“It was a power surge, like a train coming down a tunnel right at you,” explains Marc Bell (a.k.a. Marky Ramone), of The Ramones’ music. The fabled band’s 48-year-old ex-drummer is now the executive producer of an exciting new documentary DVD, Ramones Raw. Like the group itself, which could cram 25 high-decibel songs at breakneck speed into less than an hour, Raw packs in more than five hours of high-energy material. Produced, directed and edited by longtime fan John Cafiero, the project was a 14-month labor of love.
The final cut was culled mostly from some 200 two-hour amateur reels of film recorded mostly by Marky and his road crew from 1987 though the band’s break-up in 1996. It’s a surreal cinema verité Magical Mystery Tour of The Ramones, exposing the wacky world of those loveable pinheads who helped spearhead the punk movement in 1976 with their groundbreaking self-titled debut.
Marky, who performed with the band from 1978 through 1983 (before rejoining in 1987 and staying until their farewell concert) recalls, “My original intentions were just to take videos of the countries that we toured in. … But then I started focusing on The Ramones because I figured that eventually when I got all my film together, I would make copies for the other guys.”
The bulk of Raw is a fly-on-the-wall documentary of life on the road with the band. It playfully displays frenetic Hard Day’s Night hysteria of fans, plus additional concert footage.
What makes the video even more of a treasure, is the sad fact that three of the groups’ original members, (including Joey and Dee Dee), have passed away in the last three years. Longtime guitarist Johnny Ramone who succumbed to prostate cancer on September 15th, did his last official work for the band by providing some invaluable audio commentary for Raw during his final weeks.
Remembers Marky, “I went to his house in Los Angeles, and then we drove out to the film studio. He really seemed to be in very good spirits that day. I think it was good for him, because it got him off of those thoughts about his illness.”
Marky has been busy lately. He’s three-quarters finished writing his autobiography, Faith In The Backbeat and does spoken word tours. He’ll also be playing drums alongside director Cafiero in Osaka Popstar, whose debut, American Legends of Punk, is due early next year.
Of the Ramones heritage Marky enthuses, “I’m proud of seeing the group inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The basics of what a lot of bands do now comes from the Ramones. We created something special. … We just wanted to see rock get back to the two-minute song that had a great chorus, a few verses, and a cool bridge.”
Adds the 36 year-old Cafiero, a major Ramones fan since he was 10, “I’m just grateful that I had the opportunity of contributing to the legacy of my favorite band. For me Raw is sort of like a video fan letter. I really hope it helps turn on a whole new generation of fans to the band, because I think they will continue to inspire people for an eternity.”
“It was,” he remembers, “rock and roll in its purest form. That will never die.”