Too tough to die

Great bands are never truly forgotten, and that’s true of punk’s Ramones, who called it quits 15 years ago. Their influence is still felt today, and although its three main members — Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee — have passed, their legacy persists and is being given a revival by bassist C.J. Ramone.

Born Christopher Joseph Ward, he’s revisiting their classic tunes on the road, while offering up his own Ramones-inspired compositions. The last-to-join member of the Ramones’ unique, musical fraternity, C.J. Ramone felt it was time to remind everyone what they’ve been missing.

“It was my 20-year anniversary (of joining), and the fact that I’ve kind of been sitting back watching punk rock disappear off the map,” he said. “I realized I could keep the Ramones legacy going and maybe turn on a whole generation of new young kids who never got to see the Ramones. Maybe I’ll inspire a new group of young kids, because there’s just not a lot of punk rock out there, and the stuff I’ve heard is really uninspired.”

When he joined the band in 1989, he was finishing up his stint in the Marine Corps — well, not technically. He went AWOL to audition, and when he returned to his post, he was locked up for six weeks.

“It was very bizarre to be sitting in military jail and get a call from Johnny Ramone from the get-go, let alone the news that I got the gig,” C.J. Ramone said. “It was classic.”

In this endeavor, he’s joined by guitarist Daniel Rey, who produced four of the last five Ramones albums, and helped write many of the songs. For C.J., there was no one better suited to be his sideman.

“When I first got into the band, he was in the same situation I was in: He was working with his idols,” Ramone said. “So we kind of had a kind of camaraderie going there. We share a lot of musical influences, and so when I started doing this, he was really the only guitar player I really considered.”

They’re also working on Ramone’s forthcoming garage-punk solo debut, which is a kind of tribute to his time in his old band. With many songs referring directly to that period, it’s titled “Reconquista,” named for his attempt to recapture the punk spirit of his youth and the Ramones.

Naturally, it was strange for him to sit among his heroes. Only 24 when he joined, he remembers them lamenting their lack of commercial success.

“It was shocking to me, because in my eyes, they were one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll bands of all time. They influenced generations of bands,” he said. “I was like, ‘Johnny, you can’t look at your career and judge it like you would anybody else’s. There’s been a million bands who’ve had huge commercial success for one song and disappeared, and nobody cared about them. It’s the influence you’ve had on music in general that you should be judging your career against.’”

Chris Parker

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