The Ramones stay fast and furious on Mondo Bizarro



By Steve Newton

The Ramones have come a long way since their ear-bustin’ brand of music first helped kick-start the late-’70s punk-rock craze. The band is still delivering the same barrage of noise—three-minute, three-chord tunes played fast and furious, with humorous lyrics and wacky titles like “The Job That Ate My Brain”, “Cabbies on Crack”, and “Heidi Is a Headcase” (all from their new album, Mondo Bizarro). And they haven’t stopped making anti-fashion statements with ripped jeans, dirty runners, and biker jackets.

But lately, their sphere of influence has expanded far from the sweaty bars of their New York home. Nowadays, it’s not unusual to find the former princes of punk playing swank locations like Rio de Janeiro, which is where the Straight caught up with louder-than-hell guitarist Johnny Ramone last week.

“I guess we’re really big here,” laughs Ramone. “We’ve been down here three times already, and they go crazy. You can’t even leave the hotels or anything. And last night in Rio, we did about 10 songs where the whole audience sang along. It’s like we must have had 10 number-one hits here or somethin’.”

Vancouverites will get a taste of what’s been getting the South Americans so excited when the Ramones play the Commodore on Tuesday (October 6). They can also expect to hear a healthy dose of Mondo Bizarro, the band’s first release on its own Radioactive label after 13 years with Sire Records.

The disc was produced by Ed Stasium, who helmed such signature Ramones albums as Leave Home and Rocket to Russia, and includes guest performances by ex-Turtles Flo and Eddie, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, and Psychedelic Furs keyboardist Joe McGinty, who offered some decidedly Doors-y doodlings on a two-minute cover of “Take It as It Comes”.

“I just heard that song one day when I was in a shop,” says Ramone, “and I thought, ‘Oh wow, I remember this song, this song’s really great.’ We were looking for a song to cover, and I didn’t wanna cover a hit song by the Doors, because to do it as well as they did it is very difficult. So I figured we’d try to approach a lesser song, and I think it came out quite well.”

The Ramones line-up has been bolstered in recent years by the addition of bassist C.J. Ramone, who also proves himself a capable lead vocalist on two tracks co-written by the Ramone he replaced, Dee Dee. From the sound of Mondo Bizarro, the current line-up is as strong as ever, and certainly capable of making the normally wild Ramones fans even wilder. But Ramone says his fans aren’t out to hurt anybody.

“Stage-diving and slam-dancing and things like that—that’s just the way things are today. They’ve gotten more demonstrative, but that’s okay, as long as everyone just comes to have a good time and no one bothers anybody else.”

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