JOEY RAMONE 1951-2001
It started out like any other Monday morning. After a much-needed three day weekend
for the Easter holiday, I was in the car driving to my spirit crushing job, still half asleep,
listening to the radio. Then the DJ came on and said something that snapped me awake –
“Joey Ramone died last night from complications with lymphatic cancer. He was 49.”
And then the familiar cadence of “Blitzkrieg Bop” blasted from the speakers. I was too
stunned to even think. Could this be true? Was the leader of one of the greatest rock n roll
bands in the world really gone?
But it is true. Joey Ramone really is gone. It was bad enough that the Ramones called it
quits a few years ago, but I think that in the back of every Ramones fan’s mind there was
always that nagging suspicion that sooner or later they’d be back. Of course, now any
hopes of a full-fledged reunion have been extinguished forever. We’ll never again get to
see Joey standing onstage, seemingly taller and thinner than humanly possible, in a black
leather jacket and ripped blue jeans, barking out his monotone battle cry to just keep it
As the day wore on I found myself a bit more affected by Joey’s death than I thought I
would be, or perhaps should be. First of all I didn’t know the man. But that hardly matters
because if you listen to the Ramones for any length of time, you feel like you know them.
After all, who can’t relate to a Ramones song in some way? Aside from the occasional
forays into political territory, the band wrote songs about pretty universal themes,
boredom, low self esteem, girls, drugs, and most importantly, the love of rock n roll. And
the music itself was accessible. It was loud, fast and you could sing along to it (once you
deciphered the lyrics). The beat was so simple even the musically challenged could tap
their feet in time. Let’s face it, the stuff was tailor made for those horrible teenage years.
And I think that’s what made Joey’s passing have more of an impact on me. Like many
other kids I discovered the Ramones during those horrible teenage years, and as cheesy
and cliché as it may sound, they really did help me through it. Their music made me feel
good and made me feel like a part of a club that the other “normal” kids couldn’t join. I
was inducted into a community of misfits and weirdoes by one simple chant – “Gabba
gabba, we accept you, one of us!” From that point on, I was proud to be an outcast. And
Joey and the Ramones made that possible.
It’s also a bit sad that the Ramones never got the fame and recognition they deserved.
These days bands like the Offspring, Green Day, and Blink 182 are making fortunes
selling their watered down pop punk to mass audiences. But trace your history kids,
without the Ramones, none of those bands would have existed. The Ramones started it
For me, the Ramones stood as the last bastion of pure rock n roll. There was nothing
contrived or pretentious about the music they made. It was raw emotion that went straight
for the throat and got under your skin. Plus, it had a good beat and you could dance to it.
Perhaps that’s why they were always written off as a joke. They weren’t trying to sell you
anything. Just good music. They weren’t flashy enough and they never sold out. They
were the last true rebels of rock n roll. And while they never achieved the level of fame
they wanted, they certainly got through to a loyal legion of fans, myself included. That’s
why I’d prefer not to think of the death of Joey Ramone as just another dead rock star,
but the passing of a friend.
So, to all the Pinheads out there, let’s raise our fists one more time for Joey – repeat after
me – “1-2-3-4! Hey ho, let’s go!”
Written By: Tim B.