Monday, July 25, 2016

The Last Ramones Interview [1977]

Text © Bernie Kugel / Big Star fanzine, 1977
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2016
Images from the Internet

These interviews were originally printed in Big Star fanzine, issue #3, dated Spring 1978. It was written by its publisher, Bernie Kugel, who kindly granted permission for this reprint.
I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with members of the Ramones three times. The first time was when Bernie interviewed them for the Buffalo State College magazine, Shakin’ Street Gazette, just before July 4, 1976, in the dressing rooms of Max’s Kansas City. This was the night before they headed off for their first tour in England. The next time was more accidental: we were heading up the stairs on our way to the offices of Sire Records when we ran into Joey on his way down. We had a nice conversation for a while, and then when we arrived at the office, we were given the pre-release, white label first Ramones LP (yes, I still have it). If it had been in reverse order, I would have had him sign it. The last time was during an interview with Joey for Videowave at Arturo Vega’s apartment in 1997, after the band broke up. He was wearing a butcher’s apron that said “Happy Birthday Oedipus” for a special recording he did to be played at the Boston DJ’s party (we watched them film it). I took the apron when we left as it had been finished, and found out he was furious about it. I made sure he got it back; part of me wishes I had kept it though.  

This piece was supposed to be part of a series, but as it was the last issue of Big Star, this was also the – er – last Ramones interview for the ‘zine. By the way, Bernie asks some great questions, rather than the usual nonsense people tend to ask over and over. – RBF, 2016

(The following comments are from conversations recorded in New York City and Buffalo in ’76, ’77, and ’78. And fear not, Ramones fans, for even if this is The Last Ramones Interview, the one that will make it totally unnecessary to ever do another interview with them, this is a multi-part article which is beginning now and will be continued in future issues.)

Bernie: Do you have a favorite English new wave band now?
Joey Ramone: Clash. I like the Adverts.

Bernie: Do you have favorite songs by the Clash and Adverts?
Joey: I like the album; The Clash album’s great. I like “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes.” I like Gaye Advert; that’s what I like about the Adverts.

Bernie: Do you have favorite New York bands now?
Joey: Naah. I like Suicide… I don’t like many groups in New York… I don’t like many New York groups that haven’t gotten anywhere, like Blondie [did]; they’ve kind of made it. But of groups around now, there’s nothing around now besides the Cramps and Suicide.

Bernie: Do you look back to one special concert or set and think that was the best you ever did?
Joey: We just finished an English tour and that was fantastic. I can’t really think of any jobs in particular, 'cause everything’s been going really, really great.

Bernie: Do you ever think back to the early days at CBGB’s, playing to a few people, and think you wanna return there?
Joey: Naah, I try to forget about those days. I don’t think about those days.

Bernie: It says in the Bomp Newsletter that your brother [Mickey Leigh – RBF, 2016] plays guitar on some of the Ramones records.
Joey: He did the claps in “Sheena,” but that’s about it. [Check out Mickey’s book, I Slept with Joey Ramone: A Family Memoir, for more of the actual story – RBF, 2016]

Bernie: You like the Flamin’ Groovies?
Joey: Yeah.

Bernie: Do you have a favorite song of theirs?
Joey: “Shake Some Action,” “Please Please Girl.” When we were in England, we went to an NME party and they were playing, and they’re putting out a new album and I can’t believe they were playing these songs; man, they were playing “Paint It, Black” and all these Stones songs. I couldn’t believe they were playing those songs instead of their own songs because their own songs are so great. But they’re putting out “Paint It, Black” and Dave Edmunds is producing. And they’re putting out – what’s that song – “Feel a Whole Lot Better”?

Bernie: “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” the Byrds song???
Joey: Yeah, yeah. They did that great.

Bernie: Have you ever played with a member of the band sick?
Joey: Yeah, all the time. We’re always sick.

Bernie: But I mean when one member of the band was so sick they couldn’t play and someone else had to replace them.
Joey: Oh, no, no… I mean, it doesn’t matter how sick we are we always play unless we’re really fucked up.

Bernie: Ever see Richie Ramone anymore?
Joey Ramone: Naah. John saw him though the other day. I think he’s just like been in his house for the past two years and hasn’t come out.

[Bernie: What do you do for fun when you’re on tour?]
Joey: All I’ve been doin’ when I’ve been going to a record store is like… spending everything… broke.

Bernie: You should see the store across the street [Play It Again Sam’s, which would soon become Home of the Hits; both stores were Buffalo landmarks – RBF, 2016].
Joey: Yeah, the last few stores we’ve been going to are like that… yeah, I was at this store, it was a real gourmet collectors' store. The guys would just play albums in the little store and have a pile like this for a buck… used stuff.

Bernie: You don’t think they’ll be a lot of Ramones solo singles in the near future?
Joey: No, I don’t think so… maybe later, later on.

Bernie: Have you heard any records by any non-New York groups that make major label records that you thought was any good?
Joey: I don’t think so. I’m always listenin’, but I never hear nuthin’. I think it’s really exciting when you come upon something new that no one’s ever heard. But that hasn’t happened in a while… But I’m really into collecting and checking out those English bands.

Bernie: “Babysitter” never came out; what happened with that?
Joey Ramone: Well, it’s out in England on the Leave Home import. I think what we’ll eventually do is put it out on the B-side of a single over here.

