Q&A: Jesse Malin Looks Back On His Friendship With Joey Ramone

Joey Ramone would have been 60 years old on May 19. This week, in celebration of the birthday of the Queens-born gone-too-soon punk legend, Sound of the City will run a series of features on his life and his legacy.

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Jesse Malin at Joey Ramone's Birthday Bash in 2008.
Talk on the phone to punk-tinged singer/songwriter Jesse Malin about Joey Ramone, and you don't need to see his eyes--his voice gets misty. As he did for so many others in his time, Joey was for Malin, a combination of protective older brother, School of Rock-style teacher and fellow mischievous street kid, the kind of guy who can be easily imagined as someone egging on a friend on to throw water balloons from rooftops. SOTC spoke with Malin about his relationship with Joey, which was sparked by a cold call many years ago.

On Striking Up His Friendship With Joey

I owe a good deal of my early rock and roll education to Joey. I actually called him up out of the blue when I was a kid. We're both from Queens and he's one of the guys that got out. He just accepted me as a friend right away. He was very opinionated, but in a really amusing way. He'd tell me to stop listening to Kiss. He'd say about guys like Graham Parker and Elvis Costello, "Yeah, they're good, but they're really just English Bruce Springsteens." He turned me onto all sorts of great B movies and horror flicks.

On Touring With The Ramones

When my band, D Generation, went on the road in the mid-'90s, we opened a bunch of Northeast dates for The Ramones. It's no secret they weren't getting along. So, after a bit, Joey started riding with us in our van, rather than with the Ramones in their cushy tour bus! It was pretty funny. If we had a day off, we would hang and Joey would say, "Hey, let's go to the local radio station right now." This'd be in, say, Wilkes-Barre. We'd just knock on the door and the deejays would be flabbergasted to see him. And we'd just take over.

On Joey's Generosity

When I broke up D Generation, I was broke, too. I seriously thought I was going to have to start selling shoes on St. Marks. Joey lent me five grand. Which helped to keep me going until my solo career started to take off.

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