Marky Ramone refuses to be sedated

Punk pioneer hits Tel Aviv on Thursday

Ramone (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Punk rock wasn't always in Marc Bell's blood. Well before he joined punk pioneers The Ramones in 1978 and adopted the family stage name shared by Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee, he was content to bash drums in a power trio called Dust. "When I was in high school, I liked hard rock. My first band, Dust, made two albums, and my bandmates were guitar player Richie Wise (who produced the first two Kiss albums) and Kenny Aaronson on bass, who later played with people like Joan Jett and Billy Idol," Ramone told The Jerusalem Post from his Brooklyn Heights home. But the vitality of the burgeoning punk scene in New York, centered around the gritty punk mecca CBGB, attracted Ramone and brought with it ample employment opportunities for the dynamic drummer. "I was hanging out in New York City and started getting into the new sounds that were being created, and started playing with Richard Hell and the Voidoids on their debut album Blank Generation," said Ramone. "They were signed to the same company as The Ramones - Sire, which is how we became friendly. We hung out together, and were part of the same social group. Johnny and Dee Dee asked me to join, and the first song I learned was 'I Wanna Be Sedated,'" recalled Ramone, who replaced original Ramone drummer Tommy Ederly in 1978. And as fast as you can say "gabba gabba hey," Ramone was off on an 18-year journey (with a brief sabbatical in the '80s). The Ramones were like a club of caricatures. The uniform was black leather jackets, T-shirts, torn jeans, pro-Keds and Beatle haircuts, and the sound was just as regimented and alluring - three basic chords, a relentless rhythm, a buzz-saw guitar attack, and the catchiest songs imaginable featuring simple, often nonsensical rhyming lyrics. They were one of the most famous bands of the '70s, yet they never got played on the radio; their songs were too loud, too strange and too short for either Top 40 pop radio or the more freeform FM rock stations that pledged allegiance to British prog rock and heavy metal, laid-back California singer/songwriters and Southern boogie bands. But The Ramones brought back fun and attitude to rock & roll with their "Buddy Holly on Marshall amps at 78 rpm" sound, and music fans tired of the played-out genres embraced them with fervor. The Ramones forged a musical revolution that resounded around the world - especially in England, where kids like Joe Strummer heard and adapted the minimalist sound to his band The Clash. And that process repeated itself around the world. "Back then, radio ignored us. We persevered through loyal fans, and that's why The Ramones are more popular now than ever. Today there's a new generation of youth that's into The Ramones. They see something they can relate to," Ramone said. The Ramones disbanded in 1996, but Marky has kept busy by touring as a guest DJ and hosting his own radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio, where he plays a variety of punk classics as well as Ramones repertoire. Vocalist Joey and guitarist Johnny both died of cancer earlier this decade, and bassist Dee Dee succumbed to years of substance abuse in 2002, leaving Marky to carry on the band's legacy. Marky Ramone and Friends arrive in Tel Aviv for a Thursday (January 10) show at Zappa, and don't expect forays into jazz or reggae. Expect a lot of The Ramones, 30 songs worth. Ramone says he has to keep in top shape in order to have the stamina to play a full show at the breakneck speed required by The Ramones' repertoire. "I learned to pace myself, even back then when I was young. It's like being an athlete; you need to rehearse and exercise and be in good shape. I continue to do that, and I think it shows in the performances," he said. While he says he still loves playing, Ramone's diversification into radio and other media will continue in 2008, with both a book and a DVD about his career being readied for release. Not to mention his own line of condoms. "I felt that in certain situations, a lot of people were ignoring the AIDS issue. It's not taught in our schools, and we have to stop this shy way of dealing with sex, which is natural and God given. It's not being taught in churches in the US or in religious arenas, but safe sex saves lives, and that's important," Ramone said. "So the goal should be to find ways to stop AIDS and educate people how not to get it. I'm very happy to put my name on a line of condoms if it will help." Spoken like a true punk.