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End of the century album session

2001-04-20 — Remembering Joey (www.rollingstone.com)
David Byrne, Billie Joe Armstrong and more pay tribute to Joey Ramone

Remembering Joey DAVID BYRNE

Joey embodied this weird tension. Onstage, you could tell he was a super-sweet guy. And yet the whole image was dress-up rebellion. I remember being surprised at one point after having gotten to know the Ramones a little bit at CBGB: They were the only band I knew of that had an art director. Joey and Arturo [Vega] worked very closely together. There was a loft right around the corner that we could all visit and hang out. Arturo had these giant pop-art posters of supermarket price signs. I thought, «This is much more planned out than it appears to be.» Recently, I read an interview where they said, «We figured out what we would look like before we figured out what to play.» This was like a high-concept packaged-band thing, but they did it to themselves. It was brilliant.


If it wasn’t for the Ramones, or Joey in particular, there wouldn’t be a Green Day, an Offspring, a Rancid, a Blink-182 — there wouldn’t be any punk band, period. There are bands that are influenced by the Ramones that don’t even know it yet.
The Ramones sounded like rock & roll in its purest form — they beat it back into purity. I saw them about ten years ago on the Escape From New York Tour; me and my girlfriend at the time went. The Ramones aren’t only the sort of band that you would go and mosh to. It’s also a band that you can have romance around, too. I remember looking around and seeing people make out in the audience. It was that sort of Fifties inspiration. It’s a bunch of street guys who aren’t afraid to sing a sappy love song, too.
I was on the road in Japan, and a friend told our tour manager to ask me to call Joey, because he was really sick. I didn’t really know what to say. I just called up and said, «Hey, uh, I just bought ’She’s the One’ on seven-inch vinyl for forty bucks out here.» And he kind of laughed and said, «I heard you guys were bringing up kids onstage and starting bands, and the song that you have them play is ’Blitzkrieg Bop.’ That’s really cool.» And then he said, «Well, I have to go, there’s some people here I have to talk to.» And that was it.

JOE STRUMMER of the Clash

The Ramones record came crashing into the London scene like a B-52 packed with atom bombs, nose-diving into the squat lands. Its influence cannot be overstated. When the group itself hit town to play at the Round House, a cool thing happened before the performance. Various members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols had already been thrown out of the venue, due to local difficulties with the promoters. So it seemed a fitting trans-Atlantic moment of mutual respect when the Ramones opened their dressing-room window, which gave out onto an alley, and pulled each of us up into the venue. Then they went out onstage and blasted off into legend: «One, two, three, four, hey, ho, let’s go!»


I first heard the Ramones in ’76, when their first album came out. I got it for my sixteenth birthday, actually. When I heard it, I was shocked. The whole concept was so minimal and Joey’s voice was so odd, so flat, in an era of shrieking metal guys. I was hooked instantly. It made me feel like, «I need to be in the city! I need to be in a band!» This wasn’t like sitting at your pot dealer’s house in the suburbs listening to Rainbow. This was «I can do that! I should! I will!» kind of music.

CORIN TUCKER of Sleater-Kinney

My band mate Carrie [Brownstein] made me this mix tape with a bunch of Ramones songs on it when we were first starting out as a band and getting to know each other. They could say all this cool stuff without being really testosterone-driven, like a lot of punk bands. I thought their songs were really pretty. My favorite song is «Danny Says,» the song about being on the road. Their songs romanticized being in a band and being really in love with music. We wrote our song «I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone» because we had this shared love of Ramones songs. Although that song is about sort of stealing male power away, we wrote it about men we truly respected. I know he came to one of our shows. I’m really honored. That just makes me feel like we did something right with our band.


