Rock Cellar Magazine: 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?
Marky Ramone: 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.
Rock Cellar Magazine: 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.
Marky Ramone: 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.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Okay, here’s a concert bill that happened, Black Sabbath, Van Halen and the Ramones, who doesn’t belong?
Marky Ramone: 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.
Rock Cellar Magazine: 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.
Marky Ramone: 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 4 or 5 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.
Rock Cellar Magazine: For a band that wrote insidiously catchy songs with monster hooks, the group never landed a big hit.
Marky Ramone: 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.
Rock Cellar Magazine: 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?
Marky Ramone: 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.
Rock Cellar Magazine: That begs the question, can you explain why Green Day was so commercially viable and the Ramones were not?
Marky Ramone: 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.
Rock Cellar Magazine: 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.
Marky Ramone: 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.
Rock Cellar Magazine: The music world recently lost Tommy Ramone. What’s his legacy as a drummer, songwriter, producer and conceptualist?
Marky Ramone: 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.
Rock Cellar Magazine: What do you miss most about your days with the Ramones?
Marky Ramone: 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 7 or 8 years to go.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Lastly, what do you hope readers take away from your book?
Marky Ramone: 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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