Marky Ramone remembers Dust ... and tries to solve a mystery

Sony/Legacy reissues proto-metal band’s two cult albums

By Peter Lindblad

Dust - Dust/Hard Attack 2013
The trail has gone cold ... ice cold. Any evidence of the crime is, in all likelihood, gone forever, and yet Marc Bell, aka Marky Ramone, is still determined to catch the culprit and find justice.

For context, when the incident happened, Bell was a founding member of Dust in the late ’60s and ’70s, a band that simply could not catch a break in its all-too-brief existence.

Management was at a loss as to how to market the pioneering proto-metal outfit and few, if any, American producers had any idea how to get the most out of them in the studio. Meanwhile, their record label, Kama Sutra, was focusing its energies on promoting its more commercial folk-rock acts, like the Lovin’ Spoonful.

All of these things, according to Ramone, combined to doom Dust. One thing that did go right for them was a tour with Alice Cooper as the supporting act, although he’d like to get to the bottom of something that happened to him while on the road with the shock-rock sensations.

On the one hand, there was “the fact that people were giving us two encores,” says Ramone, something opening acts don’t usually receive.

“And then came initiation,” says Ramone, setting the scene. “I go to my hotel room … I mean, this is stuff that teenagers do I guess, but we were teenagers I suppose. Somebody took a dump in one of my drawers in the hotel room. And I knew something smelled pretty strange. I opened it up and there it was, and I never knew who did it, but I look back at it now, and I thought it was pretty funny. Would I do it? No, I wouldn’t do it, but somebody did do it, and whoever it is, I wish I could find them.”

It’s a mystery that probably will never be solved. And though Ramone may never ferret out the offending party, there is renewed interest in Dust, now that their only two albums, the self-titled debut from 1971 and their 1972 sophomore LP, Hard Attack, are being reissued – with a fantastic remastering job – by Sony Legacy on April 16. A Record Store Day vinyl version is being released on April 20.

“Maybe these reissues will make that person come forward (laughs),” jokes Ramone.

Prized by collectors for years, Dust’s records were the stuff of legend, their gale-force blues-based hard-rock sound tempered by touches of folk and progressive-rock in a formula that Led Zeppelin was perfecting overseas. Although they disbanded not long after the release of Hard Attack, the members of Dust would go on to bigger and better things.

Bell hooked on with a various U.S. punk rock icons, including Wayne County and Richard Hell & the Voidoids and, of course, The Ramones, the band he joined in 1978. Kenny Aaronson was Dust’s bassist, and he would later play with the likes of Joan Jett, Bob Dylan, Foghat, Brian Setzer and a host of other rock luminaries. As for Richie Wise, the band’s guitarist and main songwriter, he and Kenny Kerner – who wrote lyrics for Dust and helped out with songwriting and production duties – ended up producing the first two KISS records.

Ramone thinks that it is high time these two long-out-of-print Dust records see the light of day again.
Explaining why the reissues are coming out now, he said, in a rather matter-of-fact manner, that “the contract was finally up with the other record company that really didn’t do [Dust] justice. So, Sony/Legacy … we remastered it, packaged it in numbered vinyl, collectible vinyl, and the packaging is unbelievable. And when you hear the remastering, it sounds twice as big as the original recording. So we were very happy to put it out again to show the public what we were doing 40 years ago in America, which was heavy metal, ‘cause at the time there was hardly any metal in America in 1970. It was all coming from England. And also in America, there weren’t that many producers who knew how to produce this genre of music. So, now it has a second chance.”

After all this time, Ramone still sees the influential Dust, cult favorites for years, as trailblazers in the metal genre.

“Well, one of the few, yes,” says Ramone. “Black Sabbath in England solidified it there, and then when we started in ’70, we got our record deal in ’70 and recorded the album and it came out in ’71. So we were kind of ahead of the game in America, along with a few other bands. There weren’t that many, and the term ‘heavy metal’ wasn’t even a phrase yet.”

As for the Cooper tour, Ramone thinks of it as the highlight of Dust’s short life. Another one was playing Cobo Hall, the site of many great concerts by Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and, of course, KISS. “I mean that place was packed,” says Ramone. “And also St. Louis … they really took a liking to Dust. And I think that if we continued to play to the Midwest, and we’d spread out to the East and West … but again, we just stopped that quick.”

We’ll have more of our interview with Marky Ramone and his memories of Dust in future posts, so keep watching this space for that. In the meantime, visit for more information.

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