Bernie: Do you have any songs from the real early days you don’t do anymore?
Johnny Ramone: “Succubus,” “I Can’t Be,” “Girl What You Want From Me,” “I Just Want Something to Do,” “I Don’t Wanna Get Involved With You,” “Why Did She Write that Letter,” “Crazy Animal Stomp,” which became “Listen to My Heart,” “I Don’t Wanna Be Learned, I Don’t Wanna Be Tamed”…

To Be Continued [Not – RBF, 2016]

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Text by George Beke / FFanzeen, 1984
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2016
Images from the Internet

This interview was originally published in FFanzeen 12, dated 1984, by George Beke. If I remember correctly, Beke is actually a pen name of one of our staffers who wrote so much they wanted to use a pseudonym for some of their articles.

I don’t remember exactly how or where I met Sex in Miami’s lead singer, Clark Render (or if we only talked on the phone), but he was quite happy to have this piece published about the band. They were raucous in a milder-than-Electric Chairs way. That being said, the gender-bending was not common on the scene back then, with drag being more sequestered to gay bars and the like, even with Jayne (then Wayne) County being such a force on the scene. It wasn’t until Wigstock followed by the popularity of the PRIDE and Halloween parades that it became a bit more acceptable and – for lack of a better term – mainstream.

After this piece came out (pun not intended), Clark called me regularly to chat, and to ask for further coverage in FFanzeen. I explained that we were not in the habit of having follow-up pieces as we did not publish that often, but he kept at it, and I did enjoy our conversations. However, I had predicted that as soon as I stopped doing the ‘zine, I would not hear from him again. And I was correct when, in 1988, FFanzeen ceased in its print form.

Over the years I didn’t hear much about him, but in researching this reprint, I found he’s been active in the community performing at various venues, including off-Broadway and Wigstock, in a tour de force piece called “Dueling Bankheads,” a hilarious bit based on the oft sodden Tallulah.

Mikky Zsedely (guitar) studied photography and now owns the 10 Thousand Steps Bookstore in New York. Ralph Robinson (drums) moved on to play more jazz, including for the group C’Est What. He passed away in 2009 (a blog about him HERE). Tom Gartland (bass) would later work at Secret Sounds Studios in New York. – RBF, 2016
Self-described as “most confounding,” transvestite-led Sex in Miami extoll the virtues of preening through chaos. The band members – Clark Render on vocals, Tom Gartland on bass, Ralph Robinson on drums and Mikky Zsedely on guitar – are interviewed in Mikky’s East 13 Street apartment, sans Gartland, who was unavailable for comment.

FFanzeen: You’re very Kabuki theatre.
Clark Render: Thank you. Kabuki is a good word. Much better than drag or transvestite. Those words feel obsolete. I guess I wear mini-skirts because they feel good.
Mikky Zsedely: Clark has great legs.

FF: Right up front is a strong sense of humor.
Clark: We can’t take ourselves too seriously, without incurring fratricide; still, we do dream about world takeover.
Ralph Robinson: We want lots of money.

FF: You’ve managed to combine certain elements of cabaret, psychedelia, hardcore and salsa. Is this the ‘80s formula?
Clark: It really just reflects our own tastes. Destroy All Monsters [excellent noise band from Detroit, including singer Niagara and late guitarist Ron Ashton – RBF, 2016] is probably my favorite band, and of course its predecessors, the Stooges and the MC5. Those and other odd, obscure bands, like Pavlov’s Dog.

FF: What about new bands?
Clark: The Stars That Wouldn’t Shine from Bard College is great.
Mikky: I just like whomever I happen to be listening to at that moment.
Ralph: It’s a free-for-all and you steal whatever you can get away with.

FF: Do you see a new psychedelia movement bubbling up?
Clark: Well, one does get the feeling of a new chapter starting occasionally.
Mikky: Coca-Cola and coffee are psychedelic these days.

FF: Where is each of you from?
Clark: I was born in Florida and raised in Detroit.
Mikky: New York
Ralph: South Beach, Miami.
Clark: Tom, our bass player, is from West Haven, Connecticut.

FF: You’ve come across as a very New York band.
Ralph: We’re a Florida band.
Mikky: We’re an American band.
Clark: Florida via New York.

FF: You have followings in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Digress a bit on these.
Clark: Well, in Baltimore, people actually flock to buy our record and even line up for autographs.
Mikky: John Waters has our record. I can see why he made those movies [Polyester, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, etc. – RBF, 1984]. They’re nice people. They write fan letters and make you feel it’s well worth it.
Ralph: Baltimore likes winners, as in ’83.
Mikky: They have pink hotel rooms.

FF: And what about Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love?
Clark: Well, we got the ol’ brotherly shove from the Philadelphia police, but the audience and club people are great. One person, whose name I won’t mention without permission, has really helped us win the hearts and minds of Philadelphia.
Mikky: When the police searched us, they wouldn’t touch Clark.

FF: Your debut record features a song called “Japan Must Be Stopped.” What was all the fuss over it?
Clark: We received a letter from the Japanese embassy, inquiring as to the intent of the song, but anyone who listens to the last verse carefully will know we’re actually flattering Japan.
Mikky: “Japan” is a hot record on progressive radio stations from Iowa to Maine, from Tampa to Clearwater, and, of course, New Jersey.
Ralph: There’s a Sex in Miami record-burning wave sweeping the Southeast. They’re buying them up and burning them down.

FF: What’s next?
Clark: Well, a record deal would be nice for starters. We’ve got about a hundred great songs now and even though we’re in the process of recording a couple of them, namely “Celebrities on Booze” and “Here Come the Magnetic Discs.” We’d rather not be forced to put it out ourselves.

FF: But if forced, would you?
Clark: Absolutely.