Joey 1951–2001

A Ramone Leaves Home

The Ramones kept their song on the road for more than 20 years, a remarkable achievement for any dysfunctional family, surviving world tours, new members—Joey was the last of the original Ramones, though each raw-boned recruit seemed cut in the image of the Ramonic ideal, blunt force wearing a sleeved heart—countless imitators and clichés. The Ramones stuck doggedly to their formula one, watching it become prototype. Joey was the frontman, and, ultimately, the band's biggest fan.

And a forever fan of New York rock and roll. One of the most supportive members of the local musicians' community, he loved to visit the nightclubs of his home turf, his lanky head bobbing over the crowd, out on the town with his friends. He would cheer the band on. Get up and do a tune. "Beat on the Brat"? One-too-t'ree-faw!

Everyone loved Joey. Especially Ronnie Spector. At a Christmas show at Life in 1999, she and Joey hosted a revue that included cretin-hopper Keith Richards. Joining in on "Bye Bye Baby," she became Cher to Joey's Sonny. He coproduced an EP for her, and for one who grew up in the echo chamber of the Brill Building, it must have been as fulfilling a circle as a spinning 45. He had also completed a solo album, working with producers Daniel Rey and Andy Shernoff, and though he had his "good days and his bad days," was an inspirational fount of future plans.

All revved up and ready to go.
photo: Ebet Roberts
All revved up and ready to go.

Yeah baby! We're watching ? and the Mysterians at Coney Island High that same year, another sun-glassed spectre with a gift for the simplistic epigram. Joey's birthday party had just been held there, a peer grouping that brought together several generations of New York scenesters. At Coney Island's "class reunion" last Friday night at Don Hill's, Joey's name hung in the Good Friday air. By Sunday the rock had rolled away.

I take a walk into Joey's Lower East Side on Sunday night, after the rain. Downstairs in a basement club on Avenue A, we put Ramones songs on the jukebox. We dance into the dawn, the end of the century now.

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