Marky Ramone Comes To Skidmore, Who Gives a Fuck?

Written by Executive Editor on March 25th, 2014
He also owns a pasta sauce.

He also owns a pasta sauce.

Tomorrow night Marky Ramone graces Skidmore College with his presence. The only surviving member of the longest running Ramones lineup, Marky has embarked on a speaking tour of campuses around the country. Skidmore is his final stop before he spends most of the summer months touring Spain and South America. This tour may seem like a washed up rock star trying to reclaim his fame, and to some extent it may be, but it comes at a critical moment in punk rock’s history.

This past October, Randall Miller (Bottle Shock) produced and directed the nearly unwatchable CBGB: The Movie, 101 minutes of caricatures and corny dialogue meant to capture the rise of punk rock’s most famous institution. Luckily, many who were involved with CBGBs in the mid-1970s had the good sense not to license their likeness to the film, Marky included. The CBGB movie is just another exploitation of the club’s legacy. Punk rock is going through an identity crisis. The movement in the 1970s defined itself in its own terms, rejecting mainstream culture and embracing do-it-yourself music and art. However, CBGB’s closing in 2006 led to a slew of revival attempts including the movie and the CBGB music festival which will be going into its third year this summer.

But why?

The answer is both extremely simple and complex: punk rock is scary.

The DIY ethos of punk challenged mainstream culture and the musical status-quo, asserting that anyone can play music, no talent required. From 1974 to 1977, punk thrived in New York City spawning now famous bands like Television, the Talking Heads, Blondie, and the Ramones. Clubs like CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City, two of the only venues that would book unsigned bands in New York City at the time, became second homes to musicians and punk scenesters creating their own community. The buzz generated by New York’s punk scene reached all the way across the pond, as they say, and infatuated the British working class youth. The European tours of New York locals like Richard Hell & the Voidoids (who Marky played with until 1978) in tandem with the return of New York scenester Malcolm McLaren to his native England ignited the British punk movement which would quickly eclipse it’s American predecessor.

Just as New York punk rockers were signing contracts with record labels (the Ramones, Blondie, Television, the Talking Heads, Suicide, the Dictators, and Richard Hell all signed contracts between 1976-77) the Sex Pistols hit American markets with Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols in 1977, incorporating more politically driven music as well as outlandish personas. The reputation of the Sex Pistols preceded them and became synonymous with the term “punk rock” causing their more tame American brothers to be refused air play and contracts due to simply their associations with the genre. By 1979, most New York punk bands had called it quits or revamped their sound to break into the New Wave markets.

The late 70s/ early 80s saw the steady rise to dominance of the “Big Six” record labels (Warner Music Group, EMI, Sony, BMG, Universal Music Group, and PolyGram) which controlled the market from the mid-1980s to the late 90. These companies were interested in hit making; hits got airplay, airplay sold records. Labels that were willing to take on small time musicians in the 1960s began to focus their attentions on a handful of bands that, through the right marketing or their hold-over 60s reputations, were going to make it big. In result, smaller bands like proto-punks the Stooges, who were not expected to have major mainstream success, started to get phased out. Though punk rock matured in this landscape, as twenty somethings–those reared on the plethora of experimental garage rock in the 1960–tried to create their own sound, only to find record labels unwilling to take a chance on such rudimentary and abrasive music.  Coupled with the tarnished name of punk rock, distribution and promotion of punk remained low to nonexistent.

But in the 1990s punk began to resurface. Ramones t-shirts were stocked in major stores like Hot Topic and H&M and as famed punks began to pass away the market was flooded with reissues, commemorative books, and general reminders that these people had existed. Many mourned the closing of CBGBs in 2006 but, like with any death, the grief slowly and painfully subsided; that is, until the rights to CBGBs were sold by owner Hilly Kristal’s daughter for a cool $3.5 million in 2011. With the resurfacing of the CBGBs name to promote their mediocre music festival held in Time Square, and the aforementioned god awful biopic CBGB: The Movie, as well as the repurposing of punk for cool points (“Vintage Punk Leather Jacket,” Urban Outfitters, $375), the legacy of punk rock is contentious at best.

