The Ramainz - Live in NYC (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Ramainz

Live in NYC (2002)


Despite the fact that Dee Dee left the Ramones in 1989 for the burgeoning world of Hip Hop, he was the first to “reform” the band after their demise. Primarily composed of Dee Dee, Marky, and Barabra Zampini (Dee Dee’s wife), the band (who were known as the Remains until the garage rock legends sent them a cease and desist) existed from 1996 (just after the Ramones disbanded) and played one-off gigs until Dee Dee’s death. Though, interestingly, for the band, Dee Dee played guitar while Barbara handled bass- Marky of course handled drums. CJ would also make occasional appearances on guitar.

Their sole release, Live in NYC was an eye opening record. The band tore through the Ramones’ early catalogue as well as a few Dee Dee solo cuts. But, while the Ramones would become bogged down by their constant touring in the late 80s and 90s, resulting in songs that where played with mechanical, energetic precision, the Ramainz stayed truer to the band’s It’s Alive era.

Perhaps because the three played far less than the legendary band, and because Dee Dee wasn’t the road warrior that Johnny and Joey were, the early tunes here had that early bounce and gruesome glee heard on the early recordings and live tracks. “Teenage Lobotomy” and “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment” had a certain joy in their macabre subject matter. Whereas Joey and Johnny would get faster and harder, Dee Dee seemed to focus on the underlying song craft rather than artesian precision and power. That is to say, it was nice to hear Dee Dee and crew having fun, something later day Ramone performances may have been missing.

Interestingly, Barbara handled vocal duties on a number of tracks. An Argentine who leaned English as a second language, it was clear that Barbara learned the band’s lyrics phonetically. The result was that she parsed the words in unusual ways that, more often than not, gave the songs a new sing-songy aspect. It was not the way Joey would have done it, and that was the point.

But, the release really housed two big revelations. First, Dee Dee was a song writing genius and boy is it frustrating. The two new newish Dee Dee originals here, “Rock and Roll vacation in LA” and “Hop Around” could have easily passed for any of the Ramones classics. Dee Dee garnered much dissention for his Hip Hop dalliances, and other issues, but there’s a reason the band kept him on as a song writer through the end of the group. It was almost as if Dee Dee could just flip a switch and say “OK, now I’m going to bang out a classic in 15 minutes.” That’s why it’s doubly frustrating that, while the hits seemed to come to him with such ease, sometimes he just didn’t feel like using his gift. It’s uncanny how he understands both the bounce of classic Ramones songs as well as the vocal interplay- lyrics and rhythm- but treats this power almost as an annoyance. Still, that’s usually the way it is with genius.

Yet, there’s the irony. For all his songwriting skill, Dee Dee simply didn’t have the vocal chops of Joey or the sledge hammer fist of Johnny. He never had a great voice and on this record, his voice was particularly blown out from decades of smoking and drug abuse. Throughout the record, he tried the alternating scowl and yearning of Joey, but the vocal inflections and tics just aren’t there. He’s able to pull off the beat down lyrics to a degree, but the depth of Joey’s timbre, which emitted a complex mélange of emotions, is missing.

Perhaps this is why there was such ire among the Ramones. They each had phenomenal talent. Yet, they each needed each other to really do what they wanted to do. It’s a complex chain hiding in plain site behind these deceptively simply songs that, knowing what we know now, really aren’t that simple.