...I was still hoping for a last gig or some kind of reunion. A very last show, a lot of fun, steaming music, great band, great fans ... . Joey has played his last show. The lights went out, the music faded, his show had to come to an end. Nevertheless, I know that he will keep on rocking in our hearts. Adios amigo, I will miss you!
Joey's last record:
Like many seminal musicians who died too soon, Joey Ramone has left a trail of tunes to remember him by.
Before the former Ramones frontman's life was taken at age 49 by lymphatic cancer on Sunday 15/04/01, he finished a solo album that was nearly three years in the making.
"It is all recorded. We will wait awhile, but we will release it this year," said longtime Ramones producer Daniel Rey, who collaborated with the singer on the album. "Joey wanted it to come out. He was proud of it."
Ramone wrote nearly 20 new tunes that he recorded with a band consisting of Andy (a.k.a. Adny) Shernoff of punk group the Dictators, Cracker drummer Frank Funaro and Rey on guitar.
"He was loved by everyone who knew him or heard him," Rey said. "There was never anyone like him, nor will there ever be again. He encapsulated everything about rock 'n' roll music and did it with passion. He took everything that was good — doo-wop, girl groups, the British invasion — and summed it up in his vocal style."
The songs on the posthumous album reflect Ramone's ongoing quirky obsessions.
"I watch this show 'Squawk Box' every morning, and they have this host named Maria [Bartiromo] who is really hot and feisty," Ramone said. "When I stopped drinking, I started getting into the stock market because it's sort of like a mosh pit down there."
A demo of the song mixed the British Invasion sound of the Who's early material with a touch of the Ramones' career-long fascination with Motown girl groups. "I watch her every day/ I watch her every night/ She's really out of sight/ Maria Bartiromo," Ramone sang.
Other songs Ramone recorded include "I Feel Like I'm on a Drug I've Never Done Before," "Mr. Punchy," "Don't Worry About Me," "What Did I Do to Deserve You" and "There's a Spirit in My House and I Know It Ain't No Mouse."
A Ramone alone:
Bonded by their love of the music of the '60s, they called themselves the Ramones, and they saved rock & roll. Amazon.com editor Kevin Cole talks with punk visionary, pizza lover, and lead vocalist Joey Ramone about punk rock, purity and art.
Joey ("I don't care about history") Ramone claims his place in the annals of rock & roll In the mid-1970s, four outcasts emerged from Queens, New York, wearing ripped jeans, T-shirts, and black leather jackets, singing songs about teenage lobotomies and "chewing out a rhythm on my bubblegum."
Amazon.com: Entertainment Weekly picked the Ramones' first gig at CBGB's as one of the hundred most important moments in rock & roll history. How does that make you feel?
Joey Ramone: Coming in at No. 11 wasn't bad. That made me feel pretty good. People always embraced the Ramones, but it's nice, what's happening. Seems like since the band disbanded there's been a major increase in all kinds of things dealing with the Ramones and with rock & roll. Because the Ramones weren't just a band; we inspired generations of kids. We were really the blueprint for the kind of music that we created--that was called punk rock—but it was so much more than that. I mean, like, you hear from all these young kids, like Offspring and Green Day and Rancid--all these younger bands today. It's cool hearing from them.
Amazon.com: Did you guys have a sense of history when you started out?
Ramone: We were all friends living in the same neighborhood, basically; we were all kind of outcasts. And we shared a lot of the same musical tastes. And the music that we loved was kind of dying out, so we played for ourselves, more or less. The real good stuff was all kind of disappearing. I guess in the early '70s there was some good stuffthe Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper, and then like [David] Bowie and T-Rex and Slade. There was a lot of good stuff, and then that was it.
Amazon.com: Is there a single most important element to the Ramones' sound?
Ramone: Johnny conceived a new guitar sound and everyone brought something special to the stew. The things that we sang about were dealing with ourselves—our own frustrations and things that we found amusing and things dealing with TV or radio or life.
Amazon.com: How, over the course of 20 years, did you guys avoid getting fat?
Ramone: We always knew who we were as individuals. We knew what we wanted and we never strayed. We knew what excited us and what our fans liked. We're purists and we always stayed true to that.
Amazon.com: Was it ever frustrating creating perfect pop radio songs like Rockaway Beach and not getting radio play?
Ramone: Well, it was a very frustrating career. It was just constant obstacles being thrown in your path. It wasn't in the music or anything. It was usually the industry—radio or whatever. A lot of people were afraid of us.
Amazon.com: What's your first musical recollection?
Ramone: I remember it being like Del Shannon. That might have been the first record I bought Runaway. My early life, I went through a lot of crap with divorce and my mom remarrying and getting a new family and all this crap. I kind of found my salvation in AM radio. I remember being turned on to the Beach Boys, hearing Surfing USA, I guess, in 1960. But the Beatles really did it to me. Later on, the Stooges were a band that really helped me in those dark periods—just get out the aggression. Nobody picked up guns in those days. You put on music and it made you feel great.
Amazon.com: In looking back at the legacy of the Ramones, what makes you feel the proudest?
Ramone: I guess just the entire accomplishment. We never sold out; we always retained our self-respect and our integrity. And I guess just being respected by other artists, like Stephen King and Matt Groening and Phil Spector. And just the fans in general. We get diehard fans.
Amazon.com: What's a record that people would be surprised that you love?
Ramone: I love that Lucinda Williams record, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. It's just totally genuine. And she's very unique.
Amazon.com: When people are being really real and honest and passionate, it transcends genre.
Ramone: I love that—when I'm affected by somebody else. It doesn't happen very often. There's a real art to making music. It's not a commodity, even though today it is a commodity. Today it's just record business. It has nothing to do with music or art.
Interview by Kevin Cole for Amazon.Com © 1999