The Ramones, and specifically Joey, were probably the most significant musical force for people like me, who were disaffected geeks in the early Seventies and didn’t have any relationship to disco and overblown rock. Joey was six feet six and skinny, with what my grandfather used to call a subway tan — just super pale — and he was the lead singer. I mean, the lead singer was supposed to be Robert Plant. I was a tall, geeky nerd in school, and then all of a sudden here was this guy. They dressed like street toughs, even though they weren’t tough guys. And that kind of fantasy was unbelievably smart, even though they were exclaiming that they were dumb kids from Queens. To actually go see them play in ’76 and ’77 was amazing. You entered the room, and it wasn’t full of safety-pinned punk rockers, like in the Spike Lee movie about the Son of Sam killer. It was just young artists and experimental musicians, really digging what was going on with Television and Patti Smith. And the Ramones, in a way, were the most avant-garde of them all, just by being more suburban.


The impact of the Ramones is something we’ve lived with for so long, you just take it for granted. Now that it’s gone, you just have to be in awe of what they did — especially Joey, because he really was the icon. He was everybody’s saint. His death creates a void like no one else — not Sid Vicious, not Darby Crash. It reminds me of when Allen Ginsberg died. He’s just irreplaceable. This is the big hit for everyone I know in music.

DAVE GROHL of Foo Fighters

Someone introduced me to him at CBGB once, and I couldn’t even see his eyes — he was eight and a half fucking feet tall. But he was an incredibly nice person, not very much different from the guy you see in Rock ’n’ Roll High School. He seemed to always have a twisted sense of dignity, and he will be sorely missed for sure.


The Ramones were my first guests on my very first radio show at KROQ, and throughout the years I’ve had the Ramones on my show, or at least had Joey phone in. Joey was the sweetest person. He was your pal, he had the kindest soul, and he really just appreciated music. He was shy. You could just call him up anytime, and he’d talk about anything. I’ll miss getting those Christmas cards. He would always end it with «Rock n’ Roll.» That was the way he signed off: «Rock n’ Roll.»

ALLAN ARKUSH Writer-director, «Rock ’n’ Roll High School» (1979)

When I was making Rock ’n’ Roll High School, there’s a scene where the school principal sets records on fire. And all of a sudden, a whole bunch of the key albums were missing. We’d gotten tons of crappy records, but we also got some important records, to get close-ups of. And we couldn’t film it. Sheepishly, Joey came forward and said, «I found this pile of records, and I thought these were the really good ones, so I wanted to save them.» It was Highway 61 Revisited, Sticky Fingers and Who’s Next. Those were three of the records that Joey liberated and saved. These were my personal copies that I’d been willing to sacrifice for the movie, but Joey just couldn’t stand it.


Joey was a good cat. Nothing but good. He had a great life, and he was able to stick to his vision and follow it. That’s a gift not many people get. I used to rehearse down the hall from them when they were first getting started. They were perfect. What I love about Joey and what I remember about him is, we’d be standing in some place watching a band or at some crowded party, and he’d come up and stand next to me and not say anything. After about five minutes, he would say, «It’s weird, isn’t it?» We would just observe the same thing for five minutes in silence, then he would say, «It’s weird, isn’t it?» That’s what I remember.
Lots of times I used to play on a double bill with them, up and down the coast and in Boston a lot. One night the show was over and we were all packing up. We were getting in our vans, and I said to Joey, «So where are you going?» like, asking what hotel they were going to. And he said, «Hotel! We’re going home. You think we’re going to spend money on a hotel?» I just got this idea, like, light bulb, and started going home within a 600-mile radius after that. So I learned a couple of tricks from him.

DONNA R. of the Donnas

I started listening to the Ramones when I was nine. The music is so catchy that even little kids can get into it. It’s pretty brainless, but that’s what’s so cool about it. Joey changed the way everybody looks at rock & roll, and what’s so cool is that he didn’t take credit for the revolution he started. Thousands of frontmen wanted to be like him. He’d pronounce things in a weird accent and hold the mike in that weird way he did, with his front knee bent. He started a revolution. There’s a lot of bands out there who claim that in rock & roll, but nobody deserves it more than the Ramones.

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