FOR most people in the UK, punk rock started with the Sex Pistols, but Vicky Smith says Johnny Rotten and co wouldn’t have happened without The Ramones.
She now plays bass in The Ramonas, an all-girl tribute to the New York band behind such classics as Blitzkrieg Bop, Rockaway Beach, Beat On The Brat and Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.
“For us, that’s where punk started,” says Vicky. “A lot of people say punk started with the Sex Pistols, but The Ramones were around before that – they were playing in 1974.
“We weren’t there at the time, but it’s all about The Ramones at the birth of punk – and the rock ’n’ roll aspect of their songs as well.”
The Ramonas have been going for 10 years and Vicky has been manning the bass as Pee Pee Ramona, in tribute to the late Dee Dee Ramone, for more than five years. Strangely, her interest in The Ramones was stoked by an early fascination with The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“That’s what got me into playing bass,” she explains. “I really aspire to be able to play bass like their bassist, Flea. I read an interview with him and he was talking about The Ramones and I thought I’ve got to check them out.
“When I did, it all fell into place. I think their music has lasted because they influenced so many other bands. It has just lived on. For us, because they’re no longer around, we’re helping keep the music alive and bring it to a new generation.
“The songs are so popular, people know loads of them without realising it, and the live show is all about trying to recreate the energy they had – and they were unique.”
All four of the original Ramones – Dee Dee, singer Joey, guitarist Johnny and drummer Tommy – are dead, but later members, like one-time drummers Richie and Marky, are still playing music.
The Ramonas played a show with Richie Ramone in London recently, which was a great moment for Vicky, who recalls: “It was really random. He contacted us and said ‘I’m going to be in Ireland, are you doing any shows in the UK?’ We didn’t have anything booked, so we arranged this show in Camden.
“He joined us on stage, playing drums for a bit, and then he came and sang some songs on lead vocals.
“It was amazing because you never know when you’re doing something like this, what the reaction is going to be. I don’t think Marky Ramone likes tribute acts, but we’re really good friends with Richie now. We were out in LA recently and he lent us some equipment.”
The Ramonas have recorded two EPs of Ramones songs, but they also write their own songs, which they plan to record soon.
“It’s been a long time coming,” adds the bassist. “We’ve really wanted to do it for a while. It’s Ramones style and we want to keep it quite commercial. We all play in other bands – I play in a couple of blues acts as well – I don’t need to choose, I like doing both.
“As long as we’re on stage, putting on a proper show, I’ll keep going. I want to do it all.”