The night before I had been at Cat Stevens and it was a wonderful gig. Over two and a half hours he played thirty four of his songs, every song you could have wanted him to do. Tonight Marky Ramone and his crash hot band delivered thirty six songs, every song you could have wanted him to do, in about one hour and fifteen minutes. It too was a wonderful gig.
That’s one of the beautiful things about The Ramones, they were never messing around. Everything about them was tight as a drum and filleted of anything extraneous. No five minute guitar solos, no dance remixes, no jazz rock fusion jams or concept albums. Just no nonsense meat and potatoes, pop music played at a breakneck pace. Once when they were about to tour, my girlfriend at the time, said she didn’t know their music. I lent her a copy of All The Stuff Volume One, a one disc ‘best of’ compilation with 33 tracks on it. ‘The songs all kind of sound the same’ was her summation. Which, on one level, is fair enough. You either get The Ramones or you don’t. So we broke up.
I have been ‘getting’ the Ramones since 1977 (Happy 40th Anniversary guys). From the very first second, my response was visceral and urgent. They looked amazing, like a cartoon bikie gang, all leather jackets and jeans with holes in the knees. They played faster than I had ever heard anybody play up to that point. They were often singing about things I didn’t understand, but the songs had fantastic pop sensibilities. They were like The Archies singing about sniffing glue, while careering down a ski slope with jet packs. Complete exhilaration.
For a legion of us, they became a defining band. They had an ethos. They were, to quote one of their own songs, something to believe in. They never got awards or fists full of hits or money. They never sold out. They never compromised and they never let me down.
In recent times they may have become a brand that hapless youths wear on their t-shirts having never heard one of their songs (the grumpier old man in me thinks you should be means tested before you’re allowed to purchase one). But they have also been given considerable props too. Enrolled into The Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, named as a major influence by millions of bands. U2 wrote a song about their love of the band (much to the concern of some Ramones fans) and they are now recognized as innovators, architects of punk, and one of the greatest rock bands that have ever walked the Earth. It’s just a pity that the original members are not around to see the respect they now command.
All four original members Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy have all sadly passed away. When Tommy left the band in 1978, to go back to producing he brought in his own replacement behind the drum kit, in the shape of Marky Ramone. Formerly Marc Bell, he had been a member of Richard Hell & The Voidoids, and was almost the drummer for the New York Dolls at one stage (the gig went to his friend Jerry Nolan). Marky joined and played on Road to Ruin, End of The Century, Pleasant Dreams and Subterranean Jungle before being asked to leave due to a drinking problem in early 1983. Four years later in 1987, now clean and sober, he rejoined the band and played on another ten albums and played every one of the 1700+ shows before they disbanded in 1996. All up he was a Ramone for fifteen years, and is the only living Ramone that was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. He will forever be a Ramone. He is the last man standing, with no disrespect meant to CJ Ramone, Richie Ramone and even Elvis Ramone (aka Blondie’s Clem Burke). They all still have their place in Ramones history, but Marky is the man.
The line up of Marky Ramones Blitzkrieg, changes all the time, sometimes he has Andrew WK on vocals, (which frankly I’d kill to see – take a minute and go watch Party Hard on YouTube). This tour his three piece outfit is a tightly coiled machine, more than up to the task of giving this music the right treatment, full of gusto and energy. Aurelian Budynek on guitar (who is a metal band called Daredevil Squadron and also plays with filthy comedy band The Dan Band), I can’t find any info on either Alejandro Viejo on bass or Pela on lead vocals. What I can tell you, is they are bloody great. Alejandro lays down a rock solid bottom end, and Aurelian kills it on every single song. Pela is really channelling Joey vocally and with some of his stage moves. It’s not a mimic really, but you can clearly see he loves the band, these songs and the way Joey sings them. There are times if you close your eyes for a second, you’d think you in the room with the original guys. Their spirit was absolutely in the room.
