JOEY RAMONE. 12 Years.

“I enjoyed my life when I had nothing… and kinda like the idea of just being happy with me.”

I’ve had this in mind most of the day. The rest of my thoughts aren’t as interesting, or as important. I’ve spent the day listening to and thinking about the Ramones. How time drags. How everything drags when it is bad. I’ve always idolised the Ramones; mainly Joey. I bought (fake) leather jackets because I saw how it made them look untouchable. I wanted to feel like that. When I wear it, I don’t. It’s going to take more than a jacket to make me feel like that. I look at old press photos of them all; they were a gang, a family. A force that could not be stopped and to even want to stop them would have been utterly foolish.

Punk went beyond being a genre of music. Ramones went beyond being just a band. I have a few of their records (vinyl) and when I play it, with the crackling in the background the excitement of discovering them for the first time hits me. They became instantly timeless didn’t they. They had something that is beyond words and will never be seen in any other band. You see, everyone is always “BEATLES OR ROLLING STONES.” No. Forget that. I’d choose neither (if I had to, I’d pick Rolling Stones because they weren’t overproduced and manufactured toss.) Ramones had EVERYTHING a band should have. They had raw energy, songs that felt like you were being throttled but they conveyed so much sensitivity in certain songs such as I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend and their cover of the Ronettes song Baby I Love You.

Joey Ramone will always be the greatest frontman of all time. His shyness and towering frame made him seem like a gentle giant. His distinctive voice and the way he thrashed the mic stand as he sung made you wish you could be like him. I will always wish I could be like him, and Patti Smith. There’s nothing I can really say about Joey that hasn’t been said by so many before. He was truly one of a kind.

Ramones-End Of The Century.

Ramones - End Of The Century (1980)

When I look into your big brown eyes, and I feel like I’m in paradise. I want you by my side.”

My love for the Ramones isn’t just love. It’s an obsession. A way of life. If I was male, I’d want to be as tall as Joey Ramone. I’d have the hair too. Instead I am short, chubby and I have the same wild hair. I make do with what I have; I have to. It’s alright. I wear my Ramones hoodie with pride, but at the same time loath the thought that someone may assume I know nothing about them and are just wearing it to look “cool.” Please note that the term “cool” is bloody awful and nobody is cool. It’s a redundant word to make people into all they aren’t. Ramones are probably my favourite band ever. Closely followed by The Jesus And Mary Chain. This is all my uncle’s doing, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I always thought I could never pick a favourite record by Ramones because they have done so many. I think it’s around 14 or 15. I’ve always had a place firmly reserved for End Of The Century. I think if it wasn’t produced by (my favourite producer of all time) Phil Spector, my love for the record may not be as deep as this. Merging Punk and the Wall Of Sound together showed the genius of both Phil Spector and the Ramones. I’ve read many stories about the difficulties that occurred when recording End Of The Century. From Phil apparently holding the band hostage (with a gun) to recording the record in several studios; it is still one of the best records ever made.

My personal highlight of the record will always be their cover of the Ronettes song, Baby I Love You. I love this song more than I can put into words, and to hear my favourite band cover it in a way that still keeps hold of the vulnerability in the song is just incredible. Joey’s voice on this song is just stunning. To the point where you find yourself singing along with him and yelling “I LOVE YOU TOO JOEY” at the end of the song. Is that just me? I think it could be. It’s alright.

I know that it is a record that many fans of the band may not like, but for me it isn’t about the songs. It is about the fact that Phil Spector (in all his madness but genius) and the Ramones made a record together. Through all the madness and whatever else happened, a record came from it. It may or may not be “true” to the sound of the Ramones but no band ever stays the same. You cannot ever expect a band to keep making the same record over and over. What would be the point?

I own a few Ramones records on vinyl, but not many on CD. For me, I enjoy them more hearing the crackling in the background on vinyl. Sure you can hear the production more clear on a CD but I want the background noise. Ramones were raw. Regardless of who produced the records, they always stayed true to that. That easily makes them the best band ever. There will never be another band like them. Just like there will never be a producer like Phil Spector. So to have a record like End Of The Century, regardless on your view of it, was a truly great thing to happen to music.

Top 10 Male Singers (of all time..sort of.)

I frequently have internal battles with myself about my favourite songs and records of all time. I place them into categories to make it easier, such as Favourite Debut Record of All Time to BEST SONG EVER PART 1 OF 100. Stuff like that you know? But earlier, I managed to come up with a solid list of my favourite male singers of all time. I basically narrowed it down to singers that were around before I was born because if I did recent ones, I’d firmly place Brandon Welchez from Crocodiles as my number 1. Maybe I’ll do a list for that.

