Joey Ramone Would've Turned 63 Today
If you want to speak to Tommy, you have to somehow get ahold of his agent, who says the legendary drummer has retired. Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny are no longer alive. Marky emails you, "Ugh! That Bash is still going on? I want to steer clear of it. Don't think it has anything to do with the band!" In other words, even with so many of them dead, The Ramones are still causing trouble. However, considering May 19th marks the 14th Joey Ramone Birthday Bash and essentially coincides with 'da bruddas' 40th anniversary, it's astonishing anyone's left to talk about The World's Greatest Punk Band.
Dawkeye / CC-BY-SA Joey Ramone around 1980.
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"I was in the supermarket the other day," says Mickey Leigh, Joey's brother. "This old lady comes over and asks me if I can reach the paper towels, cause they're up so high. Suddenly, 'I Wanna Be Sedated' comes on. I imagined Joey laughing his ass off."
No band's legacy is more bittersweet. The Ramones, despite their absence, are now everywhere. Kids wear the T shirts. Cadillac plays them in a commercial. Every year, the band that influenced everyone from the Sex Pistols to Nirvana, keeps getting more popular.
"I was playing before my brother, but he always seemed to just know something," says Leigh. "My band Purple Majesty, wrote a song in '67 ("In This Day And Age" - Norton Records) and played it for Joey. He said, 'That's really good. You should record it and I should produce it." Leigh laughs. "He didn't even know what a producer was! But we cut it, anyway. I was 12, Joey was 16, but he already got it. When we were recording, Joey didn't like the sound of my bass. We were in a studio on 48th Street-Music Row. Joey runs downstairs and comes back with a Fender Jazz Bass. He knew that would sound better. It did."
Ramones fanatics know Joey went much further. Seven years later, in a time of Prog, Metal, and The Carpenters, Ramone and band, reintroduced the novel idea of the short, catchy song back into Rock 'n' Roll. So, on May 19th, fellow spirits like Cheetah Chrome and Pistol Glen Matlock, will be rockin' Bowery Electric, to raise money for lymphoma research for this visionary, the eternal teenager, who died from this kind of cancer at forty-nine.
Matlock, the main songwriter for The Pistols is, himself, highly influential. But he also knows who created Punk's Big Bang. It was those misfit kids from Queens playing their crappy Mosrite guitars at London's Roundhouse, summer, 1976. In Joey, Matlock says he saw a new kind of Rock Star. A tall, pale goofball who sang in an unreconstructed New Yawk accent.
"It's odd how he had a sort of geeky thing going on, but still had a great presence onstage," says Matlock. "Up till then rock stars looked like Rock Stars. Joey was coming from somewhere totally different and was all the better for that. Seeing The Ramones was very exciting. They had all their three minute epics down perfectly."