Thursday, February 4, 2010

RAMONES: Rock It To Ya!

Text by Barry Geiger, intro by Robert Barry Francos
Interview © 1980; RBF intro and live photo collage © 2010 by FFanzeen
Photo of Colleen Caffiene, of the band Choking Susan, by Bernie (
Artwork and video from the Internet

The following interview with the Ramones was originally published in FFanzeen magazine, issue #5, in 1980. It was conducted by Barry Geiger.

Anyone who knows me more than five minutes is aware that I am a Ramones fan. My first show at CBGB’s was Talking Heads opening for the Ramones, on June 20, 1975 (with about 12 others in the audience). I hung out with them at Max’s the night before their first British tour. They were the first band I took photos of in concert, when I got my 35mm camera in 1977, the result of which is in the contact sheet below. I stood on line for five hours to get into the New York premiere of
Rock and Roll High School, and sat through it twice (as did Barry, I later found out); and no, they did not drive up in a convertible eating chicken vindaloo. The Ramones deserve all the props they get. Like the interview and answers, with the Ramones, I no need for long comments. That’s simple, and that’s the truth. R.I.P Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee. – RBF, 2010
This interview took place at the Show Place, in Dover, New Jersey.

FFanzeen: Do any of you ever wear earplugs while performing?
Johnny Ramone: Tommy did. That’s why we had to get rid of him.

FF: Why wasn’t It’s Alive! released in America?
Johnny: I don’t know. That’s a tough question, you know… because they released the soundtrack [Rock and Roll High School] here and it wasn’t released in England, so they got the live album.

FF: How’s the live album selling in Europe?
Johnny: O.K. Good. In the twenties.

FF: Why did it take so long for Rock and Roll High School to come out in New York?
Johnny: You gotta ask the movie company. They don’t give us a straight answer. It shoulda come to New York first. It still (hadn’t) opened in Los Angeles (by then). [Several weeks after its New York debut last summer, it opened at 18 theaters in L.A. – Ed.]

FF: How’s the response been
Johnny: Real good. Everyone likes it. Did you go to the theater on 8th Street? [8th Street Playhouse.]

FF: Yeah, I saw the first two shows.
Johnny: On Friday?

FF: Yeah. I thought it was the best rock’n’roll movie since Rock Around the Clock. What was it like, working with (producer) Roger Corman?
Johnny: We never met him.

FF: How were you chosen for the film?
Johnny: They contacted us and came to New York so see us play. We played Hurrahs, August (1978), and we got chosen. I think we work the cheapest.

FF: Was “I Want You Around” written specifically for the movie?
Johnny: Yeah. So was “Rock and Roll High School.”

FF: How does a Ramones song get written?
Johnny: All different ways. Sometimes you write music, sometimes you write words, sometimes you just have an idea of something to write about.

FF: You all contribute equally, right?
Johnny: Yeah, pretty much. We all contribute.

FF: Joey, is it true that you took voice lessons before recording Road to Ruin?
Joey Ramone: I didn’t take voice lessons; I took breath control.
Johnny: A long time ago.
Joey: Yeah, a long, long time ago.
Johnny: Just so he wouldn’t get hoarse with all the touring

FF: Why wasn’t “Babysitter” ever put on an album?
Johnny: We just never did it. I don’t know, people always wanna hear it.
Joey: What?
Johnny: “Babysitter.”
Joey: Oh.

FF: How do you think End of the Century sounds, compared to the other (albums)?
Johnny: A lot different.

FF: In what ways?
Johnny: Can’t describe it. We just did things I never heard done on record.

FF: There’s an electric piano on a few cuts. Was that your idea or Phil Spector’s?
Johnny: We were figuring on doing it.

FF: Who plays it?
Johnny: Barry Goldberg [ex-Electric Flag, KGB, Steve Miller, etc. – Ed.]
Joey: He does a lot of session work
Johnny: He fit right in.

FF: Did Tommy quit working with you altogether, or will he be doing something with you in the near future?
Johnny: Nothing’s planned.
Joey: Maybe we’ll have two drummers like in the Bangladesh concert, ya know?