So, I’m going to attempt to list my favourite male singers of all time (that existed before I was born..I was born in ’86. The golden era of Hip Hop.) Of course I may change my mind at some point, but hopefully I won’t fret and lose sleep over this. I’m a born worrier; but I keep it well hidden. Obviously I’ve just admitted to it, so it’s not a secret. Oh well.

10. David Johansen (New York Dolls.) I hate that I’ve had to put this in order because I want to jumble it all around. However, the love I have for David Johansen goes beyond him being my number 10. What I love about him is his flamboyant style and distinctive drawl. I remember my mum playing their first record round the house when I was younger. I didn’t know it was the Dolls but I was hooked on Jet Boy. I probably used to sing it, and get the words mixed up. Nothing has changed. Into my teenage years, I saw a copy of their debut record at my uncle’s. I was drawn to the cover, and I always stand by it being my favourite album cover ever. The sheer beauty of it just drew me in straight away. Utterly gorgeous. So, what is it about David Johansen that makes me adore him? I think he’s one of the best front-men of all time. His charisma and charm just leaves you in awe. The way he moves makes you want to emulate him in a dramatic fashion. He’s one of a kind, and undoubtedly inspired so many to express themselves in a way no one else dared to do so.

9. Townes Van Zandt. My love for Townes started only a few years ago, and it wasn’t his voice that got me hooked. Before I even heard his voice, I read his lyrics. His lyrics were that of a troubled soul. You couldn’t help but connect with him, yet at the same time feel uncomfortable that you connected with his words. Then when you heard his voice, you TRULY got all the pain. Some singers become actors and don’t believe in what they do. Some just want the money. With the likes of Townes, you could tell that music was everything to him. His life was dependant on making music. It didn’t really matter how the listener felt; he just needed to get it all out. We all need an outlet, music is one of the most powerful ones. Townes possessed a unique voice that no matter what, just sounded so vulnerable. He didn’t have to put on an act; everything about him was truthful. At times some of his songs became too painful to listen to, but at best- you just knew someone else understood some of the perils of every day life.

8. Nick Cave. Some singers you remember falling in love with, because it just stays with you for the rest of time. Nick Cave is a prime example of that. My gran used to look after me when I was younger, before I went to primary school. Before chewed up and spat out my soul. Or you know, before I ate paint and sobbed before swimming lessons. My uncle used to live with her in this house, and I always remembered going to his room when he was at work and staring at a poster of Nick Cave on one of the walls in his room. I’d stare at it in utter awe. I don’t know what my toddler mind was thinking, but it was fixated on this person. I felt like I was looking at something untouchable. I guess I knew of Nick Cave’s genius before I even heard his voice or read his lyrics. Fast forward to about 10 years old and I’m hearing Into My Arms and Henry Lee on MTV. Something was happening in my mind. I knew exactly what it was. I knew what I wanted to be. A writer. I wanted to write words like this; but the thing is, no one can write like Nick Cave. The man is a genius. Sure enough his vocals may not be to everyone’s taste, but his lyrics…I fail to find a song that anyone couldn’t relate to. Everything about him just makes you want to expand your mind and explore other worlds.

7. Leonard Cohen. One of the greatest writers of all time regardless of genre. Leonard Cohen and Morrissey were the two song-writers that truly made me care about words. Poets such as Poe and Rimbaud got me hooked on words too. But these two singers just made me see everything in the world in a different way. The darkness and love and romance of everything around us was made clearer by them. Leonard Cohen for me just creates a different world. A world that is free of everything but full of questions. I think that’s a good way to live. It’s hard to live that way, but it gets you through. I always place Leonard Cohen as a poet before anything else, but his voice is so powerful. Some may seek singers that hit high notes and have a stupid range. I don’t want that. I want you to sing in a way that makes me feel like you are telling a story to my soul. Leonard Cohen does this, and so much more. I’ve many reasons as to why I adore him, that’s just one of them. I don’t think I could put the rest into words to be honest.

6. Otis Redding. I’ve found a pattern in the singers I love; they all basically sing songs about loss and pain. I’m a cheerful soul. Of all the Soul singers in the world that have existed, it was Otis Redding that I truly found a life-long love for. Everything about his voice makes you wish you were around when he was starting out. Imagine being one of the first to have heard his voice all those decades ago. His sad songs could break the hardest of hearts, but his joyful songs could bring tears of happiness to your eyes. He had the power to make you feel every single word he sang. He died far too young, everyone knows that. And I also think most know that Otis, although he had a short career, he was truly one of the best. I’ve got a bit of an issue with the term “Soul” music because all music should come from there and you should feel music right in your soul, but regardless- Otis oozed more soul than most.

