Too Tough To Die S1-E8

Ramones in the 1980's with drummer Richie. Note Dee Dee's short hair.

The Ramones get a new drummer.  Then loose a drummer.  And then get an old drummer.  Dee Dee starts rapping but trouble is brewing.  The Ramones trek on through the 1980’s.


Coming soon


Transcript (unedited):

The Year is 1983 The Ramones have a new album coming out, Subterranean Jungle. They just fired their drummer Marky for having a drinking problem. They needed a new drummer and then they would be back at it. My Name is Harley Isaac Rother, I’m a musician, rock n roller and now podcaster. Welcome to Guitars and Stolen Cars - Season 1 The Ramones Episode 8 - Too Tough to Die

Marky was out and it was time to took for a new drummer so The Ramones held auditions. Richard Reinhardt was a drummer playing in bands around New York. He hung out with some of the Ramones roadies, and they got him an audition. Richie wasn’t a punk music fan and he didn’t own a single Ramones album. But the band liked him at the audition. He was professional, didn’t have any drug or drinking problems, and he could sing harmony and write songs. Plus, he was already friends with the crew. Good enough. Richard Reinhardt became Richie Ramone. Richie said: “It was difficult working myself up to the speed. There are 3 speeds in the Ramones fast, pretty fast and very fast.”

The new Ramones album, their seventh, Subterranean Jungle, came out in February 1983. It was produced by Ritchie Cordell, who had recently done a number 1 hit song with Joan Jett, I love Rock N Roll. But not even he could help the Ramones lackluster album sales. It went to number 83 and the singles failed to even chart. Oh Well. It may have had too many covers as Marky complained about in the last episode, but it also had some classic Ramones song like Outsider written by Dee Dee and Psycho Therapy written by Dee Dee and Johnny. Everything that is good about the Ramones is in these songs. Psychotherapy is classic Ramones. Literally psychotic lyrics, powerful guitars and fast drumming with great hooks <>

Outsider is also a classic celebrating being an outsider. Outside of everything <>

The album had three covers Little bit O Soul which had been a hit for the Music Explosion in 1967 Time has come today by The Chambers Brothers which had also been a hit in 1967 and a song Called i need your love which was written by a guy named Bobby Dee Waxman but was never a hit.

Waxman played in some minor CBGB’s bands in the 70’s and recorded an unrelased demo of I need your love. It’s a little unclear how the Ramones came upon this song other than knowing it from the CBGB’s days. Here is Bobby Dee Waxmans group the Boyrfiends doing I need your love.

Now here is the Ramones doing I need your love

A little bit of Soul is the alum opener. Here’s the hit version from the 60’s

Here is the ramones

Time has come today was done by Chambers Brothers. In addition to being a hit, its notable for the first use of the word Psychedelic in a song. Willie chambers sings My soul has been psychedelisised. Here is the Chambers brother in 1967

Here is the Ramones in 1983

These covers are decent but may come off like filler when put against original tunes like Outsider and Psycho Therapy

With the album out, it was time to hit the road with their new drummer Richie. The Ramones tour machine ground on. The East coast, the south, the west coast, the midwest, Canada, back through the midwest, south again and east coast again. Close to 100 shows that year. Not bad. Amy Carter, the daughter of president Jimmie Carter, came to a show in Georgia. She was a Ramones fan.

Meanwhile, Johnny had secretly moved in with Joey’s ex Linda. But he didn’t want Joey to find out, as he knew, it would only further fan the flames. So Johnny kept his old apartment with his own ex girlfriend, Roxy, and got a new apartment with Linda. He would always have the band pick him up, and drop him off at his old place, hoping no one would find out about him and Linda living together.

After a local show in Queens, Johnny got dropped off at his old apartment like usual. It was around 3 in the morning and Johnnys ex, Roxy was hanging in front of the apartment drinking with a random punk rock guy. Johnny didn’t like that one bit. He ordered Roxy to get inside and told the guy to get lost. Johnny was used to intimidating people. He was a 6’1” all American, former construction worker, current punk rock guitar hero, with a leather jacket. But punk had changed. The punk rockers of 1983 were no longer just arty weirdos who could be pushed around. Punk had turned into hardcore and was more street. The law of the street says never let someone push you around. So when Johnny walked up to the punk rock kid and told him to get lost, the kid hit Johnny in the face. Johnny went down and the kid kicked him in head with a steal toe boot. Johnny woke up in the hospital and had to get brain surgery for a fractured skull. And he had made the cover of the NY Post: “Punk superstar Johnny Ramone and his blonde lover Cynthia Whittney aka Roxy. Hes fighting for his life in a greenwich village hospital after being stomped by another rocker during a jealous fury.” Read the NY post. The Times, and other leading papers also covered the incident. Great, finally getting some publicity. He was out of commission for 3 months in recovery. But by December of ’83 the Ramones were playing shows again. And Johnny gave up the charade of hiding that he was living with Linda.

