(Okay, not really by Queen)
Joey Ramone used to be the lead singer for seminal (fluid! HEEEEE!) punk band The Ramones (hence his last name, "Ramone" - famous producer Phil Ramone was also a band member) until their breakup in 1993-96 (their farewell tour lasted a while). In early 2001, he passed away of cancer. I miss him!
Let me share with you my go-nowhere, bland Joey Ramone sighting stories. FIRST ONE: My parents were in town visiting and we went down to Times Square - my Dad and I went to "Charlie Beefsteak" for an authentic NYC lunch while my mutha and brutha walked down to try to buy tickets to some crappyass Broadway musical or somesuch. My pop and I were enjoying our complimentary water in Barley Chiefsteak when my brother ran in and shouted "Mark! One of the Ramones is down the street!" so I hopped out of the booth, leaving my father alone where he probably made love with the entire wait staff while we were gone because he's a virile, virile man just like his son. Joey was filming a video for the Ramones song "Cabbies On Crack" (did this ever actually reach completion? I've never seen it!). I told him that they were my favorite band and I couldn't believe that they were breaking up, and he gave me his carefully rehearsed answers, "Nah, we're not breaking up! We're just retiring!" We exchanged a few more niceties (a photo of this "meeting of the geniuses" can be found in the little booklet accompanying my second CDR Keep On Zaccin', btw) and I left him alone. That was meeting ONE. THREE MORE TO GO! GRAB SOME LICORICE!
Eww. Just writing that put a lousy taste in my mouth. I hate licorice.
Second encounter: I was at a club watching The Remains play a Ramones set (Remains = Dee Dee, Barbara, Marky and C. Jay Ramone). Dee Dee dedicated "Rockaway Beach" to Joey Ramone. At the end of the set, as I was clearing out, I noticed Joey sitting at the bar. "Odd," I thought. "I thought," I thought, "that they didn't get along."
TH3RD ENCOUNTER OF THE CLOSE KIND: I was at Kmart in Astor Place with the old ball and chain, as well as my girlfriend, and the whore had to go take a pisser. I waited at the bottom of the escalator because I find escalators extremely exhausting to stand on. When who to my wondering eye should appear but Joey Ramone and six tiny reindeer! I wanted to chase him, knock him down and say "YOU RULE (MY PANTIES)!" but I didn't want to lose my female member in the crowd of cheap horrid fucks that frequent the Astor Place Kmart.
Final (and most depressing) encounter: I was hangin' downtow-ow-ow-own with some friends when a feller selling albums on the sidewalk pointed out that Joey was about to cross the street towards us. I excitedly got in position with the knowledge that I was going to tell him how I REALLY felt. He crept closer and closer, and I said, quite stupidly too, "Thank you for saving rock and roll!" It was at this point that I noticed exactly HOW hunched over, slowly moving and out of it he looked. He had a bandaid on his face along with no expression at all. His mouth moved as if he were trying to answer me, but no sounds came out. He didn't even move his head to look at me. Confused as all hell, I watched as he shuffled very, very slowly down the sidewalk. One of my friends remarked, "He looked awful!" I walked back to the record selling guy, who looked sad now as he remarked, "He's dying of cancer." I was all like "EXCUSE ME!!?!?!?!?" A few months later, he was dead. Which means that I was the last person to ever speak to him.
Look, don't fucking analyze everything - all great authors embellish for the sake of art.
Thus, this album. Recorded shortly pre-mortem, released a year post-, it sounds a lot like the last couple of Ramones albums: layers of faceless heavy cleanly distorted guitars playing simplistic chord sequences midtempo. There is NO punk rock on here - it's all heavy pop/rock with `60s influences. And it's chockfull of Joey's old punker friends: Oft-times Ramones album producer Daniel Rey plays guitar on all tracks, Dictator Andy Shernoff plays bass everywhere, Marky Ramone drums on more than half of it, The Damned's Captain Sensible sings backup on one song, the Misfits' Jerry Only and Dr. Chud back him on a cover of the Stooges' "1969" (kind of a tepid cover too, but I dig rest) and Joey's very own brother Mickey Leigh plays guitar on the title track.
As always, Joey's songs aren't the most complicated things in creation (the Ramones really DID need Joey, Dee Dee AND Johnny to create something amazing), but they're catchy enough and his voice sounds unbelievably excellent. Lyrically, it's a bit depressing, but Joey is sure to include very strong moments of light where they are most needed. He withheld his cancer diagnosis from the public for like five years, and the reason is probably that he likes to make people HAPPY, not depressed. Lots of punkers bitch and moan about their "problems" (including me!), but finally we have a guy who has a very serious legitimate problem to complain about, and what does he do? Sings cute, uplifting songs about "Mr. Punchy" (?) and CNN's Money Honey "Maria Bartiromo" (this song made my wife laugh out loud, btw), as well as covering "What A Wonderful World." Imagine that: you're dying of cancer and you choose to cover "What A WONDERFUL World." With no irony. I don't know much about what Joey Ramone was really like in person, but that kind of thing says volumes.
