MARKY RAMONE with DJ BARBI and JOHNNY RUDE at Spin Gallery (1100 Queen West), Friday (June 9). $15 advance, more at the door. www.milkaudio.com. Rating: NNNNN
These days it seems like every rock star is trying his or her hand at DJing, but who would have guessed Marky Ramone (aka Marc Bell) would try spinning records? Granted, he's not buying dance singles to mix and scratch, but the punk legend is indeed a DJ, even if he might get an engineer to press "play" on the CD player for him.
"I don't know how much longer I'll be doing the club thing, but so far it's been really fun," confesses Bell from his New York home. "People keep calling me up and asking me to do it, and I've been enjoying it. I'm not playing dance music or anything -- it's just songs that I like. No rap, no metal, a lot of songs that the Ramones liked, some Ramones songs, some old songs, some new songs, no shmaltz, no crap."
Long before the Sex Pistols made punk a household word, Marky Ramone was sneaking into bars with fake ID, too scared to try to buy a drink in case he got kicked out. He was only 18 when he auditioned for the New York Dolls, and not much older when he started drumming for proto-punk acts like Richard Hell and the Voidoids and Wayne County (now known as Jayne County). In 1978 he got the call from the Ramones to replace Tommy Ramone, and ended up staying with them for 15 years, counting out that famous 1-2-3-4! countless times over the years.
His new life as a DJ developed through his satellite radio show on Sirius, where twice a week he plays his favourite tunes free from the playlists and interference he'd have to contend with on traditional radio. As Bell explains, it was a pursuit that kind of found him.
"When I was on Howard Stern, he would sometimes take me aside and tell me I had a good voice for radio. Also, when Joey and I were on tour and doing radio interviews, we'd often pick a few songs to play and I'd introduce them."
Besides the DJing thing, Bell is branching out into writing and hopes to have his tell-all history of the Ramones and early NYC punk out next year. Those paying attention might point out that Dee Dee Ramone already wrote his version of the Ramones story, but Bell describes Dee Dee's take on it as "not completely truthful" and fuelled more by his imagination in many spots.
One of the more surreal parts of the Ramones' long, strange history was their work with legendary producer Phil Spector, who of course is now in the courts on murder charges. Given the stories about Spector bringing guns into the studio, was Bell surprised at his current troubles?
"I knew him, and I know he's no murderer. I know [Spector and actor Lana Clarkson] were both under the influence of something, and you just shouldn't mix guns and booze. He might wave a gun around once in a while, but I never saw him point one at anyone, ever."