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Joey Ramone & Handsome Dick Manitoba

As the drummer of one of rock’s most influential bands, Marky Ramone has left a clear mark on popular music. Not one to rest on his laurels, after 30 years Marky continues to forge ahead with his current hard-driving outfit, “The Speedkings”. “NY Rock” recently grabbed a few minutes with Marky to discuss some of his past and present projects, including the bittersweet dynamics of the “Ramones”, history’s first Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame punk band.

— What have you been up to?  
— Jerry Only from the “Misfits”, who is the only original member left, asked me to play with him and Dez Cadena from “Black Flag”. We’ve been touring together doing “Misfits”, “Ramones” and “Black Flag” songs. The audiences have been around 16-19 years old and we’ve been doing about 80-90 shows a year. I’ve also been working with“The Speedkings” and doing a spoken word tour where I talk about my times in the punk rock scene.  

— What’s the spoken word show like? Is it like Henry Rollins?  
— I’m not a comedian. What I do is talk about when punk started in ’73 and ’74. There aren’t too many people left to talk about it. The “Ramones” started in CBGB’s in ’74 and I was playing with Wayne County at the time and then Richard Hell left “The Heartbreakers” and asked me to join “The Voidoids”.  

— I heard that Joey’s brother, Mickey Leigh, is collaborating on a book with Legs McNeil, who wrote “Please Kill Me. Will you write one?  
— I’m up to 160 pages, but it’s not going to be like Dee Dee’s books “Lobotomy” and “Chelsea Hotel”. Dee Dee was my best friend, but he fantasized a lot, which made him a great writer. A lot of the stuff in his two books is 75% fact and 25% imagination. I knew him so well that I could pinpoint the stuff that wasn’t real.  

— In “Lobotomy
, Dee Dee talks about how the “Ramones” didn’t get along. It almost seems as if you were the band peacemaker.  
— Me and Dee Dee were the closest. Johnny and Dee Dee didn’t really like each other. Dee Dee always complained that Johnny didn’t contribute to the songwriting, but he would get credit on the songs. That irked him, and the fact that Johnny took Joey’s girlfriend away from him in 1981, which caused a lot of friction in the band. That festered until the band retired in ’96. Johnny and Joey didn’t talk to each other for 18 years.  

— That must have been tough traveling in the bus...
— Fuck the bus, we were in a van. Anytime Joey would want to relay a message to Johnny, he would have to go through me and vice versa. And they’d be standing 3-4 feet away from each other! We took it out on our music and the music speaks for itself. There was also resentment from Dee Dee leaving in 1989.  

— Why did Dee Dee leave in ’89?  
— He left to pursue a rap career. There was nobody who could write like him and he was one of the founders of punk rock. He couldn’t take the bickering between Joey and Johnny, so he left.  

— How did you deal with Joey’s and Dee Dee’s deaths?
 
— I knew Joey was passing away because of the cancer. We did a solo album together called “Don’t Worry About Me”. When Dee Dee died it was unexpected since he was clean. I told him anytime he needed someone to talk to I was always available.  

— Had he been clean a while?  
— He liked to smoke pot a lot, that didn’t kill him.  

— What was it like being inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame? 

— You work all those years and you’re the first punk band in with all the greats like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, “The Beatles” and the “Rolling Stones”, who helped contribute to the progress of rock.  

— What was it like having Eddie Vedder induct the band at the awards ceremony?
 
— Eddie Vedder has nothing to do with punk rock and I feel it was more of a Johnny thing, since Johnny moved to Hollywood and he’s always wanted to be Mr. Hollywood. They’re a whole different breed out there. I think Joe Strummer or Johnny Rotten would have been cooler to induct us, not somebody that is into grunge.  

— He looked pretty silly in that Mohawk too...
 
— It was like, let’s be the punk for the day. Nice guy, but we were never into his music.  

— Did Johnny run the “Ramones”?
 
— Johnny never ran the show. He thought he did, but he didn’t. His bark was bigger than his bite. We all had equal say in a lot of things, but since Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee were the originals, their say was more important than mine. Since Dee Dee was always high on something and Joey and Johnny didn’t talk, I was asked a lot of time what I thought since a lot of the decision making was done on spite because of their animosity towards each other.  

— It was a shame Joe Stummer left us so early...  

— I toured with them in ’77 with “The Voidoids”. We did a “Clash” tour together in September and October of 30 days where I got to know him real well.  

— In the press room at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, here in NYC in March 2002, the band couldn’t even face the photographers for a group photo. It was very strange...
— Dee Dee didn’t want to be around John and no one had really seen Tommy since 1977. I dedicated my award to Charlotte and Mickey, Joey’s mother and brother, since Joey was gone. They didn’t want Charlotte and Mickey up there.  

— Why was that?
 
— It was Arturo Vega and Johnny’s insistence. Arturo Vega, who was basically a lighting and merchandise man for us, even wanted us to turn our backs on Charlotte and Mickey. Johnny even came up to me and asked me to stop kissing Charlotte and Mickey’s ass. I told him if I wasn’t at the Hall of Fame I’d take him outside and kick the shit out of him.  

— Any opinions on the current rock scene?
 
— I’m still glad “Rancid” is together. They’re unique and hold up the torch for that kind of music. “The Toilet Boys” are cool too!  

— What about the
“Ramones” tribute albums coming out?  
— Real bad. The only good thing about the new “We’re a Happy Family” is “Kiss” and “Rancid”. I couldn’t believe when I heard it. What the hell do Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and U2 have to do with punk rock? A good tribute record is “Gabba Gabba Hey”.  

— Do you and Johnny talk anymore?
 
— No, his remark when Joey and Dee Dee died was, “Who cares? It will sell more records”.  

— Does Johnny play music anymore?  
— No, there is a rumor going around that me, him, Eddie Vedder and C.J. will tour and I would never do that.  

— Is their any 
“Ramones” material that will be released?  
— Fifteen songs that Joey demoed with Daniel Ray on guitar with a drum machine will be re-recorded for a second solo Joey record. 

Glyn Emmerson, www.nyrock.com

 
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