The Ramones spent the first half on 1984 playing shows on the east coast and writing a new album. The album would be called Too Tough to Die. Maybe, because Johnny was out of the Hospital and was too tough to die, or maybe because the Ramones were too tough too die. They had been a band for 8 years, they were on their 3rd drummer and 8th album. Most of their peers had fallen by the wayside or gone pop. But the Ramones were too tough to die. They were done with the hot shot producers and the brought back the old team, Tommy Ramone and Ed Stasium. The album was good. The Ramones incorporated two new styles in their sound Hardcore, the sub-genre of punk that was faster and well more hardcore than the original punk sound, and in the complete opposite direction, 80’s dance pop. The Ramones could nail both styles. Check out the Hardcore song WartHog. Deedee sings the verses and Joey comes in for the Chorus. <>

On the Dance pop side is Howling at The Moon. A song Dee Dee wrote about Marijuana. They brought in some guests for this one, Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics co-produced the song and Ben Tench from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers plays keyboard. <> That song has pop hit written all over it. But the music industry was in the habit of ignoring the Ramones, and this would be no exception. The album came out in October with no hit and the Ramones went back on tour. The east coast, the south, the west-coast and the midwest.

In the West, they did three shows with Black Flag. Black Flag were the Ramones of hardcore. They persevered against the odds, and toured relentlessly. In fact, members of Black Flag saw the Ramones in the 70’s were inspired to see that The Ramones drove to the show in a van, not a tour bus. If the Ramones could do it so could they. And they did. But Black Flag was hated by the LAPD. The LAPD would take any, and every opportunity to harass Black Flag and their fans. The show at the Hollywood palladium with The Ramones was no exception. The Police swarmed the gathered crowd in riot gear. Dee Dee remembered “that night was a heavy night. There was a bad riot. They broke all the windows on Hollywood boulevard. I saw policeman hitting girls with truncheons.”

While the Ramones were touring and recording Too Tough to Die, former Ramone drummer, Marky was drinking. He tried to quit, but he got really bad Delirium Tremens, also known as the DT’s or alcohol withdrawals. One time, when he stayed sober for a day, it got so bad that he hallucinated a dinosaur chasing him around the neighborhood, and he had to run home and hide under his blankets. Another time, while on a binge, he crashed his 1968 Cadillac Coup De Ville into the front of a furniture store. It was 3 in the afternoon. He had to get sober. Not just because he wanted to, but now the court was ordering him to. He went to rehab and stayed sober for 7 weeks, but one thing led to another, and soon enough he was back at it. After he started a fist fight with his old friend Johnny Thunders for being in a bar bathroom, when Marky was trying to use it, he knew it was time to get sober for real. He checked into a more intensive rehab center and came out clean. He never drank again.

In 1985 the Ramones did more touring of America and Europe. Including two shows in Europe opening for U2 and REM. Two more bands the Ramones had influenced, but were now massively eclipsing them.

In may of 85 US president Ronald Reagan took a visit to Bitburg Cemetery in Germany where he laid a reef. The problem with that is, there were Nazi’s berried at the cemetery, and it looked like The president of the United states was morning the death of Nazi’s. Joey and DeeDee didn’t like this, and wrote a song critical of Reagan called Bonzo Goes to Bitburg. Bonzo was the name of a monkey in a movie that President Reagan had starred in during his acting career. Their manager, Gary Kurfist, teamed the Ramones up with Jean Beauvior, who had played in the punk band The Plasmatics, but was now doing production work. He did a great job. The B-side of the single is an obscure Ramones song called Go home Anne. It’s notable only because it was mixed by Motorhead’s Lemmy Killmiester.

