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The Importance of Being a Ramone

Page 3 of 4

How did you pick the name Ramones?
Joey: It had a ring to it, like "Eli Wallach" does. Just sounded good.

Johnny: We thought of Spice and other names but felt, "That's ridiculous."

Dee Dee: We never gave it too much thought.

Where did your American eagle logo come from?
Johnny: I don't know if what we've got is the American eagle, but that's what we thought of at the time.

Dee Dee: It looks good up there. I mean, Patti Smith has the American flag . . .

Johnny: . . . and we have a kind of presidential seal.

Marky: Yeah. "In God We Trust."

Joey: [Snickering] We weren't thinking of God.

Johnny: You want a strong symbol, and that's it.

Dee Dee: [Earnestly] We want to make it clear that it has nothing to do with fascism or anything like that.

Johnny: [Alarmed] Nobody asked ya!

Dee Dee: [Continuing] It's just a sign that I think . . .

Johnny: [Firmly] Nobody asked ya!

You still look like teenage troublemakers, young thugs. Were you?
Johnny: I guess we were sort of juvenile delinquents, but Forest Hills ain't the South Bronx; it's a nice neighborhood. So if you walk around like this [he indicates his leather jacket, T-shirt, jeans] you're already looked upon as a hoodlum. I mean we were just general nogoodnicks.

Dee Dee: But we didn't have an organized gang.

Johnny: We once tried robbing a drug store on Queens Boulevard – unsuccessfully. It was in a whole row of stores and we broke into the laundromat from behind by mistake. The next time we tried robbing a bakery on 63rd Drive; somebody climbed in the window above the door. The police came to my house the next day and asked somebody to identify me, but the person said I wasn't the one. The other kid finked on me – but I don't care 'cause he's gotten killed since then.

I didn't become bad until I got out of high school. Sniffing glue was probably the start of my downfall. My first drug experience was sniffing glue. We tried it and then moved on to Carbona.

That's why we wrote songs about it. It was a good high but it gave you a bad headache. I guess it destroys your brain cells, though.

Joey: Then "Carbona (Not Glue)" got pulled from the Leave Home album because Carbona was gonna sue us for using their name. We thought it was a substance, not the name of a product or company.

Speaking of songwriting, I thought in the beginning that the brevity of the songs was tongue in cheek, a gimmick.
Johnny: [Bewildered] The what of the song was what?

The brevity of the songs was . . .

Johnny: What's brevity mean?

Shortness, conciseness.
Johnny: Oh, well, we were new at writing songs and new at playing our instruments, so we couldn't write anything too complicated, really. It was nothing intentional. We decided to sing about something that we found amusing.

Dee Dee: And daring.

Johnny: All our songs are written by all of us. We wrote two songs the very first day we were a band. One was called "I Don't Wanna Walk Around with You" and the other was called "I Don't Wanna Get Involved with You." "I Don't Wanna. Walk Around with You" made it on the first album, but "I Don't Wanna Get Involved with You" didn't.

You never recorded it?
Johnny: No. It's very much like "I Don't Wanna Walk Around with You," almost the same song. We might someday record it.

What's the basic lyric?
Dee Dee: [Blandly]
I don't wanna get involved with you
That's not what I wanna do
Come knocking on my door
I'm gonna knock you on the floor
I don't wanna get involved with you
That's not what I wanna do.

How would you describe your own music?
Dee Dee: We're playing at our level of ability.

Johnny: We're playing pure rock & roll with no blues or folk or any of that stuff in it. And we try to be entertaining and bring back the feeling of kids coming and having a good time – united with us. But we never considered the whole local new-band scene here or in England. We never had the weird pointy haircuts. These are our regular haircuts.

Linda Stein said she felt that the Sid Vicious murder case has hurt you bookingwise.
Johnny: We've had a lot of job rejections. We had a lot of radio stations taking us off and rejecting us. We just had a job offer at Notre Dame with Foreigner, and Notre Dame turned us down. We got pulled off stations after the Weekend show with the Sex Pistols. It had nothing to do with us. We don't look or act like them. We weren't out to ruin the music business. There's room for everybody. When we started we were more or less looking at the hard-rock groups of America like Aerosmith and Ted Nugent and Kiss as our competition.

Joey: [Brightly] Alice Cooper helped my life because he was my first hero. I related to the guy – until I found out he really was the way he was.

You mean before he started playing golf with George Burns?
Joey: Yeah, right.

Johnny: [Serious] Joey, wouldn't you like to be playing golf with George Burns?

Joey: [Sheepish] I dunno, but I guess I respected Cooper because that's all he wanted to do in the first place: get big so he could play golf with the stars.

Johnny: It's nice to play golf with George Burns, if you wanna. I played golf in military school for about a year.

The other night Joey said that he would kill himself if the new record didn't do well. Things have been rough, eh?
Johnny: Yeah, but we've been on salary since we started recording. It's not much, it's meager but it's been okay. When we started it was about fifty dollars a week. Now it's $150 a week – actually that starts next week, a raise from $125. We get ten dollars a day when we're traveling, and occasionally get a royalty check for songwriting.

Why did Tommy leave the band?
Johnny: He just couldn't take touring.

Dee Dee: It's very hard to tour.

Johnny: He was getting to be catatonic.

Joey: [Chortling evilly] Tommy cracked like an egg!

Say, Dee Dee, when did you get the knife wounds?
Dee Dee: [Embarrassed] That was something stupid I did. I don't want to say it 'cause it was bad.

Johnny: But now we're nice.

How did you fellas manage to change your dispositions?
Johnny: We got into a group and we became nice.

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Song Stories

“Love Is the Answer”

Utopia | 1977

The message of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" proved to be a universal and long-lasting one, which Utopia revisited 10 years later on this ballad. "From a lyrical standpoint, it's part of a whole class of songs that I write, which are about filial love," Todd Rundgren explained. "I'm not a Christian, but it's called Christian love, the love that people are supposed to naturally feel because we are all of the same species. That may be mythical, but it's still a subject." Though "Love Is the Answer" wasn't a hit, a cover version two years later by England Dan & John Ford Coley peaked at Number Ten on the Billboard singles chart.

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