Punk Pioneers

Submitted by Miles Fielder on Sun, 01/09/2005 - 16:00

Miles Fielder: Would you say that End Of The Century: The Story Of The Ramones give an accurate representation of The Ramones?

Tommy Ramone: I think it gives a very good representation. It covers the beginning, how the band got together. And then it goes into what it was like being in a rock 'n' roll band; the trials and tribulations involved. It shows what it's like when four very interesting but slightly troubled people get together. It shows the joys and the sorrows of being in a great rock band.

Miles: Do you have any particular memories of the time when you formed the band?

Tommy: What was interesting was I had this idea of putting the band together of these colourful guys. I knew that it would be an exciting band, but what I didn't know was they would be great songwriters. So when I first started hearing the songs that was a revelation. That really helped us shift gears. Soon I was playing drums and then we shifted another gear. Then we were going.

Miles: Looking back now, what are your thoughts on Johnny and Joey and Dee Dee?

Tommy: They were very talented, but very different people. Joey was a pop idealist; he loved pop songs. He wrote great songs. He sort of lived in the radio. He loved radio. That sort of embodied him. He was also great at making friends, which was good because he was a lonely child. Dee Dee was a romantic. He loved to write; he wrote these books. He loved to write songs. He painted. He was a really creative individual. He was always very highly strung; he always needed to keep busy, have something to do. Johnny was the taskmaster. He spent a couple of days in military school and that set him up for life. He was impatient to get things done and wanted to make sure everything was perfect. He liked to tell everybody what to do. He was the heart of the band. He was the one who created the ferocity of the music, the hard-driving guitar sound, the general feel of the music.

Miles: Would you say that each played a role in the band?

Tommy: One thing that differentiated The Ramones is that we had four people who contributed equally, in their own ways. That's highly unusual; most bands have one or two leaders. That's one of the reasons there was so much creativity and the band meant so much to so many people. We were four very different people, but what we all had in common was the love of rock music. That was our bond: a love of music.

Miles: Could you argue that not only were The Ramones pioneers of punk music, but also having made music for so many years, they are an evergreen rock band?

Tommy: Right from the start we were influential. When we started playing all types of people would come and see us, whether they were musicians or artists or accountants. And when they saw us they thought, "Wow! Maybe I could put a band together." And they did. From a band like Talking Heads, who saw us and then put a band together, on to every town we hit afterwards. It's sort of like seeds we planted.

Miles: Are there any unusual Ramones fans that you've heard about?

Tommy: I heard that Sting was a big fan. I was shocked by that.

Miles: Although The Ramones have been very influential, their popularity, relative to other bands and other countries, was narrower. How do you explain that?

Tommy: America is a very big country. Each state has its own thing; they're disconnected. Another reason was that radio and the whole American record industry was a little afraid of us. They thought if punk rock becomes the next big thing, we might all be out of a job. We were a little ahead of our time; maybe we were scary.

Miles: When you came to the UK, there was already a great deal of interest in the band. Were you surprised by your popularity?

Tommy: We were surprised by the extent of it. The UK was one of our first tours, actually. It was like, "This is great. This is what we were dreaming of." When we toured we played places like Liverpool, Manchester, places we had heard of, because we were big fans of The Beatles and all the British bands. So, visiting England was very exciting for us. We felt like it was a homecoming, in a strange way.

Miles: Do you have any particular memories of your first UK gig in London?

Tommy: Yes, we played Dingwalls and The Roundhouse. It was exciting. Overwhelming. Almost a dream-like situation, actually.

Miles: The film suggests the recording of End Of The Century was the beginning of the end, not least through the title. Was that the case?

Tommy: From watching the movie it seems that way.

Miles: Is there a feeling that in some way The Ramones have been vindicated, not just by the film, but also through the band's influence on other musicians and by new generations of fans.

Tommy: Definitely. The Ramones affected the whole of alternative modern rock punk grunge. The Ramones grew out of the whole CBGBs scene. It's what we had been hoping for, that we had been vindicated, that people would see what we had been doing and how important that was.

Miles: What was it like playing a club like CBGBs and what did it feel like being part of that band at that time?

Tommy: It was an exciting period, because I knew what we had, okay? I knew we had this group of really excitable, unusual, but talented individuals, creating this part-brilliant, part-psychotic music. It was fun to play and it was fun to see the reactions. It was almost like a mission. We had to bring back the feel and essence of rock 'n' roll, which had sort of disappeared. It was our duty to do this; let's rip the roof down.