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JB Scott's, Albany, USA 29.05.80

1984-04 — Ramones Get Back The Spirit (The Providence Local)

But even with the lengendary status the band has gained, they’ve never been able to grasp a large enough share of an audience to collect even a gold album or single. While other bands would have given up (the Ramones are celebrating their tenth year together), they continue to stick with it, knowing that their audience still continues to grow with a new generation discovering them through MTV and TV’s repeated showings of ’Rock and Roll High School.’

If there is a message to the Ramones’ music, it’s that the simplest things in life are what matter most, and if you believe in the power of rock ’n’ roll, you will never age and will always feel a sense of immortality. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and new drummer Richie Ramone truly believe in the power of rock ’n’ roll — that it is indeed 20th Century youth’s new church — where truth reigns. And no one gets to the core of the truth like the Ramones and their music.

Since the last time the boys performed in Providence, RI, they’ve had their share of newsworthy stories: Johnny received a concussion trying to pry his girlfriend from an irrate passerby, the band’s possible severing of their long ties with Sire Records, and the addition of new drummer Richie Ramone.

’Pleasant Dreams,’ their last album, didn’t do as well as expected. But the band is hopeful that with acts like Talking Heads and the Clash showing new-found success, the Ramones’ crack at riding high on the charts can’t be far off either.

Joey Ramone and I sat down after their recent show in his hotel room in Providence. This is the fourth time in three years that we’ve talked, and his self-confidence remains as steadfast as when I first met him. There are sure signs of anger and frustration, but they seemed to be channeled right back into their stage show, which is as fresh and exciting as ever.

The Ramones are hungry. They ain’t quitting until they’ve chewed the musical landscape to bits.

— You’ve been up to a lot in the last year.
— We’ve taken turns being in the hospital. Now we’re all healed and mended our injuries.

— What happened to you?
— A bit of indigestion. I alternated with John.

— How’s he doing now?
— He’s alright.

— What exactly happened?
— Just a little domestic problem. (Smiling) He got into a fight and got hurt. He wasn’t in the hospital very long. But, he got a fractured skull.

— MTV reported that you were close to losing your recording contract.
— No, we just resigned with a new company, Warner Brothers. Did MTV make it sound negative?

— No, more like sympathetic.
— We don’t need sympathy from MTV. We don’t need their charity. We didn’t lose our contract MTV — it was over. We signed for a certain number of albums and it was finished. We always did well for Sire. We’re a prestigious act. Matter of fact, we were the original Sire rock act. Before us, they had the Climax Blues Band, they were into reissues — you know — greatest hits packages, and stuff like that — ’The Best of Del Shannon.’ They never really had anything unique. We were the first New York band to get signed in years after the whole deal went bad with the New York Dolls — who were sort of looked down upon because they didn’t sell a billion albums. Then Patti Smith got signed, but she really wasn’t doing rock. She was doing poetry and performance art. Sire Records and other companies watched our success for a long time and watched our growth. We went with Sire Records because they liked us for what we were doing. We didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle. So many conglomerate record companies don’t know anything about their artists whatsoever. We didn’t want that. A lot of major companies came down to check us out, but nobody really understood us. And after we got signed to Sire, they watched our progress for a year, and then everybody in the world got signed.

— It’s interesting that you moved to Warner Brothers, the parent company of Sire.
— In our position, we’ve always done well, but we just haven’t had that hit yet that put us over the top. We always break even. The fact that we’ve never lost anyone’s money, and the fact that we are a prestigious act — I mean, we started the whole thing. We’re responsible for even the synthesizer bullshit, which is a revolution of what we started in ’76.

— What do you think of the current state of music in 1984 — Duran Duran and such?
— It’s bullshit. It’s crap. It’s not rock. It’s elevator music. It’s Muzak.

— Do you think we’re at a point like we were in the ’70s when Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles were homogenizing rock?
— It seems that way, doesn’t it? Though things are actually a little more optimistic in 1984 with the presence of MTV. For better or worse, MTV sort of bridges the whole country together almost like the BBC does in England. It’s opened up everything so wide that it’s possible for everyone to have different ideas. It just seems that some people are favored over others, which I don’t understand. I don’t know if it’s payola or what. It’s just bullshit to me still. But things are definitely better. But…this synthesizer bullshit. All of these fucking groups come flooding out of London. Everybody makes it. It’s crap.

— Do you share a lot of creative input in your videos?
— Some of them we’ve brought to the director. Like ’Psychotherapy,’ which was banned all over America. And the world, I guess. It wasn’t shown in London and Europe either. They said it was offensive. It was on MTV for awhile, but it was chopped up. USA’s ’Night Flight’ showed it in its entirety. They did a special called ’Sex and Violence in Rock Videos.’ There’s nothing violent about the video. It’s highly artistic, I think. It’s a piece of art.

