Not 53rd & 3rd
Joey Ramone gets his Place (in the 9-to-5 world, and beyond)
By 1 p.m., two generations of punk loyalists had swarmed the corner of East 2nd Street and the Bowery for the city’s formal dedication of Joey Ramone Place, immortalizing the relationship between the King of Punk and the city that spawned him. Following Joey’s untimely death in 2001, a teenage fan from Staten Island spearheaded the street sign movement. On Sunday, November 30, her dream came true—now punks have something to lean against.
Meantime, inside CBGB, high mass was in progress. Joey’s brother—guitarist Mickey Leigh—and Punk magazine founders Legs McNeil and John Holmstrom officiated, as a parade of family, friends, scene entrepreneurs, and luminaries offered heartfelt testimonials to the huddled masses. Marky Ramone said, “Joey was a true New Yorker, and only a New Yorker could have spawned the Ramones.” Talking Heads’ Chris Franz observed, “Joey Ramone was an outsider artist. He was a person who truly lived at the edge while challenging our traditional cultural values.” The Dictators’ Dick Manitoba quipped, “What’s the big deal about a street sign? It should be fucking Joey Ramone Boulevard!”
Borrowing from Gandhi, Ramones artistic director Arturo Vega summed up the Ramones’ last 30 years: “At the beginning, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” Indeed, Joey’s punk politics permeated this bittersweet family affair. The cultural freedom-fighter from Forest Hills demanded the airwaves and open space for kids to create and consume music. The street sign symbolizes CBGB’s role in the end-of-the-century revitalization of the Bowery. Now, as condos and luxury buildings impose themselves upon the landscape, and landlord greed and NYU encroachment threaten to shut CBGB, Lenny Kaye applauded the sign as a historical referent in an ominous future.
Sporting a CBGB T-shirt, with a proclamation signed and sealed by Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Council- man Alan Gerson formally declared November 30 “Joey Ramone Day.” At around 2:30 p.m., the sign, covered with a black Ramones T-shirt, was unveiled amid hearty chants of “hey ho let’s go.” A giant Joey Ramone puppet head on a stick carried a sign, a prayer; “1-2-3-4ever in our heart, soul, gut.” Meantime, everyone began placing their bets: “How long do you think it will be before some punk steals that sign?” —Dr. Donna Gaines
Live Isn’t Hell
Famous non-Bryan salvages his bad new records onstage
Ryan Adams’s new Rock N Roll is a collection of spot-on imitations of the tousled-haired heartthrob’s favorite bands, but it’s hard to figure why somebody would opt for “Note to Self: Don’t Die” over Nirvana, or “Anybody Wanna Take Me Home” over the Smiths. Love Is Hell, the supposedly “dark” and “depressing” rainy-British-day album that Adams’s label shelved in favor of the more upbeat Rock (only to release it later as a pair of EPs), falls ever flatter.
Put a few drinks in the guy and throw him onstage, though, and watch out: At Webster Hall on Thursday, he proved more than a Parker Posey-dating pretty face. (“Leave the comedy to Parker!” a smartass yelled after one of Adams’s many between-song bad jokes. “Summer of ’69!” shouted somebody else, in reference to his well-documented tendency to go ballistic if anybody mentions a certain Canadian with a similar name. Unfortunately for drama seekers, the only response was, “I don’t have time for you right now,” and a chorus of boos.)
Dressed in a vintage magenta jacket, tie, and sweaty-collared shirt, chain-smoking and swilling red wine, Adams led his five-piece band through an hour-and-a-half set emphasizing his current preference for being a full-fledged rock star over his alt-country past. The tracks from Rock—he played almost all of them—were fierce and fist pumping. He fed off of the packed crowd’s enthusiasm, attacking his guitar like a Sonic Youth member, swinging his mic like Roger Daltrey, snarling like a punk. The chorus of “So Alive” (“I am on your side/And so alive”) sounds lame through stereo speakers, but sounded magical with Adams perched on top of a monitor at the edge of the stage, arms aloft as he wailed and the music soared.
The highlight came during “Burning Photographs,” when Adams jumped into the crowd and commanded, “Dance, motherfuckers!” A bespectacled middle-aged woman fought her way through the pogoing mass to plant a kiss on Adams’s cheek. A hefty, tattooed man with a shaved head gave him a bear hug. And I decided that Ryan Adams should forget the recording studio and spend the rest of his life touring. —Amy Phillips