So as I’ve mentioned, you either get The Ramones or you don’t and MRB smash through all the best known Ramones songs and a few surprises. I’ll put a set list at the bottom of this because giving you a song by song breakdown, seems a little pointless. But, to give you some idea, they opened with Rockaway Beach, Lobotomy, Psycho Therapy, Do You Wanna Dance, I Don’t Care and Sheena is a Punk Rocker. That’s more great songs in the first thirteen minutes than most bands can muster in a full set a lot of the time. So suffice to say, each song was launched with the traditional 1-2-3-4 count-in, there were no long stories about where this one came from or funny anecdotes about this or that. Just flat out, foot stompin, air punchin, head boppin’, bite size chunks of delicious Ramonesy goodness. I was losing my shit when they did Beat on The Brat, and The KKK Took My Baby Away, two of my absolute favourites. Who am I kidding, these are all my favourites. 53rd & 3rd, Judy is a Punk, Chinese Rock, Commando. Every single song hits me in the heart.
Before the show hit town I had a conversation with somebody who was basically going ‘It’s only the drummer’, to which my response was ‘It’s only THE drummer’. People go to church every week and the original Jesus never turns up, doesn’t stop folk from attending and getting something out of it. The Ramones and their music, was easily as crucial to the people in this audience as any early Sunday morning ritual. There are a lot of leather jackets and jeans with missing knees. The room is peppered with people who have loved The Ramones for decades, people who started bands by playing music inspired by, or originally performed by them. People to whom this music is a way of life. Tonight is not a passive celebration, nothing about The Ramones was passive. Everybody is immersed in the sonic assault of the music, the presence of Ramone Royalty and the warm and fuzzy knowledge that everybody else in the audience shares your love of this as a thing.
Everybody, that is apart from one fuckhead. Mr Fuckhead head who threw a bottle or glass at Marky while he was playing. Pela was right on it, “I saw you man, that is not cool.” Marky came to the front of the stage, looking to see who it was, the audience around the culprit were quick to point him out to staff who marched him outside.
“That was a pussy move. If you have a problem with me I don’t give a fuck, but we’ll sort it out together, not with a pussy move like that.” After the show I was getting a photo with Marky and I can tell you that the guy might be 65 years old, but after 40 something years of brutally attacking his drums with The Ramones, that guy is ripped, it’s like putting your arm round a pillar of granite. Mr Fuckhead would not have lasted the length of a Ramones song.
The main set ends with a unbeatable run of Pet Sematary, Chinese Rock, I Wanna Be Sedated, I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You and Pinhead.
They return for another six songs at nitro boosted pace, including (Do You Remember) Rock’n’Roll Radio, Cretin Hop, their fantastic version of the theme from the 70’s Spiderman cartoon and a cover of Motorhead’s brilliant tribute to the band R.A.M.O.N.E.S. A song I love so much I near bust something singing along tonight.
Another short exit and they are back for songs #33-#36. The Ramones always did a lot of covers, but always made them their own. California Sun, was written by a guy called Joe Jones and released in 1960, it was a minor hit, but four years later The Rivieras turned it into a monster smash dynamite hit. The Ramones did a version on ’77’s Leave Home album and it’s been a staple of their live shows forever. Have You Ever Seen The Rain, was a Credence Clearwater revival song that they did on their Acid Eaters album of covers in 1993. They do Joey’s version of the Louis Armstrong classic Wonderful World before finishing with a joyous Blitzkrieg Bop.
If you had even the slightest doubt about going to see Marky Ramones Blitzkrieg, trust me, it is the closest thing you are ever going to get now.
Long Live Marky Ramone.
Long Live The Ramones.
We accept you one of us!
GABBA GABBA HEY!
Review by Ian Bell
Do You Wanna Dance
I Don’t Care
Sheena Is a Punk Rocker
I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
Beat on The Brat
53rd & 3rd
Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
Gimme Gimme Shock treatment
Rock & Roll High School
Oh Oh I Love Her So
Judy Is a Punk
I Believe In Miracles
The KKK Took My Baby Away
I Wanna Be Sedated
I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You
Something To Do
Needles & Pins
She Is The One
Have You Ever Seen The Rain