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Becoming Johnny Ramone

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With his cats at home in Los Angeles.  

After a couple of days, I reached the breaking point. He had me play the opening chord to “Rock ’n’ Roll High School” over and over. This went on for three or four hours. He’d listen back to it, then ask me to play the same chord again. Stomping his feet and screaming, “Shit, piss, fuck! Shit, piss, fuck!” I couldn’t take it anymore. So I just said, “I’m leaving,” and Phil said, “You’re not going anywhere.” I said, “What are you gonna do, Phil, shoot me?” Here’s this little guy with lifts in his shoes, a wig on his head, two bodyguards, and four guns—two in his boots and one on each side of his chest. After he shot that girl, I thought, “I’m surprised that he didn’t shoot someone every year.”

The album End of the Century turned out to be good, but we didn’t have a hit. It charted in England, No. 8 or something, but who cares about England? We were American.

I've always been a Republican, since the 1960 election with Nixon against Kennedy. At that point, I was basically just sick of people sitting there going, “Oh, I like this guy. He’s so good-looking.” I’m thinking, “This is sick. They all like Kennedy because he’s good-looking?” And I started rooting for Nixon just because people thought he wasn’t good-looking. And then by the time Goldwater ran and he starts talking about bombing Vietnam, I said, “This sounds right to me.” I was in favor of bombing the enemy into oblivion. Same as any war: If you want to be in it, win it. I didn’t understand why we didn’t just bomb the place out of existence.

At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when I made my acceptance speech I said: “God bless President Bush, and God bless America.” That sure set them off. This wasn’t long after September 11—I was always so gung ho American, I felt that was a real attack on me.

One of the things I am most proud of that we did was a benefit at CBGB for the New York Police Department so they could get bulletproof vests. This was when New York wasn’t safe at all, before ­Giuliani fixed it up. We even had protesters outside the club, those commies.

The most unlikely place I was ever recognized was on the trading floor of the Stock Exchange. I walked down there and everybody knew who I was. They were handing me phones and asking me to say hello to their friends. I talked to everybody. That was in the nineties. I thought, “All these ­Ramones fans work on Wall Street?”

The band trusted me to get them as much money as I could, and we did fine. They never said a word to me about it or questioned me. I would say, “Money is our friend. It doesn’t do anything to you. It is good.” I used to say that all the time.

We made money over the long run while we were still together. I think that when we really got going, we paid ourselves a $150-a-week salary. When we came back from a tour, we each would get another $1,000. And then we started getting merchandise money, which was more than our regular salary. I was trying to watch the money. I figured if I could save a million dollars, I could retire. We weren’t getting rich, any of us.

Anheuser-Busch approached us in 1994 and bought a song for a commercial. I thought it was terrific. I liked seeing the commercial, and people would ask me how I felt about it, and I would tell them it was the easiest money I ever made. I never looked at it as anything bad. Sometimes something like that can be lame, but for beer, which is very American, it’s good.

I made more money after we stopped than I ever did while the Ramones were active. We made a lot of money from merchandising, and the records sold better than ever. Maybe everyone really does love you when you’re dead.


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