which was pretty cool. Tommy Hilfiger, who was a friend of mine for years, is a big fan of the group. So it’s like all walks of life. Even in the library in the White House there are two Ramones albums.

 

GM: By the end of the band’s career, you were still playing the same sized venues in the States—clubs and theaters—yet when you played overseas in South America, for example, you were playing stadiums, discuss that dichotomy in terms of the band’s popularity.

MR: I think it had a lot to do with the musical content and the energy the band projected on the stage and the fact that we had a last name called Ramones, which is Latino and they can relate to that. When we went there it was unbelievable. It was like, if you saw “A Hard Day’s Night,” it would be that times 20. That’s how crazy it was and we ended up playing stadiums there. Not just Brazil and Argentina but the other Latin American countries. They saw something in us that they could relate to.

 

GM: It was a controversial move to do the last live Ramones show in L.A. rather than your hometown of New York City. What do you remember about that last show? After the show was over, there was no proper goodbye to your band mates either, right?

MR: Well, we were in the area so that’s why we did it there. The thing was John had already moved there. Our management was there and we felt that it would be easier to do it there than to come all the way back to New York. So we did the show. We had Lemmy come up and play and some members of Rancid and Soundgarden come up. It was great run. But afterwards no one even said goodbye to each other, which was kind of funny. I just went back to my hotel and ordered some ice cream and watched TV. (laughs) Nobody had anything to say like “see you later” or “good luck in life” or “see you around.” But in other ways, we always stayed in touch.

 

GM: Were you ready for the band to end then?

MR: Oh yeah. Me, Johnny and Joey discussed it in ‘94 and realized in ‘96 that it was a good year to stop.

 

GM: What are your impressions of the books written by your fellow band mates, Dee Dee (“Poison Heart”), Johnny (“Commando”) and Ramones tour manager Monte Melnick’s tome?

MR: Monte’s is the best one out there. I like the book a lot but there are a lot of quotes in there from other people and I don’t even know who they are. I’d like to know who half of them are. I mean, is it a whole book written by Monte? No. But it was a good book overall and the fact that he wasn’t one of the Ramones, he did justice to it. The other books didn’t strike me as too good. There were too many exaggerations and too much fluff and nothing really that interesting. They really weren’t informative as much as they could have been.

 

GM: Johnny was notoriously frugal with sardines being his meal of choice on the road to save money. In your book, you mention that he bragged that he never withdrew from his bank account.

MR: I think it was also to get Joey pissed off because the smell and stench in the van was disgusting. But it was a good source of protein and it was cheap and he kept the money in his pocket. How much was lunch back then? $5? And it’s true that he never withdrew money from his bank account. He kept everything in the house. I have no idea why. But we got a per diem and we would give ourselves a salary and the salary would probably cover his expenses. Whatever came in on tour or from advances for the albums, he would not touch. We all did well.

 

GM: Once the Ramones were history, did he have a chance to enjoy the spoils of all his hard work?

MR: For a couple of years before he got sick, yeah. I would visit him out there and he seemed to be happy but then all of a sudden he was getting pains and he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had to rest three to four hours in the afternoon. Every time we would be together I would have to drive the car because he didn’t have the energy. Unfortunately, he passed away and didn’t enjoy the fruits of his labor.

 

GM: In the years since the passing of Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and now Tommy, the band’s popularity has increased tenfold, any idea why? The music world recently lost Tommy Ramone. What’s his legacy as a drummer, songwriter, producer and conceptualist?

MR: He started it. He came up with the idea. He was the manager. He got them their managers. He’s the one that printed up the flyers. He’d already worked in the studio before becoming a Ramone as an engineer and that was at Electric Lady. He knew how to get good sounds. As a drummer, for what he did on those three albums and the live album, he was very good. That’s his legacy. He was a smart guy.

 

GM: What do you miss most about your days with the Ramones?

MR: Hanging out with Dee Dee. He always made me laugh. Everything he ever did or said out of nowhere just cracked me up. The guy was a walking cartoon. He gets credit for helping to start punk rock. But the thing is he left the band in ’89 so there were seven or eight years to go.

 

GM: Give me your pick for the most overlooked Ramones album and song.

MR: I would say “Poison Heart,” that’s one song and I would say “Blitzkrieg Bop.” As for an album?…Let me think about that one. Okay, how about “Pleasant Dreams.” That one I love. It’s our pop/punk album. The songs are beautiful, the melodies are beautiful. For some reason, after the Phil Spector album, what I think people expected was a hard, hard Ramones album, which we already did four of so I think people were expecting that. But   “Pleasant Dreams” has “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” “We Want the Airwaves” and all these great songs on there so to me that’s one of my favorite albums without a doubt.

 

GM: Lastly, what do you hope readers take away from your book?

MR: That it was a long adventure and like anything in life that you get into, you have your ups and downs. But eventually, you pick yourself up, you start again and you learn from your mistakes and then eventually you end up living a dream.

 

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