“I got serious with him and told him that he was alienating people,” Johnny says. “And I got him to see the point.” When Johnny Ramone tells you something is uncool, well, it is.
Harnessing chaos, humor and danger, the Ramones created the template of the rock ‘n’ roll revolution that was punk rock.
Even then, though, Johnny’s conservative side showed. When the band wanted to record “Chinese Rocks,” a song co-written by bassist Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny disapproved of the reference to a strain of dope that was prevalent at the time.
Ditto when the other guys in the band came up with “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg,” a tune disparaging Johnny’s beloved Mr. Reagan. (Sample lyric: “You’re a politician / Don’t become one of Hitler’s children.”) Both times, he lost. After all, a band is a democracy.
“But I really enjoyed upsetting them,” Johnny says of his former bandmates. “They called me the Rush Limbaugh of rock ‘n’ roll one time in a Village Voice interview. But, hey, they were just old hippies.” Two are dead now: Singer Joey succumbed to cancer in 2001 and Dee Dee to a heroin overdose in 2002. Longtime (but not original) Ramones drummer Marky still plays around in the underground scene.
Like so many other right-wingers. who are fed up with the media establishment, Johnny tunes in to the radio every day for some roiling rhetoric and to the Web for some news that doesn’t seem to make the local newspaper.
“Hey,” he says, perusing Newsmax.com as he speaks on the phone, “what’s going on with these illegal aliens now?”