Ramones 40th Birthday Bash Keeps On Rolling
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To Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins it’s no surprise that 40 years after they changed the face of punk music, Queens, New York’s favorite sons, the Ramones, are bigger than ever. “I think the Ramones go from generation to generation like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, these are ageless bands,” he says. “For me, Zeppelin always works, [Jimi] Hendrix always works, it doesn’t sound old. And, for me at least, Ramones music is like that.”
Rollins has no doubt that if the Ramones were alive today they’d be enjoying their status as music legends. “In 2016 it very well could be if the Ramones were able to magically regenerate and play they would be doing the Hollywood Bowl, they would be an act people would be standing in line to get tickets to,” he says. “They were very successful in their time, but if you could take the love and appreciation they have now it would be headlining Coachella.”
This is not just speculation on Rollins’ part. We are speaking at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on a Sunday evening, where Johnny Ramone’s widow, Linda Ramone, is hosting her eleventh annual tribute to her late husband. Thousands have come into the cemetery to watch a double feature of the Ramones film Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, as well as hear a Q&A from members of the Rock ‘n’ Roll High School cast, a speech from Rollins and a special performance from X’s John Doe and the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones.
For Linda, one of the gatekeepers of the Ramones’ legacy, along with Joey Ramone’s brother Mickey Leigh, and in particular Johnny’s legacy, making sure to keep the name vibrant is the best tribute to her late husband, who loved the band. “Johnny loved being a Ramone,” she says. “He thought it was so cool being Johnny Ramone, it made him feel like king of the world.”
Co-managing the Ramones legacy with Dave Frey is Jeff Jampol, who also manages the Doors, as well as the estates of Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Rick James, Muddy Waters and more. Jampol has carved out a unique niche for himself “managing legends,” as he puts it. To him, the trick is to focus on bringing in new fans, not just pleasing the diehards.
“The Ramones are very popular and they’ve had a fan base for 40 years, and one of the issues I have to deal with is many of my partners and vendors are focused 100 percent on the Ramones existing fan base,” he says. “But I would say 70 to 80 percent of our focus is on potential new fans.”
To him, there’s no reason new fans can’t feel the same sense of discovery hearing the Ramones for the first time he did in 1976. “There was a magic to Jim Morrison that connected to me as an 11-year-old and there was a magic to the Ramones that connected to me as an 18-year-old and that feeling is giddy, powerful and important,” he says. “I truly believe that art saves lives, I truly believe it saved mine and I truly believe it was my rope to sanity. And one of my primary missions is to carry that music and message forward so that 11-year-olds of today and the future can experience that same galvanizing response and reaction. So things we do are focused to bringing that legacy and that magic forward in ways that are credible to say an 11 to 30-year-old fan, as well as existing fans.”