There’s only a handful of men still walking this Earth that can still call themselves a true “Ramone,” and while the original members may have all left us far too soon, the torch is still carried by those who remain; Marky, C.J., and of course, Richie Ramone (and if you want to include the short-lived Elvis Ramone as well).
For those who know their Ramones history (and why wouldn’t you?!), Richie joined up with the legendary NYC punks in 1983, replacing previous drummer Marky shortly after the Subterranean Jungle album. Over the course of his time with the band, Richie recorded on the albums Too Tough to Die (1984), Animal Boy (1986), and Halfway to Sanity (1987). Late vocalist Joey Ramone (R.I.P.) had been quoted as saying, “Richie 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” (1).
But not everyone has always been so appreciative of Richie. The very man he replaced (and who would in turn replace him when he re-joined the band in 1987), Marky Ramone, has barely acknowledged Richie’s very existence. In a recent interview from his home in LA, Richie tells Rewind It Magazine, “In my entire career we’ve only crossed paths one time after I had first joined the band, and all we said was “hey” to each other in passing. That’s it” Richie goes on to say, “C.J.’s different though. Him and I do talk, and we actually just played together at the [Joey Ramone] Birthday Bash recently.”
But despite whatever gripes Marky and Richie may have, it hasn’t slowed Richie down one bit. He recently released his second solo effort, an EP by the name of Cellophane, and at the time of our conversation, he and his band had just gotten back from touring South America. “That’s where the Ramones are like The Beatles. It’s really insane, nowhere else in the world is it like that,” he tells me. Richie will be hitting Europe next, with dates already set for Scandinavia and Germany starting later this month. He says he also plans to do a mid-west run as well once he returns to the U.S.
When asked how he feels the reception of his latest release has gone over so far, Richie says, “The records are more for selling at shows these days. But you know, I can’t see playing for years and years without making new music. I could go out there and just play Ramones songs and fans would like it just the same, but I’m not Marky, I can’t just do that. But I like what I do, and as long as I’m healthy, I’m gonna keep doing it.”
I also couldn’t resist asking if the latest single from Cellophane, “I Fix This,” alluded to Richie’s breathing new life into the Ramones after initially joining them. “That’s a new one right there, I haven’t heard that before [laughs]! But that’s what good about music, people can always interrupt things in many different ways.” As far as the song’s actual meaning, Richie tells me it’s simply a term he heard repeatedly used while in Sweden that he found interesting enough to write a song about. Richie also released a flexi disc single for the song “The Last Time” through New Noise Magazine, a track he wrote shortly after the recent passing of his father. Almost anyone who’s ever lost someone dear to them can relate to it (including even a dog, which, during our interview, Richie and I both discovered we had recently lost as well).
When asked how he feels about several metal bands covering songs he’s penned over the years, Richie simply says, “It seems like the metal bands love my shit [laughs]! I tend to write a little on the harder side I guess, and everything that comes out is just darker.” Richie also tells me his favorite album while with the Ramones would have to be Too Tough to Die; “I think they lost their way a little bit before that, so it was kind of a turnaround for the Ramones. Just a back-to-their-roots, raw, simple album.”
Richie will soon be joining the ranks of author as well, when his autobiography, I Know Better Know, hits shelves later this year. Richie says, “Touring and writing a book for the past year has been pretty tough, and I’m so glad that’s finally done [laughs]! But it’ll be out in the fall through Backbeat Books, and I’m pretty excited about it.”
1. “Ramones Get Back the Spirit,” Bignoisenow.com.