If you’ve ever caught an interview with Marky Ramone you know he tends to sound a little rehearsed, like he has stock answers he’d prefer to substitute for in-the-moment emotion. Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life As A Ramone reads a lot like that. It’s less heated than Johnny’s Commando or any of Dee Dee’s volumes, working hard to cram in the most superfluous exposition (OMG, we know what the fucking Berlin Wall was). That said, our self-proclaimed Chicken Beak Boy manages to add a tiny bit of fresh perspective to the Ramones legend while additionally owning up to his own bonkers alcoholism.
Granted, it’s frustrating the drummer can be so candid about substance abuse while ignoring more interesting bits of his mythology, but I suppose only a fool would have expected a chapter devoted to Mark’s alleged wig wearing. There are also several points where it’s not difficult to read between the lines. Die-hards are familiar with the drama between Marky and C.J. and in this tome the former damns the latter with faint praise, mostly saluting his attitude while offering no adjective above “good” to describe the bassist’s playing. Even more telling: there’s no reference to the half decade Mark spent drumming for the Misfits.
Punk Rock Blitzkrieg covers well-worn ground in regard to the founding “bruddahs”: Johnny was fervently right wing, Joey was severely OCD, Dee Dee never met a pill he didn’t like, Tommy was sensitive. Even the author’s struggles with the bottle have been tackled to varying degrees elsewhere. If there’s any revelation in PR Blitzkrieg it’s Marky’s admission that he believes Phil Spector to be innocent of Lana Clarkson’s 2003 murder. Give him credit for sticking by his pal.
The most fascinating stuff in the book comes before Mark’s time in the Ramones, when he bounced from power trio Dust to country rockers Estus (major label ding dongs who owned a swank mansion in upstate New York) before landing in Richard Hell’s Voidoids. The Voidoids were mastering their debut album the night of the 1977 New York City blackout. On his way home, Mark decided it was time to get his; he picked up a trash can and attempted to hurl it through a bank window. The can bounced off the plexiglass like a Nerf football. Inside, a security guard smiled and waved.
Other interesting snippets: Steven Tyler was nice to the Ramones back in the day, Sting wasn’t, Dee Dee’s rap career was just as much about annoying the other Ramones as it was about a love for hip hop, Marky has a twin brother named Fred, Marky likes the Circle Jerks.
Punk Rock Blitzkrieg summed up in one line: probably the one on the last page where Marky expresses satisfaction with his career because both the Pope and Obama are Ramones fans. I’ve never seen Barack in a Mondo Bizarro t-shirt but I’m happy to take the Chicken Beak’s word.
Johnny may have been the General, the guy who made the trains run on time, but in a pinch he always deferred to Tommy. That’s because Tommy was smart as hell and could visualize this thing called the Ramones before it even existed. Necessity planted him behind the drums (no one else really grok’d this sound), and how lucky for us. Tommy worked like a dog behind the scenes but that percussive attack was so even and strong that some fans insist the Ramones stopped being the Ramones once he quit.
And only in a band like the Ramones could other members actually harass Tommy for being relatively normal. Witness: the interview snippet in End Of The Century where Dee Dee admits he gave Tommy so much shit back in the day because he was jealous the guy knew how to cook. Regardless of interpersonal dynamics, to fans Tom was Teflon Ramone, the Ramone you just couldn’t dislike for any reason. He drummed on the three best albums (Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket To Russia), produced the best two he didn’t play on (Road To Ruin, Too Tough To Die), wrote the lion’s share of their undying anthem “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and remained pleasantly normal as the years rolled on.
Once the Ramones were done, Tommy seemed like the peacekeeper. He wasn’t arguing with Joey on “Howard Stern.” He wasn’t writing books full of dubious claims against his Bruddahs. Tommy just wanted to preserve the legacy and love his fellow Ramone—or at least dispel the myth that they all openly prayed for each other’s death. “Believe it or not, we really loved each other,” he told the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame during the Ramones’ induction. “Even when we weren’t acting civil…we were truly brothers.”
Tommy spoke those words with conviction, clarity, and palpable emotion. Unfortunately, that portion of the ceremony was quickly eclipsed by Johnny announcing “God bless President Bush” as he cradled his statue and Dee Dee thanking himself for being so wonderful (a cute moment, admittedly). In that sense, the induction was typical Ramones: a fat chunk of heart smothered in patriotism and self-reference.
