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Dee Dee Ramone

— “Entertainment Weekly” picked the “Ramones’” first gig at CBGB’s as one of the hundred most important moments in Rock & Roll history. How does that make you feel?
Coming in at No.11 wasn’t bad. That made me feel pretty good. People always embraced the “Ramones”, but it’s nice, what's happening. Seems like since the band disbanded there's been a major increase in all kinds of things dealing with the “Ramones” and with Rock & Roll. Because the “Ramones” weren’t just a band; we inspired generations of kids. We were really the blueprint for the kind of music that we created that was called punk rock, but it was so much more than that. I mean, like, you hear from all these young kids, like “Offspring” and “Green Day” and “Rancid” all these younger bands today. It’s cool hearing from them.

Did you guys have a sense of history when you started out?

We were all friends living in the same neighborhood, basically; we were all kind of outcasts. And we shared a lot of the same musical tastes. And the music that we loved was kind of dying out, so we played for ourselves, more or less. The real good stuff was all kind of disappearing. I guess in the early 70’s there was some good stuff “The Stooges”, MC5, Alice Cooper, and then like [David] Bowie and “T-Rex” and “Slade”. There was a lot of good stuff, and then that was it.

Is there a single most important element to the “Ramones’” sound?
Johnny conceived a new guitar sound and everyone brought something special to the stew. The things that we sang about were dealing with ourselves-our own frustrations and things that we found amusing and things dealing with TV or radio or life.

How, over the course of 20 years, did you guys avoid getting fat?
We always knew who we were as individuals. We knew what we wanted and we never strayed. We knew what excited us and what our fans liked. We’re purists and we always stayed true to that.

Was it ever frustrating creating perfect pop radio songs like “Rockaway Beach” and not getting radio play?
Well, it was a very frustrating career. It was just constant obstacles being thrown in your path. It wasn’t in the music or anything. It was usually the industry-radio or whatever. A lot of people were afraid of us.

What’s your first musical recollection?
I remember it being like Del Shannon. That might have been the first record I bought “Runaway”. My early life, I went through a lot of crap with divorce and my mom remarrying and getting a new family and all this crap. I kind of found my salvation in AM radio. I remember being turned on to “The Beach Boys”, hearing “Surfin’ USA”, I guess, in 1960. But “The Beatles” really did it to me. Later on, “The Stooges” were a band that really helped me in those dark periods, just get out the aggression. Nobody picked up guns in those days. You put on music and it made you feel great.

In looking back at the legacy of the “Ramones”
, what makes you feel the proudest?
I guess just the entire accomplishment. We never sold out; we always retained our self-respect and our integrity. And I guess just being respected by other artists, like Stephen King and Matt Groening and Phil Spector. And just the fans in general. We get diehard fans.

What’s a record that people would be surprised that you love?
I love that Lucinda Williams record, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”. It’s just totally genuine. And she’s very unique.

When people are being really real and honest and passionate, it transcends genre.
I love that when I’m affected by somebody else. It doesn’t happen very often. There’s a real art to making music. It’s not a commodity, even though today it is a commodity. Today it’s just record business. It has nothing to do with music or art.

Kevin Cole, www.amazon.com

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