5. Joey Ramone. No idea how to get into writing about Joey because let’s face it- he possessed the greatest voice in Punk. The way he towered over the mic stand. Pulling it to and fro like a man under a spell made you want to start something of your own. Easily one of the most distinctive voices of all time. His voice was like no other. His stage presence has obviously been an inspiration to many over the years. From how he stood to how he dressed. He wasn’t just part of a band, he was part of a movement that fuelled the souls of so many lost people. Myself included, and also justifies why I was born in the wrong era. To be in New York in the 70s would have been perfect. What do we have now? Of course we do have wonderful things, but imagine being part of one of the most powerful movements in music (and possibly society.) One of my most prized possession are my Ramones records. I rarely play them as I don’t want to ruin them; but when I do, I can truly hear all they stood for. Joey was the voice for so many, and you know what, he still is.

4. Lou Reed. I’m going to try keep this as short as possible because I truly have no issues with writing a massive essay about my love for Lou Reed. However all I want to say and could say about him has been said before. Again, this is another genius my uncle got me into. He got me into Velvet Underground then after he saw my love for them he told me to listen to Transformer. Is Transformer one of the best records made? Damn right it is. Wagon Wheel is one of my favourites for sure. I just love Lou’s style of writing. He’s a genuine story-teller who takes you into the underworld of all around you. You think all you see is all that exists, then you listen to a Lou Reed song and it’s like you fall into a different world. Something quite dark, wonderful and weird. You never want out of it. I think, once you listen to Lou- that’s it for life. Once you give yourself over to his words, you feel part of something that no one or nothing could tear you from. You even forgive him for that Lulu record because Transformer exists.

3. Scott Walker. I guess like most I have already mentioned, Scott Walker is an acquired taste. His debut record is by far one of the greatest records ever made. My Death is probably my favourite Scott Walker song, you know, with me being a ray of sunshine and all that. But in all seriousness, my love for Scott Walker came from of course, The Walker Brothers. His solo work is just a work of art. Every record is a masterpiece. You really cannot deny that he’s a genius. The way his mind works, the way he writes, the way he sings- he’s just out of this world. He’s an enigma, for sure. I cannot wait for his new record to come out in December. Every record of his sounds entirely different from the last; but they always remain timeless and as important as each other. To have a career that reads like that is rare, and something that should be treasured.

2. Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart.) A strange soul who made even stranger music. Safe As Milk changed a LOT for me. I think it honestly changed how I listened to music, and the ways it affected me. It opened up my mind. What did Trout Mask Replica do? Well, it freaked me out in the most pleasurable way for sure. I think it is one of the weirdest records I’ve ever heard.  I loved the way his mind worked. From his songs to his paintings- everything about him just oozed freedom and creativity. The two go hand in hand, but not many can make them work as perfect as Don Van Vliet did. He was a rare spirit that made you feel so free. When you listen to Safe As Milk, whether the first time around or if you’re a new fan, everything about it just gives you something you are never going to get again. I guess you can only get it from a Beefheart record. Certain musicians give you certain feelings, I think what Beefheart gave you is something that goes beyond words you know. I’ve tried so many times to pick a favourite song by Captain Beefheart, but instead I’ve narrowed it down to a moment. It’s when he says, “A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast ‘n bulbous, got me?” at the start of Pachuco Cadaver. No idea what it means, but it’s wonderfully strange.

Okay so for Number 1 I just couldn’t decide. Bob Dylan or Morrissey. I can’t choose. There’s no way I can do that. So, joint first place are Bobby and Morrissey. So I’m going to keep it brief.

1. Bob Dylan. Where do you begin when attempting to write about your love for someone so inspiring? I have my mum to thank for my obsession with this man. I’m proud of my Dylan tattoo on the back of my neck. It’s of a song that guided me through hell and back. Through hell some more, and back again. His words provide guidance through life- the good and the bad. It is like he is reassuring you every step of the way. My mum used to sing Forever Young to me when I was a baby before I went to sleep. His music is perfect for long train journeys or just walking around on your own. He makes you feel okay with whatever is going on. You stare out to all you see with his words echoing delicately in your ear, and you’re to restart/carry on. I hold Blonde on Blonde very dear to my heart, and I think it is possibly my favourite Dylan record. But with so many, I think it is hard to choose a solid favourite yet it seems to always be the one I go to for various reasons.

