It’s fair to say that US punk godfathers The Ramones have well and truly transcended their brat-beaten beginnings and ascended to the lofty heights of one of the best loved and most highly influential bands in the history of contemporary music. Not bad for a rag-tag bunch of New York miscreants who started out singing about sniffing glue and teenage lobotomies!
Whilst on the surface their musical template of three chords and the (dumb) truth was pretty simple, over time, as their musical proficiency increased, ‘Da Bruddas’ embraced their love of 60’s pop and garage sounds, as well as veering off into more hard rock territory. This was particularly evident during the mid 80’s, with albums such as Subterranean Jungle, Too Tough To Die, Animal Boy and Halfway To Sanity subtly realigning the band’s musical template. And the powerhouse drummer on board at the vanguard of this era was none other than Richard Reinhardt, aka Richie Ramone.
The man has had an interesting career trajectory since his Ramones days, including arranging a classical composition called Suite For Drums and Orchestra in 2007. I asked Richie about this while on the phone from New York doing press for his upcoming Australian tour.
“I took some time off from rock and roll and wanted to do something different so that’s what I did. I arranged some songs from West Side Story. It’s a different type of drumming, I could really get crazy with it, as opposed to rock drumming where you’re just holding down a beat. But now I’ve gotten back into rock and roll, working on a new record and stuff.”
Richie was with The Ramones from 1983 to 1987, playing over 500 shows before his sudden departure from the group, rumoured to be as a result of ongoing tensions with founding guitarist and band hard nut, Johnny Ramone. Richie was the band’s only drummer who either sang or composed Ramones numbers, including rabid fan fave Somebody Put Something In My Drink, a track that’s since been covered by a wide variety of bands including metal giants Behemoth. Richie is justifiably proud of the song’s legacy.
“Yeah it holds a special place in my heart, I’d like to think it’s maybe in the top 20 of all time greatest Ramones’ songs. We wanted to do a video for it, but Johnny wanted a different song. I recently re-recorded it and put it on the vinyl version of (2013 solo record) Entitled.
I asked Richie what we can expect from his live show when he hits Byron Bay and Brisbane at the end of April.
“I’m looking forward to it, we don’t get to come out to Australia that often, it’s so far away. I do some Ramones’ classics and stuff I wrote for The Ramones as well as my own material. It’s a cool set, but it’s a Richie Ramone show not a Ramones’ show…there’s only one Ramones you know! I’m not about being a Ramones covers band.”
Has life on the road becomes more of an ordeal with the passing of time?
“No not really, but you just need to look after yourself more, make sure you get enough sleep, take care of your health, that’s the most important thing… maybe my knees get a bit sore these days haha! You learn to chill out and put everything you’ve got into that one hour that you’re up on stage. Playing shows and selling merchandise, that’s how you make a living in rock and roll these days.”
With the passing of time and the sad loss of many original members of the band, I put it to Richie that it’s Ramones drummers (with the exception of Tommy) who have proven to be ‘too tough to die.’
“Haha well you know it’s like the opposite to Spinal Tap the movie. In Spinal Tap all the drummers die, but with us we’re mostly all still alive!”
To wrap things up I asked Richie about the vibe in the USA at the moment as the presidential race plays out and we’re confronted by the sobering prospect that President Trump may in fact be a reality.
“Yeah we should be scared…I don’t know it’s really crazy now, we’ll see what happens I guess.”
Richie chuckles when I ask him if (founding guitarist) Johnny Ramone, a notoriously avowed Republican, would approve.
“Haha I don’t know man, I think Trump might have been a bit too much for him even!”
For anyone with even just a passing interest in punk rock lineage, be sure to keep the following dates free as Richie Ramone presents tracks from his upcoming new record, as well as dusting off a swathe of Ramones gems.
After all it may be only once in your lifetime that you still get to catch a real life Ramone in the flesh.
Gabba Gabba we accept you we accept you one of us!!
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Richie Ramone is at The Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay on Thursday 28 April and The Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane on Friday 29 April