Still, it IS depressing - as a dual cancer/obsessive-compulsive disorder sufferer, he makes it clear that he's feeling "pressure like I never felt it before" and that "dwelling is driving me crazy," culminating in the awful aura surrounding "I Got Knocked Down" (But I'll Get Up), a song where he explicitly (in few words) describes what he's going through - "Sitting in a hospital bed/I want life/I want my life/It really sucks. Turn off the TV set take some drugs so I can forget." Somehow he convinces himself he'll survive - actually, apparently even as he lay dying, he was still speaking with Marky about going on tour to support the album. In another song, he discusses how either a guru or a girl who visits a guru (I can't quite tell from the lyrics) gave him "spiritual comforting" and he "felt like a million dollars." Basically, the damn album is autobiographical. He even ADMITS that he has OCD, which he certainly had never done before (he actually got in a big fight with Marky on the Howard Stern Show once because Marky had been telling people about his OCD - they made up at the end).
So that's my take. I've never considered Joey the most creative riffmaster in the world, but he's always been a fantastic singer (aside from the first Ramones album and every live show they played from 1980- on), and his songs really do bring back that melodic, youthful quality of mid'60s rock and roll. You can feel it here too, even with the modern distorted guitar sound. I say buy it - it's his last will and testament, and it deserves to be heard.
Plus, did I mention that one of the songs was co-written by Al Maddy? AL FUCKIN' MADDY!!!!!! (REMINDER: LOOK UP "AL MADDY" ON YAHOO BEFORE POSTING REVIEW)
Both times I sighted Joey, I know I scared 'em. first time- drunk as usual, full of enthusiasm, and overly physical. it was outside the continental (circa '96) and he was talking to some girls... i was getting some pizza next door, and i was already far gone, in preperation for the neurotic outsiders show later that night at webster's hall. i was wearing a ramones shirt. "joey!" (slap on back, or something). He was visibly uncomfotable, but was polite: "hey... (notices shirt) nice shirt". i was fucking happy :) then, at that mecca of men's rooms, cbgb, i caught him trying to discretely enter the club fashionably late, at a ramone's themed event ('99 or '00). I think I kinda did the same thing. This time he like, looked confused, and then scurried away, god bless him. later i waited on line downstairs and got his autograph on a bumper sticker, which i brilliantly put on my car, and being a cheap arturo vega bumper sticker, it washed off like 5 days later. i did have more meaningful conversations with c jay and bobby steele that night though...
ok. i believe the cabbies on crack video was completed because they showed clips of it at the bowery ballroom at his birthday party last year. amazing that i remember anything from that night in which i drunkenly found myself a patient at bellvue freakin' hospital... i only know because they keep sending me bills... well, i don't suppose they would show clips of a video that wasn't completed. some great acting by joey too... he doesn't even have an statement on his face on any of the clips i saw, just kinda... starin'.... "don't worry about me": pretty much what you said. beautiful singing. he really sounded comfortable with his vocals and the music. i don't think i would say the same about the late period ramones stuff, not to the same degree. especially if it was something someone else wrote. joey didn't feel like he was born to die in berlin. he was born to sing dee dee's cocaine poetry in a froggy voice.
it was sad n' touching, the autobiographical lyrics. i felt i got to know him a little better. i was taken in that there were these references to relationships with weird girls. he had been getting better at that even with the band: "she talks to rainbows" is more vivid than "what's your game". mr. punchy (?) sure sounded like the early who, didn't it? and what a wonderful world was just the final and most poignant shoulda-been-a-hit joey song. I can't say i wore the record out, and maybe i feel guilty about that, but i obviously felt moved enough by it to spend 40 minutes of sunday afternoon writing this...
points of disagreement: nothing at all wrong with the guitar sound. despite their legitamate status as the true pioneers of punk rock, and the fact that their first coupla albums were, by happy accident (or circumstance anyway), recorded perfectly crappy, the ramones never wanted to sound like minor threat playing the beach boys. they were classic rockers, who wanted to sound as good and radio friendly to people as phil spector's stuff did. nevermind that that's near impossible if your music is more sonically influenced by the stooges and dolls than anything else... even if phil spector actually produced (ok, that is a shmaltzy record at times). anyway, sounding like green day or weezer is a good compramise between "loudmouth" and "baby i love you". and if those younger, cuter, right-place-at-the-right-time bands can become millionaires reproducing the ramones formula, why can't the ramones borrow back? they always did reflect those reflecting them... witness "animal boy" or "i'm not jesus" in the era of new york hardcore/metal crossover... now i forgot what else i wanted to write...
oh. don't worry about me is a punk rock record. how can it not be? it follows a straight line from the ramones debut, and that's where punk rock obtained its very definition. its jus't a legitamate maturing of a personality from that point of origin, freed from the slight restraint of actually being marketed as a ramones album. punk isn't any one sound. how could it be, if it can be said to include everything from 999 to old agnostic front to the undertones to, uh, earth crisis, not that that's a great example of music. um, the queers to discharge? the mentors, that was punk rock! punk is basic guitar barre/power chord rock n' roll that is played with a certain spirit, and if that spirit had to boiled down to one descriptive word, i would say it was "ramones". so, like, this album easily qualifies. plus "what a wonderful world" is on a mix tape i made with all these songs that you wouldn't dispute were punk rock, and it fits in just fine so there.
Is it just me or does the "Mr. Punchy" track sound like it wasn't finished? It sounds like they looped some of his vocal tracks and then added singing where he didn't finish it. Can anyone confirm or deny this?