Happy Birthday, Joey Ramone!

Happy birthday to punk legend, Joey Ramone! Right up until his passing in 2001, Joey continued to revel in his love of music. If You Like the Ramones author Peter Aaron saw this love first hand on a night in the late 90s when he saw Joey at his favorite hang-out spot on the Lower East Side. This excerpt from If You Like the Ramones tells the story of this profound moment:



Anyway, on one of those nights I was sitting at the bar, about two or three empty stools down from Joey. Manitoba [of the Dictators] was spinning a great compilation of British Invasion stuff, classics by the Beatles, the Zombies, the Hollies, the Yardbirds. Just one gem after another. Other than the music, not much was happening. Once in a while Manitoba or I would make some little observation about one of the tunes, but that was all. Joey was just sitting there in silence, lost in thought with his drink in front of him and that famous avalanche of black hair hiding his face. He was stock still. I wondered if he’d fallen asleep on his stool. But, then, after a few more of the nuggets on Manitoba’s tape had gone by, something wonderful happened.

The Who’s “The Kids Are Alright” came on: a ringing D chord by Pete Townshend, then his voice in harmony with Roger Daltrey’s—I don’t mi-i-i-ind—before Keith Moon’s drums bring in the next lyric—Other guys dancing with my gir-r-r-l-l. After those first six seconds, the whole band comes in and the song explodes. And when it did on this particular night, Joey’s head shot up as if he’d been shaken from a daze, jolted with electricity. He looked around the near-empty room. “All riiiight …” he purred, barely audible, as his eyes met mine from across the rims of his trademark granny shades. He smiled for a second, slowly nodded. And that was all. He put his head back down and returned to nursing his booze, staying silent for the duration of the night.

It was a fleeting glimpse. But it was a perfect snapshot. It summed up what Joey and his bandmates—cofounders guitarist Johnny, bassist Dee Dee, and drummer/producer Tommy Ramone, and later drummers Marky and Richie and bassist C. J. Ramone— were all about: an undying love of and unshakable belief in rock ’n’ roll and all of its transformative promise. A love of great songs that make you feel good from the first moment you hear them and never fail to do the trick after that. I mean, how many times must Joey have heard “The Kids Are Alright”? The Who was his favorite band. He saw the group on its first U.S. tour in 1967, opening for Herman’s Hermits, a pivotal experience, he said many a time af- terward. He probably bought the single of  “The Kids Are Alright” when it came out, and wore out that and all the other tracks on the Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy anthology. I even saw him sing the song once, complete with lasso-swinging, Daltrey-esque microphone action and the Dictators backing him up, at his 1998 birthday gig at the now-gone Coney Island High on St. Mark’s Place (in an exam- ple of cosmic symmetry, Joey and Pete Townshend even have the same birthday: May 19). Yet hearing that song for the umpteenth time that night at 2A still clearly and greatly thrilled the vocalist. It got him tapping his hi-topped foot. Maybe made the back of his neck a little warm and tingly, gave him a few goose bumps here and there. It put that little grin on his face and got him to forget about whatever was bugging him for two minutes and forty-five seconds. Even made his night. I’ve treasured the moment ever since.



Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on May 19, 2014, in Music Fans and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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