Despite what you may have heard or read (even by my own hand), the Ramones are my favorite musicians in the history of recorded sound. Nothing else fills me with the same joy and excitement, and I mourn the loss of the last surviving original architect.
Thanks for everything, Tommy.
Welcome to the second installment of “The Cornuzine Interviews” (if you missed the first installment and want to know what the hell’s going on, click here). Today’s subject is Evan Cohen, a man who braved poop, pee, and a lot of other gross bodily fluids as bass player for GG Allin’s back-up band the Murder Junkies.
I first spoke with Evan in 2002; since then, we’ve kept in contact, mainly discussing the latest developments in the Star Wars universe. If you had told me when I was fourteen that I’d be corresponding with a Murder Junkie one day about Jawas and Ewoks, I probably would have laughed in your stupid, ugly face.
By the way, this interview was conducted via e-mail, which is why it reads so smoothly and features none of the patented “likes” or “uhs” that are a staple of my speaking voice.
EVAN COHEN: HE WAS A MURDER JUNKIE
JAMES GREENE, JR: Okay, Evan, now when exactly were you a Murder Junkie? What time period are we talking here?
EVAN COHEN: I was a Murder Junkie in 1993, for [the] last tour and beyond.
JG2: I didn’t see you in the definitive GG Allin documentary Hated.
EC: Then you weren’t paying attention. I was a pallbearer. I’m the only one wearing a suit.
JG2: I guess I wasn’t paying attention…I thought the guy in the suit was Dee Dee Ramone.
EC: Please, never confuse me with Dee Dee Ramone again.
JG2: So was that you on the guitar in that infamous footage of the “last show” in New York where it spills out onto the streets and a near riot ensues?
EC: No, I was the one who videotaped the last show.
JG2: My word. Were you frightened at all?
EC: No. I was scared shitless. I was terrified. But I was never frightened.
JG2: how did you become a Murder Junkie?
EC: When I moved to NYC in the fall of ’92 to go to NYU, the only person I knew in the city was [Furious George’s] George Tabb. We hung out all the time and I met everyone he knew. One of these people was [GG’s brother] Merle Allin. I’d see Merle every now and then, at shows or at parties, and we always got along. In April of ’93, George and I ran into Merle at the now defunct CBGB’s Pizza. Merle was telling George that he was looking for a roadie for the upcoming GG Allin tour. George suggested that he put an ad in the paper for one. Merle didn’t like that idea because he’d end up with some crazed fan that would just end up following GG around and wouldn’t get any work done. That’s when I interjected and volunteered my services. The rest as they say, is history.
JG2: How does Merle Allin differ from his famous brother?
EC: He’s alive.
JG2: Touché. Did GG ever attack you or anything?
EC: No. I had a contract with myself before the tour started. If anything “weird” happened to me personally—like if GG pulled some shit with me, I’d let it slide once. If it happened again, I would have taken the next plane out. As it happened, nothing happened even once. GG never attacked me. Why would he? I was part of the team. I was videotaping shows, selling merchandise, driving some—most importantly, I was doing the job I was hired to do. I was working for and with him, not against him.
JG2: Do you think GG was a prophet of some sort, a performance artist that was ahead of his time, or was he just completely insane?
EC: Prophet, no. Performance artist, no. Completely insane, definitely not. What he WAS….Shit, I’m still trying to figure that out. I know less now than I did before I met him.
JG2: Did you consider him a friend?
EC: Yes I did. But it all happened so fast. I met the guy, two and a half weeks later, I’m on tour with him for a period of three and a half weeks, then two weeks after that I see him again on and off for a week and then he’s dead. Who knows what would have happened had he lived. I’m glad that I got to know him for even a brief period of time, and am glad that I was in his good graces when he died. I think I said that at his funeral. Look at me recycling material.
JG2: You authored a book about your time in the Murder Junkies (I Was a Murder Junkie: The Last Days of GG Allin). Now, how did that work? Did someone approach you to pen the definitive GG memoir, or did you just write it and find a publisher?
