NEW FEATURE!

Richie Ramone: The Entitlement Issue

Richie Ramone
Entitled DC-Jam Records
Timebomb Score: 11 of 13

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by Tom Smith

I was very excited when I heard Richie Ramone, former drummer of the Ramones was releasing his debut solo album. Richie has kept a low profile for a majority of the time since he quit the Ramones in August of 1987-at one time he was working as a golf pro. I’m sure most readers realize by now I’m a big fan of the Ramones. That really is an understatement of grand proportions. Now I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Here we go again, Tom is using a review of an album to compose another love letter to one of his favorite bands.” The more cynical readers may even voice in with a chorus of “Wait, that self-centered jerk will also interject himself into this review.” The response I have to these accusations is simple: as Dewey Cox in “Walk Hard” said, I’m “Guilty as charged” on both counts. Let’s clear up some loose ends first.

Yes, I love the Ramones. They are my favorite band of all time. The Ramones are finally getting the credit they justly deserve. I first tuned into WAPL in 1981 and the first time I ever heard the Ramones on the “Rocking Apple” was 1989 for their contribution to the soundtrack of the movie “Pet Sematary.” Face the facts: for influence on Rock ‘n’ Roll, they are in a small club that includes bands such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Byrds, the Who, Monkees, Velvet Underground (Lou Reed R.I.P.), I guess Lou is beginning to see the light, MC5, Stooges, Motorhead, Cheap Trick, the Clash you get the picture. Hey I’m living on a Punk Planet and they are to blame. Yes blame the punks; that’s always how it has been. It’s 2013 for Jebus sake, let’s really blame punk rock for something significant. I propose that the explosion of punk rock that the Ramones helped engineer somehow — please don’t ask to prove this next part scientifically — sent off some kind of sonic wave that has flown out into space and is traveling at a warp speed of 1234 that someday in the not so distant future, let us say in our lifetime, will alert extraterrestrial life of the existence of the planet Earth. They will come and ransack our planet for every drop of water they can find. Then what Mr. Thirsty? I guess that kid you yelled at in the ‘80s for having a mohawk, skateboarding with a Scream shirt gets the last laugh.

So yes, the Ramones are important to me musically. They also are socially. The next revelation most likely will also not surprise many when I say growing up I had long stretches of lonerism. These stretches at times could be chalked up to moves and school switches, but I’m sure this was also caused by awkward self-inflicted wounds. I wasn’t much into sports in high school at N.E.W. Lutheran High. Freshman year I played on the JV team and scored 1 point in my amateur basketball career. The one week the crappy players on the team were supposed to get their one start of the year, I was on the bench because the coach asked me to toss him the medicine ball in practice that week and I threw at him so hard I almost knocked him over. Sophomore year I made the choice of not being on the basketball team and instead of practicing, I sat in my bedroom listening to cassettes on my boombox, reading music magazines or comic books. One of those classic stories of the ‘80s; boy, an outsider until he joins the punk scene and starts making friends with other misfits in a band of weirdo brothers blah, blah, blah, sell the script to Amy Heckerling. What’s the soundtrack for this awakening? You guessed it; the Ramones.

Let us flashback to July 25, 1986. I’m 19 years old. I just turned drinking age that week. I’m about to move out of the house for the first time the next month. I’m a student at UWGB, I have worked at a record store in the Port Plaza Mall called the Galaxy of Sound for close to two years, and I’ve been a student volunteer at the campus station WGBW for 13 months. The previous month, I had been feverously calling Sire records with the goal of obtaining an in person interview with the Ramones in Chicago at the Metro and I incredibly achieved what I perceived was an impossible dream. This will also be my first trip to Chicago. This is the first time seeing the Ramones live. We got in the van and it leaves Green Bay headed to Chicago filled with an all-star cast of friends. Troy Wiezbiskie and Brendan Dirkman from the band Bludgeon. Ron Kispert, Erik Lee and Kevin Neal from Mission of Mercy. Bobby Kispert, Steve Basche, Tim Pickard and Puppy. We get to Chicago and we don’t realize we have parked a long distance from the Metro. So we walk. When we get to the Metro, I realize we have a problem. I have brought along the WGBW tape recorder to record the interview and realize that there’s no way they are going to let us bring this into the concert. I also don’t want to be responsible for the tape recorder during the Ramones show, because I planned to fight my way up to the front row. The idea is birthed that Ron and I will go back to move the van closer the Metro and everyone else will go into the concert. Ron and I run back to the van and move it as close to the Metro as we can. We then go in and meet up with our friends. We miss the Dead Milkmen completely. Puppy states they suck because they ripped on Madonna and Puppy has a thing for Madonna — I told you this was an ‘80s tale. The Ramones play and yes, I wiggle my way into the front row, right in front of Joey Ramone. Was it everything I thought it would be? Was it Rock ‘n’ Roll nirvana? Was it at that point — the greatest moment of my life? I can only quote the catch phrase of WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan Yes! Yes! Yes! Greatest night of my life that of course, included some self-induced embarrassment.

