Hang on ’til the end of this review to read my interview with the one and only Richie Ramone!
It had to happen eventually, eh? Throughout the past 20 years, books on each member of the Ramones have been building up like thread on a tapestry, each one adding to the story of the world’s most famous punk band. This time it’s the words of 3rd drummer – and potentially the man that saved the Ramones – Richie Ramone. Telling the story of his life, discovery of music and time with the punk outfit, I Know Better Now is a must read for any fan of the Ramones.
But what about the casual person? Is everyone going to enjoy this book? Well, I’m no self-proclaimed mega fan of the Ramones but I couldn’t put I Know Better Now down: especially when it came to the story of Richie’s life in the band. The book introduced me to a type of reading I’ve never experienced before; one where I sat, book in hand, phone in another, googling and further researching everytime something interesting was revealed. Richie divulges into the story behind his writing of “Somebody Put Something In My Drink” which of course resulted in a break as I had to listen to the song in its entirety. Just a few pages later he discusses the story behind the Animal Boy album cover photoshoot, yet another moment where I had to view it for myself. There’s something to be said about telling a story that keeps the reader gripped, yet with an undeniable thirst to learn more. Regardless of how many times the Ramones story has been told, Richie’s part is just as important.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is the attempted erasing of Richie from the Ramones’ story, of course this book gives just one perspective but you can’t argue with the drummer claiming he was not made aware that there was a live album with his drumming on… which of course he made no money from. Richie makes no attempt to turn this book into a sob story, however, and there’s something extremely admirable about the way he honestly discusses his life and the course it took. Sometimes the most inspiring stories are the one’s you can relate to, and anyone can potentially end up in a band like the Ramones, with skills like Richie’s; all you need is desire and determination. Both of which Richie clearly has in spades.
As a writer, I love to hear people tell their stories, and I’m extremely glad that people are getting the chance to hear Richie’s. As a drummer, Richie makes me want to practise harder and play faster, and for that I think I Know Better Now provides even more reasons to give it a read. Packed into the pages of the book are tons of stories about his time in the Ramones, opening up his side of the story as to why he left the band, his perspective on the various members personalities and yet further insight into just what it was like to be a member of a group so influential. People say that Richie saved the Ramones, when he left some said he destroyed it, and there’s definitely a story worth reading in that.
Interview with Richie:
So what prompted you to write this book?
I thought about it for awhile, but it wasn’t until I was contacted by a literary agent, out of nowhere, who convinced me to write my story. Lee Sobel hooked me up with Peter Aaron, and the rest is history.
You speak about how your joining of the Ramones revitalised the band, but what was the band’s impact on your own life and career?
It changed my life in a big way as it was my first national act and I was in one of the greatest bands of all time. I also gained a few close friends in Joey and Dee Dee who helped shape the way I look at things in life. All of my hard work as a kid had finally paid off.
Your words about the Ramones often make it feel like the band was more of a business arrangement than a group of friends. Is this true?
I was very close to Joey all those years and Dee Dee as well, so there was more to it than just business. John was way more private, so we never really hung out much, but he was the business and he made all the decisions. There has to be structure of some sort otherwise it would be chaos.
Do you ever wish that you kept searching for another band instead of joining the Ramones?
No way! I feel blessed to call myself a Ramone and to be a part of the brotherhood. There is nothing I would want to change in my career.
You drummed for a lot of bands and even gave yourself 5 years to make drumming a sustainable full-time gig, otherwise you’d have to get a different job instead. What’s your advice for other musicians that would love for music to become their career but just haven’t made it yet?
The 5 year plan was just something I did, and it’s not for everyone. I was just getting frustrated with the scene because as hard as I worked, I was not getting on the national level. I was in a lot of great bands over the years, but I was still hungry for a name act. You just keep working at it and hopefully something will give, as there is no secret formula or potion.
What message do you want people to take away from your story?
The purpose of this book was to let fans into my personal life and to see things through my eyes. From where I grew up to how my drumming got me into one of the greatest rock and roll bands ever. I think the readers will all take something different from the book, but I hope they get a clear picture of who I am.
…. And finally, for all the drummers out there, do you have any other tips for becoming the best at drumming as possible?
Practice and patience are the keys to success. Whatever you are trying to do as a drummer, start slowly with a pattern and only play it faster when you can play it cleanly. That is so important! And don’t forget to have fun. Peace.
If you want to check out the story behind the Ramones’ fastest drummer and the man that gave the band their much needed revitalisation, you can do so here… now I’m off to listen to Rocket To Russia.