Marky, born Marc Bell, also hopes to present what he says is a more balanced and accurate view of the personal dynamics between the bandmembers. The release earlier this year of Jim Fields' DVD expose, End of the Century, focused almost exclusively and in riveting if excruciating detail on the plentiful tensions within the band. Though Marky describes Century filmmaker Jim Fields as "a Ramones fan," he says Fields skewed the Ramones' story to highlight only the dark side of the band.
"That's his one-man opinion," Marky says of Fields. "Anybody can edit something to their liking."
Marky often toted a video camera while on tour with the Ramones, and a lot of his behind-the-scenes footage — which he says "shows the nice, cool side of being in a band" for that long — is featured in his career retrospective DVD doc, Ramones:Raw.
"Seventy-five percent of the time it was fun," the drumer says of his time in the band. "That's coming from me, who was in the group for 15 years, so I know."
The Ramones' music might have been labeled punk, but it was based on rock & roll's primal roots. Simple, three-minute songs had been around on 45 RPM singles since the 50s, but by the mid-70s, when the Ramones were formed, rock & roll had strayed into more pretentious territory. Of utmost importance to the Ramones was bringing back the power and brevity of the music.
"What was happening at the time was that there was all this stadium rock, and they were doing 10-minute guitar solos and 15-minute drum solos," says Marky of the days when some albums had only two long songs per side. "We wanted to bring rock & roll back to the two-and-a-half-minute songs, like the Jerry Lees, the Chuck Berrys and the Elvis Presleys, and the guys like that."
The Ramones did it by streamlining the music: three chords, no solos and an amphetamine-fueled frog-march pace. The sound is typified by what would become the Ramones' classic "Blitzkrieg Bop, " which had singer Joey's signature chant: "Hey, ho...let's go!"
And off they went, spreading punk throughout the world. But like any band, the Ramones were not without problems... "Over a girl, as usual," Marky says, "but we persevered, it never affected our playing." In true punk tradition, there was even a song written about it, "The KKK Took My Baby Away," penned by Joey after his girlfriend left him for guitarist Johnny. The two rarely spoke after that.
By the time the Ramones became an influence for young punk bands everywhere, the members began dropping. Joey went first, dying from lymphoma in 2001. Bassist Dee Dee died in '02, apparently of a drug overdose. Johnny succumbed to prostate cancer last year. "Overall, we had a good run and we were very proud of it," Marky says, "and that's what mattered at the end."
The end of the band came in '96 when the Ramones officially called it quits. Marky went on to play with the Intruders. He had written and recorded some songs, but they have never been released. (He still owns the masters, though, and plans to release them at some point in the future.) He then played briefly with the Speedkings, which he calls a one-off thing with some friends from Europe. "That was my hard-core phase," he says, laughing. Marky recently ended his four-year tenure with the Misfits, another early punk band once fronted by buff-metal man Glenn Danzig. "I feel that a band who only has one original member in the group calling it the name the Misfits, it's like calling it the Ramones with only one member in it," he says.
Still, Marky wants to play Ramones music.
To that end, he has assembled a band of friends who perform what he calls Marky Ramone and a Night of Ramones Music. But he says the show won't be done in the usual tribute-band mold. "I wouldn't get people who look like Joey, or who look like the Ramones." They're not session players either, nor are they famous. "They play great, and they're fun to be with, and that's the most important thing," he says.
He also upholds the punk tradition of treating fans as family. "The people are there for you. If it wasn't for them, you wouldn't be there," he continues. "And if somebody wants an autograph, a photo, you give it to them, no ifs, ands, or buts." And if fans want to hear a Ramones song or 30? "I'll make myself happy doing it," he says. "And hopefully I can make a lot of Ramones fans happy, new and older."
Marky Ramone plays Amos' Southend Friday. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12.