EC: I wrote first, asked questions later, then wrote some more.
JG2: Mr. Cohen, riddle me this: how does one go from being a Murder Junkie to being a member of the cartoonish group Furious George?
EC: Lack of good judgement.
JG2: Oh, SNAP! I’ve interviewed George Tabb about [Furious George’s] experiences whilst on the set of Summer Of Sam, but he didn’t offer much insight. Did you get to meet Spike Lee? What’s your most significant memory of that whole experience?
EC: Of course we met him. We auditioned for him, wrote a song for him, and he directed us in three scenes. My favorite memory was in between takes at CB’s. At one point Jennifer Esposito grabbed my by the shoulders…looked into my eyes…drew me to her…and said, “This is so much fun, I want to be in your band!” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t really as fun as she thought it was.
JG2: Man, I’d let Jennifer Esposito join my band. She’s a looker.
EC: You ain’t kiddin’ buster. Hey Jennifer, if you’re reading this, I’m single again. You can get my number though Spike’s office. I’m ready to form a band and you can sing for it. We’ll be the only two people in the band and I have the first gig already booked in my bedroom. Call, we’ll talk. By the way, she could be a kick-ass punk singer. She never did it before the movie and took to it instantly. Big ups to Jennifer Esposito.
JG2: You penned the classic Furious George track “Counselor Troi Boy Toy.” Did you ever see that movie Counselor Troi was in where she gets naked? Is that possibly what inspired the song?
EC: Never saw it. Immaturity inspired it. And believe me if you think that’s immature, you should hear its as of yet unrecorded companion piece “Dr. McCoy, Boy Toy,” for the free-thinking menfolk of the world. By the way, I did write the music for “Abduct Me,” you know…
JG2: Indeed, you did. “Abduct Me” is nearly a rock opera compared to “Counselor Troi” or your other classic “Prozac Defense.”
EC: Wow, I think that’s the first time anyone’s referred to my music as “classic.” Even if facetiously.
JG2: Hey, “Prozac Defense” is one of the darkest chord progressions I’ve ever heard in my life.
EC: Thank you very much.
JG2: Why exactly did you leave Furious George?
EC: No dental plan. That, and it wasn’t fun for me anymore.
JG2: I was in New York City on New Year’s Day this year and I went down to CBGB’s and the Gallery section where they sell the t-shirts was closed and they wouldn’t sell me a shirt even though they had one in the window on display. I came all the way from Florida and they wouldn’t sell me a shirt. They told me to order one online. Do you think that’s fucked up?
EC: No, get one online like everyone else.
JG2: Evan Cohen, what’s your opinion of Evan Dando?
EC: I wouldn’t know him if he broke into my apartment and pissed on my rug.
JG2: I wouldn’t put that past him. Evan Dando is the guy who fronted early nineties pop sensation the Lemonheads. They covered “Mrs. Robinson.” He’s almost as nuts as GG.
EC: I mean, I know WHO he is….but that doesn’t mean I know what he looks like. I could care less for the fellow…unless he reads my book and makes public statements about how he thinks it’s the greatest thing this side of Leon Uris. Why yes, I am a hypocrite.
JG2: He looks kind of like he’s homeless. Skinny, stringy brown hair and a bushy beard.
EC: I think that guy sells pot in Washington Square Park.
JG2: Are you involved with anyone musically right now? If so, plug away!
EC: Why yes I am. I have a band called WORSE. Anyone who wants a free CD they can email me at GGBook99@aol.com (what a whore!). Also playing with Furious George again – imagine that. But most importantly, BUY MY BOOK.
JG2: Now hold the phone, chief! I thought you said Furious George wasn’t fun anymore, but you’re back with them? What the dilly, yo?
EC: Lemme give you the 212 on the situation. I quit FG in March of ’99. Wasn’t fun anymore. Stevie replaced me and in the Summer of ’01, he left the band. George needed someone for a gig, and since I knew all the songs….And here I am again. By the way, Stevie has a new band called “Stevie and the Trash.” They’re quite good, and they feature current FG drummer Michael keeping the rhythm.
JG2: All very interesting. Thank you for your time, Evan.
EC: I enjoyed the interview, thank you.
– Cornuzine.com, 2/7/02