1.Morrissey. I’ve always declared Morrissey as being the one true love of my life. Mainly because his words/songs have been there when I thought I had nothing else. Speedway has been the song that sums up my life for the most part, as does Alma Matters. Everyday Is Like Sunday fully describes where I unfortunately live. I could honestly write an essay about every Morrissey song and still feel I had more to say. His words are a safety net and a force of hope to guide you through. He manages to release every unwanted and wanted feeling you have ever had, and will have had. Dismiss him as a moody sod all you want; but maybe you are scared to see yourself in his words. Seeing him live..every single time feels like a healing process. For some reason, every time before I have seen him- something shit has gone on in my life, and I’ve seen him and it all feels okay. His music goes beyond just being music, and I know every Morrissey fan feels like that. He’s not someone you just stick on as background music. He’s the soundtrack to all you do. He’s someone I don’t think I could actually sit and listen to with. It’s a very personal experience, mainly because I relate to a vast majority of his lyrics. I just adore everything about him, he’s the reason as to why lyrics are so important to me. I wear my Morrissey tattoo on my arm with unconditional love and pride. He changed my life and saved my life; that’s why he’s my number 1.

Joey Ramone- Happy bloody Birthday.

I idolise this man. I have done ever since I can remember. I fell in love with his perfect stage presence. His unconventional beauty. His lyrics. His music, his art, his wisdom- just him. You wanted to be just like him, you wanted to be friends with him. Some may use the word “cool” to describe him, but I find that word to be highly redundant. It’s such an empty word to describe a person. Joey deserves more than that, especially as today would’ve been his birthday.

I remember when I first heard the Ramones. My uncle was a Punk (and I firmly believe once it is in you, you are a Punk for life) and I used to be fascinated with his record collection. I still am. Most of what I love comes from his influence. I picked up a Ramones record and I was in awe of the artwork. They didn’t look like a band- they looked like a gang. You could tell by just looking at them that they had a “do or die” kind of approach. I personally believe that’s the best way to be. If you are not willing to bleed and ache for your art- then don’t do it. Never do something unless you are going to put your heart into it. That’s one of the many things Ramones taught me. I feel in debt to this band.

I had a Ramones hoodie. I let someone borrow it. I’m never getting it back. I pretty much lived in that hoodie. I just want it back. I need a new one. Sorry, about the outburst.

What I loved about Joey was how for most who didn’t know who he was, he probably seemed like a lanky daunting creature. His gangly frame completed with ripped jeans and a beaten leather jacket. Most probably would look at him and think “here comes trouble.” The only time he probably kicked up a fuss was on stage. Thrusting the mic stand about and yelling every word for you to scream back. I watch the old clips and just wish I was there. I have a couple of Ramones records on vinyl, and they are honestly one of the few treasured possessions I have. I don’t own anything expensive at all. If you’re going to mug me, I wouldn’t bother at all. I have no money and my bank card has snapped in half. I’m a walking mess and a disgrace to myself. I like to think my leather (not real leather) shields me from being approached by the likes of bible bashers and charity workers. I don’t want to be told I’m going to Hell nor do I have the money to send to someone else. I’ve been living off cup-a-soup. Feel free to send me YOUR money.

Joey was a gentle giant. Hiding behind his hair, was he really that shy? I think that was part of the appeal. From him, I learnt that being shy isn’t a bad thing so long as you have a way of letting it all out. Find a form of art to just let it all out.

Joey made me, and still makes me feel less hideous about my messy hair and my clothes that are falling apart. It doesn’t matter about the outside. Keep your insides pure and honest- and do what you have to do in order to keep yourself alive.

Joey, wherever you are, I hope you are having the best birthday ever. Thank you for being an inspiration and role model for someone like me. Much love xxxx

Joey Ramone. 11 Years.

I’ve idolised the Ramones ever since I can remember. I remember my Uncle playing them to me when I was 5 years old or something crazy. I was instantly drawn in towards Joey. I loved the way he was on stage. I loved the way he sometimes thrashed the mic stand about. He stood on the stage with purpose and cause. He was such a charismatic force that just left you in awe. When he died 11 years ago today, I was in bits. The feeling of losing one of your heroes is awful you know. It will happen to us all eventually. The Ramones own a piece of my heart that I can’t imagine giving a person. They were much-needed, and always will be. We’ll never have another band like them. We’ll never have a front-man like Joey Ramone. His long, messy hair. His ripped jeans. His beaten leather jacket. Someone once said to me, “You look like a lost member of the Ramones.” I enjoyed that a lot.

The Ramones were more than just a Punk band. Irreplaceable and forever loved. Each member that has passed, is forever missed.

So here’s to you Joey. Thank you. For everything.