In the summer of 1983, after the Ramones released the group's seventh album, Subterranean Jungle, drummer Richie Reinhardt was adopted by New York City's first family of punk rock. Over the course of three albums — Too Tough to Die, Animal Boy, and Halfway to Sanity — Richie Ramone, as he came to be called, penned six songs for the band, including "Smash You," "I'm Not Jesus," and "Somebody Put Something in My Drink." After leaving the Ramones in 1987, Richie appeared in Dee Dee King's "Funky Man" video, rearranged Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story score, and was the only other Ramone featured on Joey Ramones' posthumous second solo album, 2012's ...Ya Know?. With his first solo album, Entitled (DC-Jam), the ex-Ramones drummer returns to his punk roots. Before hitting the road with a new band tearing through his newer numbers (and a few Ramones classics), Richie took a few minutes to talk about the story behind his most acclaimed song, hanging out with Joey, and being Entitled.
What inspired you to write "Somebody Put Something in My Drink"?
I moved from New Jersey to Manhattan when I was a kid, around 1980. I had no money. My friends and I would go to nightclubs and when people got up to dance we'd steal their drinks. One night I got one that had been spiked with a hallucinogenic Mickey or something. After that I was all excited. I didn't have to steal any more drinks. I told Dee Dee the story and he said, "You have to write that song!" Dee Dee wanted to do a video, but Johnny thought I was getting too much attention so we didn't do it.
Public opinion holds that Johnny Ramone was the bad guy of the group.
Johnny was all business. Joey was a rock god — that was the dynamic. I was tight with Joey. I toured with the Ramones for something like five years. On tour or at home, we were together every night. Me, Joey, his brother Mickey Leigh, and Richie Stotts from Plasmatics. I remember getting on the elevator to Joey's condo, and at 6-foot-3-inches I was always the shortest guy!
You left the Ramones because of a dispute with Johnny over T-shirt money, correct?
The merchandise was part of it. Joey and Dee Dee were supportive, but Johnny was always throwing a knife in there. I wanted something from the T-shirt money. It didn't have to be an equal share, but I wanted something. They were using my name and my picture. I felt it was time to cut me in, and finally I had enough. I was a 29-year-old kid and I didn't want to be fucked around with, so I quit.
Do you buy a lot of vinyl?
I'm a downloader now. It's just so easy, it's in alphabetical order and I can take it anywhere and make set lists. I used to have shelves full of records taking up a whole wall. My older brother was a big record collector. He had everything and was like, "No fingerprints!" I couldn't touch his records. If I ever touched his records he would take a pillow and smother me. To this day I hate that feeling of being smothered, even if it's a joke, it scares me.
Tell me about your solo record.
It's called Entitled. It's about me, it's about you, and we're entitled to live good, have a good time, and not be left out. Everybody who walks this earth is entitled to something. I recorded it in a week and mixed it for five months [laughs]. I spent most of my time working on the lyrics. I wanted them to be true and from my heart. This record tells a lot about my life and I wanted to make sure those lyrics were straight. Dee Dee was a master at that — such a poet. He had notebooks full of lyrics. Me, it takes a little longer. I don't want to do any bullshit and just let fans buy it because it's me. It needed to be more than that.
The amount of work involved with making a record: cutting the tracks, producing, finding great people to mix, artwork. It never ends. I never realized everything that goes into it, as it's my first record.
The live band sounds great. I have Alex Kane on guitar, Ben Reagan playing guitar and drums, and Clare Misstake playing bass. My music doesn't require a Jaco Pastorius. It requires someone holding it down with a big bottom end, and that's what Clare does. I'll drums some and then Ben will play drums so I can get in the kids' faces and sing some songs up front and let them steal the jewelry off of my wrists. It's not a Ramones set, but I do give them a couple of Ramones classics — "Blitzkrieg Bop" and some others.
You re-recorded "Somebody Put Something in My Drink"?
That one and a couple of others. I didn't want to put it on the CD, but the kids were beating me up, so I put it on the vinyl. Ramones fans are collectors. They want everything: tour posters, vinyl, CDs. They like hard, physical things. They like to hold it and look at the artwork, and bring it to shows to get autographed. A download won't satisfy them.