Marky Ramone stays back in rock & roll high school

Marky believes that if the other members of the Ramones were still around, there would have been a reunion.

marky ramone 88 224 (photo credit: )
marky ramone 88 224
(photo credit: )
Their songs were never longer than two minutes or so of adrenaline-fueled, sped-up pop... and then immediately onto something else. So it's a little surprising that Marky Ramone, the drummer for Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Ramones, is so calm and thoughtful. Marc Bell, along with "brothers" Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee who all 'adopted' the last name Ramone, made up the longest line-up of the Ramones career; he joined the band in 1978, replacing Tommy and keeping the beat until their demise in 1996, with a just a brief break in the mid-'80s when Richie took over the skins. The Ramones were like a club. The uniform was black leather jackets, t-shirts and torn jeans, 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. When they debuted from the bowels of famed punk club CBGB with their eponymous album in 1976, nobody out in radio land knew what to make of them. Too loud, too strange, and the songs were too short! But for rock fans in the mid-'70s numbed by the dominance of progressive rock on the one hand and laid back glossy LA pop on the other, The Ramones brought back fun and attitude to rock & roll with their "Buddy Holly on Marshall amps at 78 speed" sound. So despite very little radio play or mainstream attention, The Ramones forged a musical revolution that resounded around the world - especially in England, where kids like Joe Strummer and Johnny Rotten heard and adopted the minimalist sound. It acquired the banner name "punk rock," and the rest is history. Like most pioneers, the originators never received their deserved recognition or reward at the time, but for Marky, belated accolades are just as sweet. "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," Marky said with a distinctive hometown accent during a phone conversation from his base in Brooklyn Heights, New York. "Despite not having big hits while we were performing, over the years, we've ended up selling a lot of records. Our biggest selling single is "I Wanna Be Sedated" which has sold about two million, and "Blitzkreig Bop" which has sold almost as much. And we have quite a few gold albums [including Rock and Roll High School]." MARKY IS now the living legacy of the Ramones. Vocalist Joey and guitarist Johnny both died of cancer earlier this decade and bassist Dee Dee succumbed to years of substance abuse. The band members did not have great relations either during or following their career (animosity between Johnny and Joey was fanzine gossip fodder for years), but Marky said that he's reasonably confident there would have been a Ramones reunion if the other members had survived. "We retired in 1996 after being together for 22 years. It was a long haul and we went out still at the top of our game. I think if the three of them were still alive, we would have gotten back together," he said. In lieu of The Ramones, Marky has kept the punk flame alive by forming "Marky Ramone and Friends" which plays 30 classic Ramones songs. He also tours as a guest DJ and hosts his own radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio where he plays a variety of punk classics as well as the Ramones repertoire. "My show is the biggest punk rock radio show in America," Marky stated without sounding like he was bragging. "I'll play new school and old school punk. I want to give new bands a chance, and give older punk bands that never got played in their day some exposure. I would never do this on general airwave radio, because they would end up telling me what to play." There's no question of what Marky's going to play when he brings his "friends" to Tel Aviv for a January 10 show at Zappa. He says that people will be surprised at how much the band sounds remarkably like The Ramones. "I was receiving a lot of email and comments on my site that were coming out of interest in my radio show - things like 'Marky, come out and play, we miss the Ramones.' I thought, 'It's possible, but it has to be done right.' It has to sound good, but it needs to have its own sound too, but close to The Ramones," he recalled. "I would never call it The Ramones. There's too many bands going out there with one original member and calling it by the original name. I would never do that, out of respect to Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny." Playing with musicians half his age, Marky, in his mid-fifties, says he follows the same regimen in order to play the pummeling beats that drive the songs. "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. "I'm the only one out there still playing Ramones music today. It's fun to continue doing it as long there's a demand for it. But I won't do this forever." 'Marky Ramone and Friends' will appear at the Zappa in Tel Aviv on January 10.