It’s been seventeen years and two months since The Ramones played their final show in Los Angeles (“a real slap in the face to New York” as C.J. Ramone said) on August 6, 1996. The line-up included Joey, Johnny, C.J. and Marky (along with appearances by Dee Dee Ramone, Eddie Vedder, Lemmy Kilmster, Chris Cornell and Rancid’s Tim Armstrong & Lars Frederiksen.
On October 6, 2013, drummer Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg stormed the stage at the Theater of Living Arts in Philadelphia, fronted by self-proclaimed King of Partying, Andrew W.K. (also a drummer who set the Guinness World Record recently for longest drum session – 24 straight hours). There really hasn’t been a better frontman for this incarnation of the Ramones material since it was sung by the late Jeffrey Hyman. (And it’s worth noting, I always thought Andrew W.K.’s “Party Till You Puke” sounded extremely similar to Ramones‘ “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment.”) Dressed in all white (a contrast to everyone else on stage’s black shirt, black jeans, and black and white Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars), he spent very little time engaging the crowd with needless banter (as a Ramones show should be handled), shouting out Marky once in a while, dedicating “Pet Sematary” to Steve King and musing, as they launched into “I Can’t Make It On Time” before the second encore, “You guys aren’t ready to go home yet are you?” to a thunderous explosion by a sweat-soaked, aging punk-rock, Philly crowd.
When he’s not DJing, fixing up old cars or making his own pasta sauce, Mark Bell does session work, live drumming and plays some of the greatest rock songs in the world with his touring group Blitzkrieg. And no one gives enough credit to Marky, the longest tenured drummer in the second-longest tenured punk band in history (only surpassed recently, I believe, by NOFX). Many musical virtuosos may write off Ramones music, but few can actually play it properly. Marky has stamina times a thousand to be able to play that thumping backbeat for an hour and a half with almost no break in between songs (minus the two extremely short intermissions before encores).
And many people don’t realize how hard Johnny Ramone’s relentless style of guitar playing is: all down strokes. This creates a wall of sound which is uninterrupted by unnecessary up strokes. Playing Johnny’s parts in Marky’s Blitzkrieg tonight was Mark Neuman, guitarist for Sheer Terror and a product manager at Sony who looked a bit like Judas Priest’s Rob Halford. I couldn’t find the name of the bassist, but he did a great job as Dee Dee (or C.J.) filling out the rhythm section and counting off the songs with that now infamous, “Onetwothreefour!”
The show was more about Marky and W.K. teaming up though. Andrew knew right away that he would do this tour:
“When Marky Ramone asks you to be his singer, you don’t even think about it. It’s an automatic, YES. I was intimidated by the magnitude of the opportunity – freaked out and overwhelmed – but I was also completely determined and focused – it’s something I had to do. Even just the first rehearsal felt like an odyssey, but that’s how you can tell the experience is changing your life. I’ve never had a more rewarding, humbling, or challenging invitation than this, and I’m serving the gods via this incredible sound Marky and his band created. There’s never been better rock ‘n’ roll music made than this, and I will give everything I have to do it justice.”
And he certainly did. While Joey Ramone was more adept to shyness at times, Andrew W.K. knows how to control a room, but did so in a very humorous and reserved way, knowing that he was not necessarily the main attraction. It was the music that was the star this night, and the four-piece ripped through 30 Ramones originals, plus a few covers like Louis Armstrong, Tom Waits, Motörhead, Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers and Bobby Freeman (all covered by the Ramones at some point in their career).
It’s gonna be interesting to see the Ramones in the new “CBGB” movie which opens October 11, even if Jim Farber of New York Daily News calls it “a poorly written, clumsily acted mess.”
And while the Buzzfeed article, “23 Pieces of Evidence That Punk is Dead,” contains a ton a Ramones logo rip-offs by popular culture punching bags like One Direction, Justin Bieber and Fergie, it just goes to show that Ramones music is just as relevant as it ever was and more important today than many music snobs would’ve given it credit for in 1978 when Marky replaced original drummer Tommy. Gabba Gabba Hey, pinheads!
Do You Wanna Dance (Bobby Freeman cover)
I Don’t Care
Sheena is a Punk Rocker
I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
Beat on the Brat
53rd & 3rd
I Don’t Want You
Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School
Oh Oh I Love Her So
She’s the One
Judy is a Punk
I Believe in Miracles
The KKK Took My Baby Away
Chinese Rock (written by Dee Dee, originally recorded by The Heartbreakers)
I Wanna Be Sedated
I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You
Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?
I Just Want to Have Something to Do
I Don’t Want to Grow Up (Tom Waits cover)
R.A.M.O.N.E.S. (Motörhead cover)
I Can’t Make It On Time
I Don’t Wanna Go Down the Basement
My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitberg)
What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong cover)