The Ramones rip into “Somebody Put Something in My Drink” from their current album “Animal Boy;” an album I have owned since the day it came out two months earlier. This album is also one that I have listened to a ridiculous amount of times. I freak out because Joey is singing the song, for some stupid reason I thought Dee Dee sang this song. Since Richie Ramone wrote this song I figured “go straight to the source” and I start gesturing wildly at Richie pointing back and forth like a lunatic between Joey and Dee Dee. I actually get Richie’s attention and he gives me a look that said, “What the heck is going on and I have no idea why you are confused and what do you want me to do I’m sitting behind a drum kit doing my very physically exhausting job.” Nonetheless, this did not lessen the entertainment of the evening for me. The show ends and Ron and I get backstage to hook up with tour manager Monte Melnick, of course we inform him that we have to go get the tape recorder from the van. Once again Ron and I are running to the van, then running back to the Metro.

We get back in and miraculously, the interview happens — of course, my first question is “Why was Joey singing ‘Somebody Put Something in My Drink’ tonight?” Joey is like “What are you talking about” and I proceed to tell them that Dee Dee sings it on the album and Joey is like “No he doesn’t I do.” Amazing when you can look stupid and feel stupid at the same time. The rest of the interview went off without a hitch, except for when Joey chastised me for not knowing who Roger Corman was. Ron and I each took turns taking our pictures with Joey. I was very proud and happy when at Ron’s wedding reception the slide show contained the photo I took of Rom and Joey. This is a big reason why Richie is my favorite Ramones drummer. Richie was the drummer of the Ramones when I first saw them at a very pivotal point in my life and their career. Richie made a great contribution to the Ramones with his drumming and his songwriting. The first album he is on is “Too Tough to Die” which is a true monster of an album that breathed new life into the band. To quote Joey Ramone “(Richie) saved the band as far as I’m concerned. He’s the greatest thing to happen to the Ramones. He put the spirit back into the band.”

The new Richie Ramone spurred this trip down memory lane because Richie picks up where he left off in the Ramones. I’m not sure if we are talking time travel or suspended animation. This is also the only album to my knowledge where the vinyl has a bonus track that’s not on the CD, and it’s positioned as song one, side one. Track one of the vinyl is the Richie re-recording “Somebody Put Something in My Drink.” This is not the only Ramones track that Richie re-interprets on “Entitled.” Also appearing are “I’m not Jesus” and “I Know Better Now” from “Half Way to Sanity.” “Humankind” from “Too Tough to Die” and “Smash You,” the b-side of the Ramones classic “Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La).” The new songs on this album hold up well and all the songs are played with a hammering Ramones-like urgency. I’m impressed with new songs “Criminal,” “Entitled,” ”Take my Hand” and ‘Vulnerable.” Richie is a forgotten treasure of the Ramones and if you fancy the Ramones your course of action is to buy this album. Vinyl is white and yes we have plenty in vinyl and CD in stock at the Exclusive Co., Green Bay.

One last closing note; this story of the road trip not only flashed me back to my youth, but also brings sadness. Yes, we have lost since 1986 Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny. Closer to home, I have also lost Brendan Dirkman, Steve Basche and Tim Pickard. Make Green Bay Weird.

Write Timebomb at Timebombwi@aol.com.

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