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Joey Ramone would have been 60 years old on May 19. This week, in celebration of the birthday of the Queens-born gone-too-soon punk legend, Sound of the City will run a series of features on his life and his legacy.
Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery–and whose style has been aped more than the Ramones–but what do you call it when no less than Lemmy himself writes a song in your honor? From sincere homages to nonsensical rave ups, The Ramones have inspired scores of bands to literally sing their praises. Here is a list of our favorite songs about Forest Hills’ own Fab Four.
What happens when the loudest (and arguably the greatest) heavy metal band in the land pens an ode to punk’s godfathers? Obviously, the greatest song about being in The Ramones ever written–so great, in fact, that the bruddas themselves worked it into their live repertoire for their last decade or so. Lemmy and CJ even shared vocal duties live on occasion during the last few tours.
Sleater-Kinney, “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone”
A fine counterpart to Motorhead’s testosterone-driven ode. Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein both assume the role of Riff Randell in this goopy love song–becaus enothing says true love more than hanging pictures on your bedroom door. (Although I could probably do without the mental image of “Thurston Moore wrestling on your bedroom floor.”)
Guitar Wolf, “Kung Fu Ramone”/”Kung Fu Ramone Culmination Tactic”
Not sure exactly what a “Kung Fu Ramone Culmination Tactic” might be, but Japanese grease-and-leather no-fi heroes Guitar Wolf certainly captured the spirit of Forest Hills’ favorite sons with this nonsensical rant about coming to play in your town with an ass pocket full of whiskey–and letting you know that if you don’t like it, they ain’t gonna hang around.
Mr. T Experience, “End of the Ramones”
With an intro lifted straight from “Teenage Lobotomy,” Dr. Frank, Jon Von and Co. released this eerily prophetic song about the band’s demise some seven years before they hung up the Mosrite for good. By ’89 some people had written the Ramones off as having their best days behind ’em but, um, hello, Mondo Bizarrro and Brain Drain had plenty of hits! (“Poison Heart,” anyone?) Diehards (this writer included) will always claim that the band still had it going on up through and including the Adios Amigos tour (on which I saw them twice).
The Parasites, “I Wanna Be Like Dee Dee Ramone”
A glue-sniffing former hustler turned punk icon turned rapper turned artist turned author who wrote some of the band’s most iconic tunes–the autobiographical “53rd & 3rd” and “Chinese Rocks” (later popularized by Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers), “Commando,” “Locket Love,” “I Can’t Give You Anything,” and “Warthog”–Dee Dee was a veritable punk rock renaissance man, and on this ode to him, Jersey pop-punkers the Parasites captured the band’s sound and spirit to a T. (The version in the above clip is by Parasites antecedent The Accelerators.)
Helen Love, “(Sheena’s In Love With) Joey Ramoney”
This Welsh trio’s guitar player is the aforementioned Sheena; wonder if she likes punk rock? Apparently the love between Joey and this band was mutual, with Joey inviting Helen Love to open for The Ramones in New York; lead singer Helen Love also contributed backing vocals to Don’t Worry About Me, the solo LP released shortly after his death.
The Boys, “T.C.P.”
Eating burgers and sniffing glue can lead to one bad outcome…. pimples! UK powerpop band The Boys realized that all the way back in 1978 when they included this little ditty about an antiseptic that apparently works wonders against blemishes (the gist of the lyrics are “Johnny, Joey, Tommy, Dee Dee/ T.C.P. will leave you pimple free”) on their Alternative Chartbusters LP.
Boris The Sprinkler, “Kill The Ramones”
No idea why Rev. N0rb would wanna kill The Ramones, considering that he was basically paying homage to their nuthin-but-downstrokes four-on-the-floor style on every Boris The Sprinkler record. The flipside to this Junk Records single was “Kill the Sex Pistols,” so perhaps these Wisconsinites were just trying to take out the competition. Kill your idols, indeed.
Sloppy Seconds, “You Can’t Kill Joey Ramone”
Leave it to Indiana’s self-proclaimed fattest, drunkest, and stupidest band to write a fitting coda to Joey’s life: “Well now somewhere on the Bowery/ There’s a gathering of drunks/ With a bottle in a brown bag/ But not for all the punks.” (Obviously they’ve never tried to snag a table at Gemma on a Friday night.)
Ramones, “Danny Says”
Who better to write a song about being in The Ramones than… The Ramones? Penned in 1979, while Joey was holed up in LA recording End of The Century with Phil Spector, and ostensibly about manager Danny Fields, “Danny Says” chronicles life on the road (“hangin out in 503/ watchin’ Get Smart on TV/ thinkin’ about you and me/ you and me”). The track chronicles Joey’s relationship with then-girlfriend Linda Danielle; she left him shortly thereafter for Johnny, causing an irreparable rift in the band. Joey often cited “Danny Says” as a personal favorite for sentimental reasons.