Tuesday, October 20, 2009

FROM Punk Magazine, April 2001

©1976–2002 Punk Magazine, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Remembering Joey Ramone
By John Holmstrom

All photos by Roberta Bayley
Joey Ramne
May 19, 1951 - April 15, 2001

Joey Ramone passed away after a long battle with cancer. He was diagnosed a few years ago, and was even told by doctors that he only had a few months to live a few years ago. But he battled hard and never gave up - like a true Ramone, he was too tough to die. I first saw Joey when the band performed live at the CBGBs Summer Rock Festival in 1975. Of course I was totally impressed, and the first thing I wanted to do when I started PUNK magazine was interview the band. I wanted to find out what these guys were like. They seemed somewhat surreal onstage, and I thought they might really be thugs or axe murderers. Getting to know them was more interesting.

Shortly after the first issue of PUNK came out, I became good friends with Joey. He understood what we were trying to do better than most people at the time. He became an unofficial Contributing Editor, making suggestions for the magazine (like "Punk of the Month"). He even did a few illustrations for the magazine (some of which are currently in the hands of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the original artwork for PUNK #3, with Joey on the cover and the back cover artwork from Rocket to Russia).

When we shot "Mutant Monster Beach Party," Joey contributed a lot of input, like the scene where the UFO aliens fly him to the Bothersome Bikers' hangout. This was all his idea, from casting his friends Arturo Vega and Paul Collins and his brother Mitch as the aliens to the band-aids on the aliens' faces due to their "rough landing." I think our collaborations helped him out as well, since some of the lyrics he wrote for "Mutant Monster Beach Party" ended up in Ramones songs like "Rock 'n' Roll High School" and "Danny Says." Allan Arkush, the director of Rock 'n' Roll High School, told me that Cheap Trick were competing with Da Brudders for the movie's rock band, but when Allan showed a copy of "Mutant Monster" to Roger Corman, it cinched the deal for The Ramones.

If there was one frustration in Joey's life, it was lack of mainstream acceptance and the fact that The Ramones never got a big hit record. So I sure hope that when Danny Rey finishes production on his upcoming solo CD that Joey finally has his long-awaited chart-topping hit record. His version of Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World" could definitely be a hit. Or maybe "Maria Bartiromo," Joey's ode to the anchorwoman on CNBC.

Joey was always friendly to the media - and more importantly, to Ramones fans. He stayed accessible after the Ramones breakup - playing in local clubs and setting up showcase nights for new bands. He really cared about the rock and roll scene and wanted to give new bands an opportunity to make it. He also understood the symbiotic relationship between the music media and bands, and that one can't easily exist without the other. It was an attitude that a lot of us shared at CBGBs back in the day. In 1975, there was only one or two clubs in New York showcasing new bands, and it sometimes seemed impossible to get noticed at all. The Ramones went through a lot before the were able to secure their first record deal. Once they got it, they tried to make things better for new bands. They cared about which bands opened their shows, and didn't pull the usual "star trip" on opening acts by screwing them on the PA and lights. For instance, early on they often took the Talking Heads on tour with them because they liked the band and wanted more people to get exposed to their music.

The Beastie Boys opened for them when they were still a bunch of 13-year-old punks called The Young and the Useless. Shrapnel opened for them when Legs McNeil managed the band. And there are countless other bands who got a big break by sharing the stage with The Ramones for one of their first big gigs. For that and many other reasons, Joey's passing will leave a huge void on the New York rock scene. Everyone at PUNK will certainly miss him. Like Ramones Artistic Director Arturo Vega said, "The world will never be the same now."

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