The Songs Of Ramones Drummer Richie Ramone

Ramones Albums

Feature Photo: Mabg1989, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Many notable and historic bands have members that never get the recognition they deserve. One case is former Ramones drummer, Richie Ramone. Richie’s contributions, in his handful of years with the band, were vast. He provided a level of instrumental expertise not seen with previous Ramones drummers as well as providing unique background vocals. Furthermore, Richie was the only drummer in the band to write a song by himself as well as sing lead vocals in a song. Before moving over to further discussion regarding Richie, a quick synopsis of the shuffle of band members will provide an essential contextual layer.

When The Ramones started, the original members consisted of Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy. Tommy, as the first drummer, only joined the band at the behest of his fellow Ramones. Originally a three-piece, the Ramones had Dee Dee as lead singer/bassist, Johnny as guitarist, and Joey as the drummer. Early on, Dee Dee realized he had trouble singing and playing bass at the same time. The band discovered that Joey had some vocal chops but was finding it just as difficult as Dee Dee to play while singing. It was decided Joey would take over the lead vocals duty and they would find a new drummer. However, finding someone on the same page as the rest of the band proved difficult. Tommy, who had hoped to act only as a manager/producer for the band, found his way behind the drum set. Tommy left in 1978 due to the strains of touring but stayed on as a member of the production team for Road to Ruin.

When Tommy left in 1978, Mark Bell, formerly of Richard Hell and the Voidoids, joined. He was dubbed Marky Ramone and became the man with the most years behind the kit for the band. However, his 16 years as Ramones drummer came in the form of two different stints with the band. The first stint ended in 1983 when Marky was fired from the band due to issues his issues with alcohol. Marky would return in 1987, staying with the band until its dissolution in 1996.

In between Marky’s two stints, Richard Reinhardt would join the band. He was christened Richie Ramone and went on to have a fruitful five years with the band (1983-1987). Richie gave the band an edge that had been missing on the few albums preceding his entry, including the slick Phil Spector-produced End of the Century. In those five years, Richie participated in recording Too Tough to Die, Animal Boy, and Halfway to Sanity. Throughout those three albums, he penned 6 songs on his own and provided vocals to a few more. What follows is a deeper examination of those tracks to fully realize Richie’s significance to punk legends, The Ramones.

“HumanKind”

This was the first song Richie wrote that made it onto an actual album. That album being his first with the band, Too Tough to Die. Too Tough to Die is often seen as a return to form of sorts. It sports a more classically punk sound with hardcore sensibilities. “Human Kind” is no exception. A hard and driving song with an edge, and the sound Richie would become synonymous with. The lyrics take a hard cynical look at the human race and society in general.

“Smash You”

“Smash You” was recorded and written during the Too Tough to Die sessions. It didn’t make its way onto the formal album. However, it was a B-side to “Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La).” “Smash You”, while still fast-paced and punk-laced, had a poppier catchiness to it than “Human Kind.” It showed Richie could diversify his sound and had depth as a musical author.

“Elevator Operator”

Not much is known about “Elevator Operator.” It is an unreleased track from the Too Tough to Die sessions. Joey is thought to have written the song. There are numerous theories as to who is backing Richie on the track. The song starts with a few bars of classic “Stand By Me” followed by “Then She Kissed Me.” It then launches into a grainy, heady, bubble-gum punk tune. All the while, Richie sings in a rough-and-tumble swagger, about garden parties and his love for the elevator operator. The song has only surfaced on unofficial compilations.

“Chasing the Night”

While everyone knows the original version of “Chasing the Night” on Too Tough to Die, there is a demo from the album where Richie works the mic. A classic composed by Joey, Dee Dee, and Busta Jones, it boasted a new wave bordering on power pop sound complete with an infectious synthesizer part. The demo blended Richie’s unique and aggressive vocal manner with a synthesizer less rawness that produced a proto-punk tune akin to 60s garage rock stylings.

“Somebody Put Something in My Drink”

“Somebody Put Something in My Drink” was the first track on Animal Boy as well as the second single released from the album. Lyrically, the song was about Richie’s experience with having his drink spiked. Easily the most prominent song that Richie wrote; it was also the heaviest. It became a staple of live shows and known as a fan favorite. The track is in-your-face metal that would have felt at home on a Judas Priest album. Interestingly, Joey changed his vocal tone to fit the indignant machismo thrust upon him by Richie’s work.

“Can’t Say Anything Nice”

Recorded during the Animal Boy sessions, “Can’t Say Anything Nice” was released as a limited B-side in Europe. It is unique in that it is the only song written by Richie where he also bestowed us with lead vocal duties. A straight-forward, bombastic punk tune, it dials the clocks back a decade to a 77-punk approach.

“I Know Better Now”

Halfway to Sanity was the last Ramones work to feature Richie. It was the only album where he had more than one writing credit, one of which was “I Know Better Now.” A classic Ramonesesque tale of rebellion with a catchy hook reminiscent of 70s heyday output like “Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy” and “I Wanna Be Well.”

“I’m Not Jesus”

The second and final song Richie contributed to Halfway to Sanity was “I’m Not Jesus.” An introspective number where Richie reflects on the pressure he was experiencing from others through the allegory of contrasting himself with Jesus. The tune contributed to the duality of Halfway to Sanity, juxtaposing melodic, 60s-pop-infused numbers such as “Bye Bye Baby” and “Go Lil’ Camaro Go” with the crushing, violent crossover of “I’m Not Jesus” and “Worm Man.”

The Songs Of Ramones Drummer Richie Ramone article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

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