Punk Rock Blitzkrieg
by Marky Ramone with Rich Herschlag
After reading this memoir, the old saw of Otto von Bismarck- “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made”- could be expanded to include The Ramones. This is the third accounting of the punk rock pioneers career I’ve read, and thankfully, there aren’t any more Ramones left to write a book- I don’t think I could take it. Not to say that Marky Ramone’s- nee Mark Bell- take is bad, far from it. It has the ring of truth to it, from someone who knows where all the bodies are buried. It’s just that what The Ramones went through- from low sales and endless touring to the various member’s “quirks”- sound like a living hell.
Marky Ramone grew up in Brooklyn, and his remembrance of New York in those times is both vivid and engrossing, and once he discovered drumming, he found his life’s passion. His first real success was with a power trio called Dust, who had a few albums out and gave Mark his first glimpse of the road. Once Dust disbanded, he joined with the Max’s/CBGBs crowd of Richard Hell and Robert Quine to form the Voidoids, whose debut release Blank Generation is one of punk’s early masterpieces. Hell was prone to drug addiction, and so when Tommy Erdelyi (aka Tommy Ramone) gave up the drum stool in The Ramones, Mark was a natural fit. His style of drumming meshed with the hard-hitting downstrokes of Johnny’s guitar and Dee Dee’s simplistic yet structured bass lines, and thus began a life of 2000+ plus shows and years of albums.
But as he relates, it wasn’t all fun. Mark was a drunk (which lead to him being asked to leave the band at one point), Joey was continually in ill health and suffered (along with anyone around him) from a debilitating case of OCD. John was a staunch conservative, prone to defending Nixon and Reagan in a van, and industry, full of liberals. Dee Dee was an initially undiagnosed bi-polar case which lead to his use of whatever drug and drink he could get his hands on. Add a long-suffering road manager Monte Melnick, confine them all to a van for years and years, and you’ll have the basis for a extremely dysfunctional family. Joey and John never talked- NEVER. Generally Monte had to relay messages from one to another- while they were sitting a few feet away.
But from all that came brilliance. The Ramones were a key player in America’s punk rock beginnings, and their influence is seen everywhere today. They quite literally changed the world- and suffered for it. Marky Ramone, now sober and still travelling the world playing punk rock, is an able relater of all that occurred, both the good and the bad. Punk Rock Blitzkrieg is an arresting, if somewhat sad read.