FF: Do you think this album is more important? Do you see it as a possible turning point?
Johnny: We hope so. I think everyone’s gonna like it. It’s real powerful and it’s real rock’n’roll.

FF: Would you say it’s more polished than the previous records?
Johnny: It’s different. I don’t know… but it’s real powerful, though. We haven’t gone soft.

FF: How many drummers did you audition before you decided on Marky?
Johnny: Just Mark. We already picked Mark, but one other kid made a long trip to New York to audition, so we tried him out because we owed it to him for making the long trip. But we had Mark already.

FF: Marky, how do you compare your role in the Ramones with that of the Voidoids?
Marky Ramone: I couldn’t take all that intellectuality of the Voidoids. I fit in better here.

FF: How did you get together with the Paley Brothers for “Come On Let’s Go”?
Johnny: Seymour (Stein) wanted an old favorite recorded. Joey was in the hospital… resting. We were in California and the Paley’s were in California, and he asked us to do it. He gave us the money to do it, and you can’t turn down money.
Joey: He waved the money in Dee Dee’s face…
Johnny: Dee Dee’ll never turn down a buck.

FF: Was “I Don’t Wanna Get Involved With You” basically the same song as “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You”?
Johnny: Yeah. They were different songs, but pretty much the same song.

FF: Dee Dee, is it true that both you and Johnny played guitar when the group first started out?
Dee Dee Ramone: For a day or two.

FF: Who played lead?
Johnny: Neither of us. We just strummed away.

FF: Who were some of your boyhood idols?
Johnny: Mickey Mantle.

FF: Joey?
Joey: What?
Johnny: Who’s your boyhood idol?
Joey: My what?
Johnny: Boy-hood i-dol.
Joey: I don’t think I had one.

FF: How old are all of you?
Johnny: 26 or 27.

FF: Who’s the best band that ever opened for you?
Joey: This band that’s playing right now [Minx, a Jersey band – Ed.]. They’re the best group I ever heard.
Johnny: Talking Heads opened for us. David Johansen opened for us…
Dee Dee: Tom Petty.
Johnny: Between them somewhere. Blondie opened for us, but they don’t rate.

FF: Would you ever consider selling out like Blondie and recording a disco song?
Johnny: No, that’s disgusting!

FF: Who’s the best group you ever opened for?
Johnny: We haven’t opened for many people; Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath.
Dee Dee: Flamin’ Groovies.
Joey: Foreigner.
Johnny: We opened for Tot, but they don’t rate either.
Dee Dee: Eddie Money.
Joey: Yeah, I like Eddie Money.

[Colleen Caffiene (of the Detroit band Choking Susan), and her great Ramones tattoo on her elbow; photo by Bernie]

FF: What did you listen to when the band was first starting out?
Johnny: The Dolls, Slade, T. Rex, Stooges, Gary Glitter…

FF: How would you describe the Ramones to someone who never heard them before?
Joey: It’d be tough. I’d tell ‘em to come down and see us. We’re… exciting. I’d tell ‘em we crank it out; we kick.

FF: How would you compare a New Jersey audience with a New York audience?
Joey: They’re really good in Jersey.

FF: How many days a week are you performing?
Joey: We have one day a week off… one day to go to the dentist.
Johnny: When we’re on tour, we play five nights a week. When we’re home, four or five times a week.

FF: Will you be touring again soon?
Joey: We’re going to England.

FF: How do you like the British audience?
Joey: The kids are great; the country…
Johnny: As long as they don’t spit.

FF: How well have you been doing on the charts in England? How many of your records have been in, say, the Top 10?
Johnny: Top 10? None. Top 20, a lot of them. Most of them are in the Top 40.

FF: What was your best selling American single?
Johnny: “Sheena.” Best-selling English one, too, I think.

FF: One last question: How long do you wanna keep playing rock’n’roll?
Johnny: Not too long.
Joey: Make a quick million and then get out.

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