Punk rock, in 2014.

And so now we get to the so what: who cares if Marky Ramone is coming to campus? Well, because if we want to pay homage to punk, respectfully, we should probably start with one of the very few people left who were part of that pivotal moment in music history. We should allow these people to tell us their stories and define themselves by their own terms, rather than let the legacy of punk get lost in the t-shirt racks at Hot Topic. You can think that Marky Ramone is “selling out” by doing a lecture tour of colleges or that he’s washed up and therefore irrelevant but let’s face it, who else are you going to let define your image of punk rock?

Like him, love him, or hate him he knows better than anyone else what punk is about and why it matters. We have to let punk tell its own story and stop trying to recreate what happened. We have to let it be. And with only a few remaining figures from the mid-70s New York punk scene, we should hear what they have to say about their own lives and experiences before we decide what is and isn’t punk or whether it does or doesn’t matter in the context of contemporary music.

Marky Ramone speaks in Gannett Auditorium at 7pm on Wednesday March 26th and will be a guest DJ on WSPN Tuesday March 25th from 10pm to midnight. 

Veronica Monroe wrote this. She’s a senior, and thinks a lot about punk rock music. 


15 Comments so far ↓

  1. Rowley says:

    If you people don’t fill up Gannett for this then you’re nothing but pig-fucking Yuppie scum.

  2. T says:

    Go to a fucking show instead and get your teeth knocked out.

    • doc johnson says:

      This author should step back and assess their own knowledge & experience (not the public’s perception of it IE Hot Topic Punk) in the punk world before treating it like a bullshit, gone-and-went fashion style. Punk never died, it was just hijacked by posers and suburban pre-teens after falling out of the spotlight (and to back where it belongs – the underground). If you had ever been to any real punk show and hung out with modern-day punks and skinheads you would know that.

      I’ll bet you consider GG Allin an embarrassment to punk.

      I promise you – no real punks give two fucks about punk’s history & mainstream hijack – or what marky ramone has to say about it.

    • cakefarter says:

      or cake fart at a show and get icing on your butt

  3. b-rad says:

    thanks for writing this. punk rock forever.

  4. Mark says:

    Obviously someone just trying to get the punks upset young and old alike (I’m 50) a real writer would’ve researched more and looked into the lifestyle first hand instead of spouting the same meaningless junk we’ve all heard for years. It’s a shame more people haven’t enjoyed a punk lifestyle and seen the comraderie and fun to be had. Nice try poser you just cheapened yourself and your craft

    • Executive Editor says:

      I dare you to call into the show with Veronica and Marky and talk this out. The number at the station is 518.580.5783.

    • thatgirlRon says:

      Aw man, wish you had taken the dare! We would have loved to speak with you.

      I’m sorry to hear that you disagree with what I had to say. But before you criticize me for not doing my research let me just add that Marky’s visit is the penultimate aspect of my senior thesis in American studies on the recent attempts at commercialization of seventies punk. I’ve now been researching and writing on punk rock for four years and have enjoyed a lifetime of punk adoration (a seed planted by my father who was very active around the CBGBs scene in the 70s/early 80s). It’s fine if you disagree with what I have to say but “researched more and looked into the lifestyle first hand” is not what the problem is with this article.
      Hope you’ll come to the lecture despite my “poser” status!

      • mark says:

        I would’ve loved to call in had I known about it and was not working, I enjoy a spirited chat. I started in the punk scene when I was 18, still enjoy it and even keep in touch with a band that I did album covers for (U.S. Chaos), they even still play once in a while. I agree the new scene has changed BUT, REAL PUNK has not and is still out there, you just have to find it. Hence my non-research comment. Seek out the older punks and find out what it was and is all about. Real punk was never about the clothing or hair (but that was fun), so that stuff became commercial. So the look became commercial, but the lifestyle didn’t. And of course I’ll be there to see Marky!

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