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Wednesday, July 1,2009

Marky is a punk

by Rich Tupica

Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 8. Capital Region International Airport Stage.


This year’s Common Ground Festival may be stocked with big-name musicians, but Marky Ramone is the only punk rock legend on the bill. After spending 15 years in The Ramones, the band responsible for “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” etc., Marky (AKA Marc Bell) has a new band called Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg, which will perform at Common Ground on July 8. The band will play 32 Ramones classics, with former (late ‘90s) Misfits singer Michale Graves handling vocals.

Three of the founding Ramones, Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee, are dead. Each had adopted Ramone as a pseudonym and were not related. Marky, a Brooklyn native, joined The Ramones in 1978 (replacing original drummerTommy), playing 1,700 shows with the band and on 10 studio albums.

We caught up with Marky by phone to talk about how he got started and is “keeping the legacy alive” for Ramones fans across the map.


What has been the most gratifying aspect of playing in such a legendary band?


The fact that everywhere we went we saw bands that started to sound like us, wearing the ripped jeans and sneakers. We are very grateful that we influenced an entire genre of music. Sure, there were bands and individuals who had punk elements before The Ramones, but we solidified it. We were the ones who started playing the songs faster and played two-minute songs.


What do you consider some of your career milestones?


Being on “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” on The Simpsons. Getting in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 2002) was definitely a nod, finally, to punk rock. The Ramones were the first punk band to be inducted; we were very grateful. We were amongst people we liked when we were kids: The Kinks, The Beatles, The Who, you name it. We wanted to get to as many people as we could.


How has the new band been going so far?


It took a lot of rehearsing and time to get this group together. We did Japan, Australia — which was great — and we just did a huge festival in Mexico. Now we are starting American and England.


How did you meet The Ramones and eventually join the band?


We all knew each other, and we were on the same record label. I was with Richard Hell during “The Blank Generation” album, while The Ramones were doing their first album. Then Tommy Ramone wanted to leave the band to produce, so Dee Dee (Ramone) asked me to join the band. I said, ‘Sure,’ because Richard Hell didn’t want to tour anymore. We all knew each other. There were no preliminaries or anything; we just did it. I went to the studio, and it worked.


You were closest to Dee Dee Ramone (bass/vocals). What was it like hanging out with Dee Dee?


He was unpredictable. He was very, very funny. He would always tell lurid tales about life that really weren’t true. And he was a great songwriter. He was the main songwriter in The Ramones. Even when he was out of the group, he wrote songs for us. He had his problems with his demons, but besides that, he was just a riot every minute.
You never knew what the guy was going to do. I felt that was very adventurous.


What about Joey (vocals) and Johnny Ramone (guitar)?


Joey was very quiet. John was a conservative — a Republican fanatic — and I didn’t get along with him too well. I liked Dee Dee the best. Joey would occasionally hang out, but I gravitated toward Dee Dee. To me, he was the epitome of The Ramones.


For a period you left The Ramones, but then rejoined. Why did that happen?


That was from ‘83 to ‘87. I wanted to stop my boozing, so I had to get out of the group and get it together. What was more important? Playing was more important. So I decided to stop the boozing. That was a long time ago. It’s great. I wake up and know what I did. I was asked to join the band twice. They saw that I cleaned up my act.

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