It was late 1996; Joey Ramone was working on a solo album and guitarist Johnny Ramone had retired to suburban luxury. Longtime drummer Marky Ramone had his band the Intruders, but there was unease in the musical fantasyland that was the Ramones. It was in this vacuum that the Ramainz were formed. Originally calling themselves "the Remains," because they were all that remained of the legendary punk rockers, Marky Ramone and original bassist Dee Dee Ramone put the band together as a live project to perform Ramones songs (many of which were written by Dee Dee in the first place). Sporadic live shows were performed in 1996-1997, mostly in and around New York City, with Dee Dee on guitar and vocals, C.J. Ramone on bass, and Marky on drums. Dee Dee's wife, Barbara Zampini (aka Barbara Ramone), filled in on bass after C.J. departed; Ben Trokan of the Intruders was added later on guitar. After a couple of years of playing, they changed the band's name to the Ramainz to avoid potential conflicts with Barry & the Remains.
Originally released independently in 1999 by GB Music, Live in NYC captures a 1997 performance at the Continental Club in New York City with a lineup that includes Dee Dee, Marky, and Barbara. Recorded off the soundboard on a DAT recorder, the disc sounds like a (very) good-quality bootleg. Raw, unrefined, and unpolished with absolutely no overdubs or studio gimmickry, Live in NYC boils over with enthusiasm, and what the album lacks in sonic qualities it more than makes up for in attitude.
The Ramainz reprise 19 classic Ramones songs on Live in NYC, including "Rockaway Beach," "I Wanna Be Sedated," and "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," with Dee Dee and Barbara sharing vocals. Two new songs are also performed, "Rock & Roll Vacation in LA" and "Hop Around," both speedy punk rockers in the Ramones' vein. Although Dee Dee's strained vocals and Barbara's understated readings could never replace Joey's soulful voice, the Ramainz punch out these songs with true pinhead glee, buzzing guitars, and reckless energy, re-creating the timeless Ramones sound for die-hard fans.
Although many contemporary bands capture the classic Ramones vibe better -- Screeching Weasel and Boris the Sprinkler come to mind -- the Ramainz had the credentials and a solid claim on the Ramones' legacy. Although the Ramainz ceased to exist with Dee Dee's death in early 2002, rumor has it that another live album and an unfinished studio album lie hidden in the vaults somewhere, so listeners may not have heard the last of the biggest and baddest of the Ramones' cover bands.