Anyway, everyone, except for Johnny, loved the job Jean Beauvior did on Bonzo Goes to Bitburg, so they decided to put it on the next album, and have Beauvior produce. Animal Boy, the name of the album was recored in December of 1985. It opens with Somebody Put Something in My drink, which was written by the new Ramones Drummer Richie. <> It’s a good song but the real standout of the album is Bonzo Goes to Bitburg. Johnny, a staunch conservative, didn’t like them taking a shot a President Reagan, so he made them change the song title on the album to My Brain Is Hanging Upside down. It’s a return to the dance pop style they had nailed on the last album with Howlin at the Moon. The most pointed lyrics in the song are “You're a politician. Don't become one of Hitler's children”. But the Chorus is a sing along of My Brain hanging upside down, presumably because they couldn’t believe the president was honoring nazi’s <>.

Also in 1985, Little Steven Van Zanbt, the guitar player in Bruce Springsteen’s band, put together Artists United Against Apartheid, to protest the racist Apartheid state in South Africa and raise money. Little Steven invited Joey Ramone to be a part of it. He was surprised how excited Joey was to be included in the project and how much Joey cared about this issue. In fact, Joey would go on to put together his own project called, Joey Ramone and the Resistance, to play rallies and fundraisers for progressive political causes. Joey Ramone was a mensch.

The Ramones didn’t do a lot in the 1st half of 1986 but when Animal Boy Came out in May, they did their standard tour to promote it. The East-coast, England, the mid west and the west coast.

1987 started with shows in the tri-state area and the south. And for the first time two shows in Sao Paulo, Brazil and one in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Then back to the studio for a new album.

Daniel Rey had played in a band called, Shrapnel that had opened for the Ramones in the past. He was friends with the band and had been spending his time producing demos in his parents basement. Johnny heard one of these demos, and thought it sounded better than the last Ramones album. So Johnny brought him in to produce the next album. Daniel had never produced anything besides home demos, thus his rate was very cheep. Perfect for the Ramones. He had other benefits too. He could get along with both Joey and Johnny, a rarity a this point, and he could co-write songs since he was a musician. The album, Halfway to Sanity, was decent. One deep cut and hi-light of the album is a song called, Go Little Camero Go written by DeeDee. It features guest vocals from the bands old friend Debby Harry of Blondie. The song captures everything thats great about rock n roll. Fast cars, catchy melodies and the Ramones <> The main highlight of the album is another Dee Dee song that he co-wrote with producer Daniel Ray. A classic Ramones I Wanna Live. It’s somewhere between the Dance pop and the original Ramones style but it’s great <>

With their new album Halfway to Sanity in that can, the Ramones were back on the road. But trouble was brewing. Again. Richie Ramone, the drummer who had replaced Marky, had been in the band 4 years. He was on 3 albums, some of which contained songs he wrote, and he had played around 400 shows with the band. But he was still being paid as a hired gun. He wasn’t making any money on the Ramones biggest cash cow, T-Shirts, and to add insult to injury, his name was on the shirts! Richie had been making a fuss about it and Joey was sympathetic, but Johnny’s attitude was fine, we’ll just take your name off the shirts, they’re not buying it because it has your name on it. The truth is, Johnny was just a tough negotiator and to Johnny, thats how you negotiate. He would have budged eventually. But that would never happen because the middle of a string of shows, Richie heard that he was going to be fired after the upcoming Ramones tour. That wasn’t true, but it was enough to be that last straw for Richie. After finishing a gig in long island, Richie called a limo went out the back of the club, got in the limo and was gone. They never heard from him again.

But they had shows coming up! 12 shows were canceled. They called on their old friend Clem Burke, the dummer of Blondie. They had more shows booked and did not want to cancel. There was not a lot of time to rehearse. They did two shows with Clem but they did not go well. Clem, as a musician is an artist, he said of his playing “I don’t necessarily believe in playing the same thing every time”. But they Ramones didn’t need an artist, they needed a machine. The Ramones felt like Clem was uneven, and couldn’t keep up with them. Johnny said “He couldn’t keep up. Not even close. I felt two feet tall when we played those shows”. Clem, on the other hand, felt the opposite “I was a better player than they had been used to, and I don’t know if they could actually keep up with me”. The truth is, Clem Burke and the Ramones just weren’t a good fit musically. But the Ramones were in a pinch. They had shows booked on the east coast, the west coast and Europe.

