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Review: Marky Ramone’s Punk Rock Blitzkrieg December 14, 2014

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews, Music.
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Another Netgalley review.

It’s not the first Ramones book, or the first Ramones band member memoir, but it’s the first one I’ve read. Some of the revelations make me want to read a few other books to see how those situations are presented there, but for now I’ll go with Marky’s version.

Marc Bell was not one of the original Ramones lineup, but he was on the scene, playing with Wayne County and Richard Hell and the Voidoids — and if that NYC punk cred isn’t enough, he’d already been in a hard rock band that released a couple of albums and did pretty well for a while. He was a Ramone for a long stretch and saw a lot.

Bell starts his story with his family and his childhood. To be honest, I found the early chapters a bit dull; they could be the recollections of any number of aging New Yorkers. But things pick up when he starts to get some success as a musician, and once the early punk scene starts, the book started getting a lot more fun. Well, that’s what I’m interested in, so it makes sense, but it also seems to spark a lot more interesting, amusing, and sometimes disturbing anecdotes from the author.

Marky was a Ramone for a few years (including the making of the Rock and Roll High School film, the Phil Spector-produced End of the Century album, and other key moments), then was booted for a few years, at which point he finally got sober and cleaned up his act. And then he was invited to rejoin the band, and was a member to the end.

The Ramones, as presented here, are two things — a great and massively influential band who never had the success they deserved (which is, of course, quite true) and a collection of deeply messed up individuals who had serious individual problems and, in some cases, serious problems with each other. Joey was badly affected by obsessive-compulsive disorder and a lack of basic hygiene; Johnny was a chickenhawk conservative who beat his girlfriend; Dee Dee would take any drug in sight and seriously lacked any kind of impulse control. Marky’s problem was his drinking. That, at least, is the picture presented by the book. It’s a bittersweet ending — too late in the game they start getting real success in parts of the world, not just the respect of musicians, critics, and fans. And then, over too few years, Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee died. Marky tried to brighten the mood by pointing out the respect the band has now, and by mentioning the success of some of his post-Ramones endeavours — but the band members never properly reconciled. If they were all alive and healthy, there’s no reason to think a reunion could ever happen.

(I never got to see them live. I had a ticket to see them about 25 years or so ago and came down with the worst flu of my life.)

This is the second punk memoir I’ve read recently, after Viv Albertine’s, and while it may not be fair to make comparisons, I found Albertine’s book better written and more insightful. But Marky’s book is still a good read, once it gets into gear.

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