Even though his namesake band hung up their leather jackets and ”Gabba Gabba Hey” signs three years ago, Joey Ramone isn’t quite ready to be put out to the punk-rock pasture. This week Rhino Records is releasing ”Hey Ho Let?s Go!,” a double disc that includes the group?s blink-and-you?ll-miss-’em rave-ups (”Blitzkrieg Bop,” ”Pinhead”) and various oddities and hard-to-find tracks (”Pet Sematary,” anyone?). What’s more, a 20th anniversary DVD edition of ”Rock ?N? Roll High School,” the band?s 1979 excursion into Roger Corman B-movie territory, is just out on Slingshot video.
The 47-year-old singer says he isn’t exactly surprised by the Ramones renaissance. ”We pioneered a whole new sound and style that?s been the blueprint for young bands ever since the ’70s,” he tells EW Online. ”The Ramones were always kind of handed down from older brothers and sisters to the younger kids. And today there?s a whole new punk scene, with bands like Green Day and the Offspring that have been listening.”
The quartet’s influence isn?t limited to the pierced-and-Mohawked crowd, however. Ramone counts country-rock singer Lucinda Williams — whom he befriended on a radio-show appearance — as a fan: ”It always kind of blows my mind when I meet somebody (whom we?ve influenced) who?s doing something so differently than us, musically.”
A quintessential New Yorker, Ramone makes a point of staying true to his roots, occasionally dropping in to catch a show at CBGB, the Manhattan club that served as a launchpad for the punk and new-wave movement in the mid ’70s. In fact, Spike Lee could have used the singer’s help when re-creating CBGB for several scenes in ”Summer of Sam.” ”There were a lot of inaccuracies,” says Ramone of Lee’s depiction of punk in ’77, ”like the way the people looked in the crowd, with all those piercings and nose rings. No one had any of that.”
This week, Ramone will be returning to another of his old haunts, the East Village mainstay Coney Island High, to host a benefit for the Independents, a fledgling punk outfit he?s been mentoring and managing. The bash is part of the high-tech Digital Club Festival, which gives the ever-rebellious punker a millennium-ending opportunity to revolt against the powers that be. ”I think it?s great that MP3 has given the record companies a run for their money. They?ve dominated things for too long, so it?s cool to see them running scared.”
And although Ramone says he has mixed feelings about the quality of ”Rock ?N? Roll High School” — and its unwatchable Corey Feldman-starring follow-up, ”Rock ?N? Roll High School Forever” — he is still acting and has a role in ”Final Rinse,” an indie film currently making the festival rounds. He and the rest of the Ramones are also mulling over an offer from a German filmmaker to appear in a biopic of the band sometime later this year. But don’t count on the boys staging a full-scale musical reunion. ”We?ll be eligible for induction into the Rock ?N? Roll Hall of Fame in two years, so maybe then,” says Ramone of a onetime gig. ”But then again, that?s the point where rock ?n? roll becomes kinda pretentious. Rock ?n? roll isn?t about a bunch of guys in tuxes.”