Monte Melnick, The ever resourceful tour manager knew what to do. He called Marky. Marky had been fired because of his alcohol problem 4 years earlier, but now Marky was in AA and had been sober for several years. Monte got Marky an audition. The audition turned out to be just a jam session with Johnny. They played, it clicked. Johnny told Marky, its like you never left. Marky was a Ramone again. And they were back on tour.

But Marky noticed some changes since he had left in 1982. “When I went back, the fucking tension in the band was so thick you could cut it with a knife… Joey was drinking and doing coke. Joey and Johnny were definetly not talking… and I don’t know what planet Dee Dee was on. He was on psycho drugs, smoking pot, wearing Adidas uniforms, sneakers and gold chains.” Dee dee was rapping in the tour van. He had recently been in and out of a mental institution, and inside the other patients got Dee Dee into hip hop. Run DMC and LL Cool J. As Dee Dee put it “I went out and bought 10 adidas jumpsuits and matching sneaker, and wrote 10 raps”. Marky observed “He could rap and annoy Johnny at the same time.” Dee Dee said rap and punk are “both rebellious music of the streets”. Deedee recorded a laughably bad rap single called Funky Man. He also cut off his bowl cut Ramones hair as a fuck you to Johnny. He was defying the Ramones uniform. <>

After doing some shows Marky also noticed the crowds had changed since he left. Well sort of. They were bigger but they were largely the same age. In other words, the Ramones got older, but their fans stayed the same age. A new generation of kids were coming to their shows.

The Ramones spent 1988, the year I was born, touring America and Europe. In December, they went back to the studio to record their 11th album, Brain Drain. They had a new producer, Bill Laswell, who had worked with everyone from jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock, to the metal band Motorhead. Previous Ramones producers Daniel Rey and Jean Beauviour also worked on the album.

The hi-light of the album, is without a doubt, Pet Cemetery. A song DeeDee wrote with Daniel Ray. Steven King, still an avid Ramones fan, asked them to write a song for a movie that was being made based on his novel Pet Cemetery. The story of Pet Cemetery revolves around a cursed pet seminary, where any pet or any one who gets berried there comes back to life as an evil version of themselves. Deedee asked for a summery of the plot and came back an hour later with the song. It’s a new take on the Ramones classic I dont wanna song format. “I Don’t wanna be berried in a pet Cemetery. I don’t Wanna Live My life again.” Brilliant! Stylistically, it was in the 80’s dance pop vein complete with sythasiers’s and 80’s drum sounds. But it still had Ramones guitars and was a great song <> Another hilight of the album is Joey’s I dont wanna, Christmas tune, Merry Christmas I dont Wanna Fight tonight. The song is closer to the original Ramones format. 1950’s style rock with distorted guitars <>

Even though he was still delivering great songs, Dee Dee was checking out. He didn’t even want to play on the album, so Daniel Ray did most of the bass tracks. When the Ramones went on tour to support the album, Dee dee wasn’t interested in performing. He just stood on stage not moving at all, which was totally lame compared to his old stage antics of jumping, spinning and rocking out. In between tours in 1989, Sire records let Deedee cut a full length hip hop album. He took on the rap name Dee Dee King and brought in Daniel Ray to produce. Daniel Ray commented “next thing i know we’re in the studio doing this thing for real - to my horror”. Dee Dee Kings album is universally panned, but it actually has some decent songs and is much better than the earlier single. My favorite is German Kid, where Dee Dee raps in English and German, and Blondies Debbie Harry sings the hook. <> Not exactly changing the rap game but an interesting foot note.

The Ramones toured for the first half on 1989 and then… Dee Dee quit. Management called a meeting to see what was up and Dee Dee didn’t show. Johnny said, “if you were to ask Dee dee why he quit every day, you would get a different answer each time.” But there may be no single reason why Dee Dee quit. He had been in the band with Joey and Johnny for 15 years. That was a long time, especially given that they hadn’t really gotten along since 1977 and they toured constantly. Another reason may be that Dee Dee stopped taking his medication. He left his wife and moved out of the suburbs and into the Chelsea Hotel in the city. As Dee dee put it; “When I left the Ramones in July 89, I made a lotta changes in my life. I left, my wife, I left my girlfriend and I left the band.” Dee Dee Ramone, was no longer a Ramone.

In the next episode the Ramones make it to the 1990’s and the band ends on a high note. Sort of. See you in the next episode Adios Amigos.