— I think there’s a lot more violent videos. What about the Rolling Stones’ ’Undercover of the Night?’ That is a truly violent, offensive video.
— Yeah, it is. (Pauses) I don’t understand how our video doesn’t get played. It’s all contradiction and bullshit. It’s censorship and crap. The fact that we’re not as big as Michael Jackson, or some shit like that. Even MTV wouldn’t play him initially because he was black, and now they’ll play him. It’s politics and bullshit.

— Many people have labeled MTV racist. Since you’re an artist that appears with frequency on MTV, do you feel the network’s racist in their programming choices.
— I think it’s a great service, all and all. I think it’s the best thing to happen to rock and roll, even though it’s not really a rock ’n’ roll music channel. On one hand, they’ll play Kansas, then the Stones, then Prince, then someone else. But when it comes right down to being a great radio station, I’d say it’s the best radio station in America because of the extremes — from Rodney Dangerfield videos and Ramones to Public Enemy and Motorhead. For better or worse, they do play some good stuff.

— What happened to your last drummer Marky? Why was he replaced?
— He was over. He had this bad thirst he couldn’t quite thirst.

— How is Richie the new drummer working out?
— Oh, he’s great. I think he saved the band as far as I’m concerned. He’s the greatest thing to happen to the Ramones. He put the spirit back in the band.

— Will he be taking the surname Ramone? He’s been mentioned in the press as Richie Beau.
— The way I would look at it, I think the band’s really the three of us — myself, John and Dee Dee — and after these constant drummer changes,…..you know. I think he’s a real Ramone.

— Any other new plans?
— I’ll be doing a solo album of my own this year. I’m writing for a magazine. John Holmes has got a new punk magazine called ’Start.’ It’s sort of a cultural magazine, but it’s a little different. It’s not a rock magazine. It’s sort of a multi-media type magazine. The first issue comes out in January and it’ll be international. And the Ramones have a newsletter now. It’s available at the moment. It’s got behind the scenes info, interviews, tour dates, bios, and all kinds of stuff. It’s really good. It’s put together by fans who really care, who really want to see us make it. And it’s free. It’s not really a fan club. It’s real honest. The thing is that the way it’s starting up now, they’re putting up their own money to put it out. It’s not funded by the band, though I feel at some point it should be compensated for. They just feel so strongly that they really wanted to do something. They didn’t see anybody else doing it. The band doesn’t have a fan club, and so they wanted to do it. It feels amazing, ’cause they work at day jobs, and the money they earn, they’re using it to print it up and fill the demand. I haven’t met them yet. I just speak to them all the time on the telephone. It’s monthly and it’s called ’Headbanger.’ It’s good.

— Are there any definite plans for the next album you can talk about?
— It’s going to be different. It’s real exciting. It’s called ’Too Tough to Die.’ Not like any Ramones album. It’ll be the best Ramones album yet. It’s going to be totally diverse. It’s going to have some hardcore, some traditional Ramones, a touch of metal, Jerry Lee Lewis-type songs.

— Who is producing your next record?
— Our original drummer Tommy Erdelyi and one of our original producers Ed Stasium. You know — put the old spirit back in. Not that we lost it, but it’s sort of a reunion. Also, ’84 makes it ten years, so it’ll be like a real reunion.

— It’s great to see that you haven’t lost hope of having that one big radio hit.
— Well, I think we’re the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world. I mean, it’s very frustrating at times. We’re the only band that kept the guts, and kept the excitement, and kept the belief, you know. We never side-tracked. We never went the way of the Clash, and never wanted to get into the discotheques that bad. It’s bullshit. Even now, with Mick Jones gone from the Clash, I don’t know what the fuck they’re going to do anyway. As far as I’m concerned, he was the band.

— Are you still doing the bulk of writing in the band?
— Well, no — it seems to be broken up now. I always have written mainly by myself. Although I’d like to write someday with Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick. I’m a huge fan and I feel he’s still got it in him. He wrote all those great songs before. He just needs someone to pull it out of him. On our new album, it’s just going to be about split on the writing. Even John’s writing with Dee Dee. Richie’s writing. He’s written some great things lately. I guess we’ve got about 12 songs now, and we’ll decide what’s best and that’s what will be on the next record. We start in February ’84 and hopefully it’ll be out by that spring.

— You should personally write more ballads. They’ve always sounded so honest. They’re not syrupy ballads, but they always leave a heart-wrenching impression. ’I Want You Around’ (from ’Rock and Roll High School’) is just so open and honest and a beautiful song. And ’Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’ is amazing.
— I don’t write sappy, wimpy bullshit. I like things from the gut. I write and it just comes out. I don’t say, ’I’ll try to write about this.’ I mean, (smiles) you just know when it’s right.

Al Gomes, The Providence Local

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