Johnny Ramone died in September of 2004 at the age of 55 after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer. Born John William Cummings in Queens, New York the punk rock legend was a singular personality. An avid collector of movie posters and baseball cards, an outspoken Republican -- he mentioned George Bush at The Ramones' inauguration at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- and believe it or not, one of rock and roll's most influential guitarist. Ramone's wife of over twenty years Linda is behind the release of "Commando The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone," a must-have for any fan.
"The book reads just like Johnny," says Linda. "Fast, to the point and it has tons of info like Johnny's ratings of Ramones albums. He's so brutally honest. The book is exactly like Johnny Ramone. When you pick it up it feels like Johnny Ramone."
Billboard spoke to Linda about her life with Johnny and she too is also quite a character. Speaking at a rapid-fire Ramone pace with an almost comically thick New Yawk accent, she still heartbreakingly refers to Johnny in the present tense as if she still can't believe he's gone. She's also referred to as the Yoko Ono of punk rock because she was dating Joey Ramone for two years before she left him for Johnny. The two band mates barely spoke after that.
Johnny was very proud of being a Ramone.
Oh yeah Johnny felt he was King of the hill. The Ramones were definitely one of the influential bands. Johnny didn't join The Ramones till he was 27 years old and he said he'd had have to had sat in his room for the rest of his life to be as good as Jeff Beck so he was just going to go out there and play. He developed his own sound, his own style.
Twenty-seven was a bit old to be joining a band, right?
Yeah he was a blue collar worker. He'd saved 40,000 dollars already. He was always into saving and not taking drugs. He had a spiritual awakening in his 20's but yet he's so intense and angry.
What was he like away from The Ramones?
Johnny was always intense but he had a soft side. He loved his cats. Was he a good husband? Yeah, he was a good husband but my birthday would come and he'd buy me flowers and I'd be like, 'Oh carnations, I like tulips,' and he'd say, 'Well yeah the carnations were just as pretty and they were cheaper.' (Laughs). He had a little grin that could melt you.
I think what drew me to Johnny was he fell in love with me while I was going out with Joey and since Johnny always gets what he wants, that's just how he is. I started getting down to the fact that he was in charge. In charge of the band, he was in charge of where they played. Don't forget he was keeping those black books his entire life, even before he was in The Ramones, he'd write, 'I'm going to get a haircut today,' and then once he got into The Ramones he'd write for this number of attendance we got paid this much so every time the band went back to a club he'd call the promoter and say, 'We went over, you owe us this amount of money.' So he was always very much in charge.
I was 18 when I started going out with Joey and by the time I start going out with Johnny I'm 21 so yes I'm attracted to the power of him and he looked great. His hair looked great.
Joey and Johnny did not like each other.
They were friendly-ish. Joey always really wanted to have a hit single and Johnny didn't really care and of course when I left Joey, yeah that had something to do with it but the directions of The Ramones were going in two different ways. Johnny wanted to have a hit and be the biggest band in the world but he was never going to compromise. They talked about business but they didn't talk to begin with. Ever been around bands for 25 years? You think Mick and Keith talk? You think Paul and John were talking?
Johnny was an outspoken Republican, to say the least.
Johnny is always a leader, never a follower so he wouldn't care if everyone he knew is a Democrat it didn't matter. He was a Republican. He worked hard and saved. That was his thing. The Ramones didn't really ever have a bit hit single so do you want to get out of The Ramones and what, get a regular job? What can you do at that point? So you have to save your money. The American dream is to make money and save your money and not depend on anyone. Johnny lived the American dream.
Do you think he would have run for office?
I think later on he would have become more political. When we moved to L.A and retired he probably would have been leaning towards something. While he was in The Ramones he never really talked about politics because it can affect your fans not liking you.
Lisa Marie Presley wrote the epilogue for the book.
She is a really good friend. Lisa came to the hospital every day. I still see her all the time. She was one of Johnny's best friends.
He also had a lot of hobbies.
He collected movie posters. Everything he bought he could turn around for a profit. He had the largest 8 x 10 baseball card collection in the country. He always had hobbies. He says everyone definitely needs a hobby. It keeps you more focused.