Glenn Knudsen had the privilege of catching up with one of America’s most revered punk rockers recently ... here’s what went down!
Richie Ramone enjoyed almost a five year stint with The Ramones, and is one of only three surviving proper members of the band, though those who write about the legendary group sometimes neglect to pay him his dues.
Even fellow drummer Marky Ramone seems to go out of his way to push him out of the picture.
In the Marky Ramone produced DVD “Ramones Raw”, there is zero from the period when Richie Ramone was the drummer in the band. There are not even photographs of original drummer Tommy Ramone, which is a bit peculiar in my eyes – seems Marky does not like to share his drumsticks!
Helen Robinson | sounds magazine
GK : Are you the best drummer The Ramones ever had?
RR : “Yeah, of course. Tommy Ramone did not play drums before he played in the band but he deserves kudos for creating that simple format of drumming. I stepped right into the band in 1983 while Marky had to study and practice before he joined because he is not as talented as I am. I remember Tommy coming up to sing a couple of songs at the Joey Ramone bash in 2006 and he told the crowd that it was an honour to have Richie Ramone playing drums behind him. Tommy knew what was up, so yeah without a doubt of course.”
Richie Ramone came into the band in early 1983, just before the release of the groups seventh release Subterranean Jungle. In time to take part in a couple of music videos from the album as well. Marky had recently been asked to leave the band because of his drinking problem and Johnny Ramone and Joey Ramone’s relationship was steadily declining after Johnny stole Joey’s girlfriend. They needed someone to come in and save the band. According to Joey Ramone, Richie saved the band and was the best thing to happen to The Ramones.
RR : “When you get new blood in a band everybody goes on their best behaviour. All the fighting between Johnny and Joey got worse after I left in 1987. I did not see any of the fighting among the band members. I got along with everybody.”
In the beginning of his time in The Ramones, he went by his actual name Richard Reinhardt or Richie Beau. They were not going to let just anybody join the ranks, so he had to show that he had what it took to be a Ramone – and he definitely did!
RR : “They did not give me the Ramone name until I had been with them for about three months. During those months every time we went to in-store signings I used to sign albums Richie Beau, but then after three months they told me to start using Richie Ramone because I was a Ramone. The hardest ones to win over was not he band but the fans. There is a testing period and you have to go through the process of getting the fans to like you and accept you, it took some time but they got it after a little while.”
Richie Ramone got on the CBGB scene in New York in 1980, right after he had relocated to the East Village, playing with bands like Velveteen and Remod. The fact that he came out of the same scene as The Ramones, helped him enter the role as a Ramone with even more conviction. The CBGB link cannot be underrated, because The Ramones and CBGB go together like bacon and eggs.
RR : “I was at the right place at the right time. I was hanging out in Brooklyn with Johnny Ramones guitar tech and he suddenly told me he had to leave and so I asked him why? He said that The Ramones were auditioning drummers and he had to be there, so I told him to tell them about me. He did and that is how it happened, haha. The following week I got a call from Monty Melnick, the tour manager, about coming to an audition, which I did and then another one and then I got the gig. I was just in the right place at the right time, it is kinda funny.”
Richie Ramone played on what is the last great record The Ramones ever made. Released in 1984, Too Tough To Die was the first album he made with the band. He even contributed with a couple of songs as well despite Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee never letting anyone else write songs for them.
RR : “Joey was a big inspiration and we hit it off well as soon as I joined the band. He could see the talent I had and encouraged me to start singing and start writing songs. No one else did before me so they would question me if I wrote this and that when I presented them with songs. That was because Marky had tried to bring songs in that his brother had written, because Marky does not really write. They did not allow that so they were sceptical of anyone else bringing songs in.”
The 80’s started on a high with the release of the album End of the Century, but ultimately their search for a hit single and a hit album made them lose their way. Especially Joey Ramone was writing music to get that hit song. They even went to the drastic step of hiring hit making producers to help them reach that goal. Phil Spector and Graham Gouldman came in but failed in their mission and instead managed to alienate the fans who were buying their albums and coming to the shows. On Too tough to Die Johnny, Dee Dee and Richie stood for most of the writing, seeing the band return to their punk rock roots.
RR : “Too Tough to Die was kinda like a resurgence for The Ramones and everybody was on the same page again. It was a real important album for the band at that time to get back on track, you know. Tommy Ramone produced the album and he was vital in getting that true Ramones sound back again after it had gotten mushy from working with several different producers. It was a turning point in the bands history and it was my first album with the band. I recorded all my drums in like a day and a half so I got all of my stuff down on the first take. We played together in the studio so I really had to get my stuff right the first time, because we recorded fast.”
It has always been important for bands to have cool album covers and the cover of The Ramones debut album is considered to be the ultimate punk rock cover. They have always been known for great album covers but the cover of Too Tough to Die is without a doubt one of the coolest.
RR : “At the time I was disappointed because no one would get to see my face and what I looked like. The funny thing is the front flash did not go off only the back one did. That was the one they chose and to make myself different I stood to the side with my feet different than anyone else. Therefore, when you see the cover you can see that I am not standing like anyone else.”
Two more studio albums followed and on Animal Boy we find the Richie Ramone-song “Somebody Put Something in my Drink”, which become a fan favourite and a Ramones anthem. Richie Ramone went on to write several songs for The Ramones and some of them made their way on to his solo album as re-recordings.
RR : “The song Somebody Put Something in my Drink kicked off the second album. I mean come on; there it was my song A-side number one. It is pretty crazy! For my first solo album called I re-recorded some of the old songs I wrote for The Ramones. I wanted to introduce the fans to my singing so I chose to use the old familiar Ramones songs and put my voice on them to get them into the new thing. I love the new versions because they come from the heart. The Ramones versions are great and so are my new versions, because I think they are good songs.”
Just like the two other surviving members of The Ramones, Richie Ramone continues to tour the world bringing the classic songs to the fans who are longing to see a Ramone live on stage. However, Richie Ramone believes it is important to release new music as well, to keep things fresh and not become a novelty act.
RR : “I think it is important to keep the new music coming and not just tour on the old stuff. My dad passed away in February and I wrote a song about that which comes out in a few weeks. We are also working on a new album and we will try to get in the studio by the end of the year.”
With the death of Tommy Ramone in 2014, all four original band members have joined the great gig in the sky. Dee Dee Ramone, who passed away after an overdose in 2002, became along with Joey Richie’s closest friend in the band and he remembers him fondly.
“Dee Dee was a very special person, and whomever got to meet him knows that he was special. He was funny and witty, but also had a dark side, which popped up occasionally. But he was a fantastic guy and a genius poet also. We were very good friends. You can read all about it in my book that comes out in the fall. It is my life story and I am calling it “I Know Better Now”. Check it out when it hits the shelves!”
Richie Ramone will return to Europe in July. To find out when he is playing at a venue near you go to www.richieramone.com