Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Last Time I Talked To Joey Ramone

Our friend Dan Hill from England joined the
Teenage Kicks staff for this escapade. Here he is doing his
best Lisa Robinson impression with Joey Ramone!    
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Originally printed in Teenage Kicks #3, Spring 1999

Interview by Dan and Devorah
Story by Devorah Ostrov

"We're riding out tonight
To case the promised land
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road..."

"Surreal" was how Joey Ramone described the sixth annual roast-and-jam benefit concert for Thunder Road, the Bay Area-based treatment center for drug addicted teens.

Participants in this year's event included SF Mayor Willie Brown (the roastee), actor Don Johnson (the roaster), Boz Scaggs, Al "Year of the Cat" Stewart, and John Wesley Harding - along with Joey and his cohort Daniel Rey (ex-Shrapnel guitarist; co-writer of such Ramones' faves as "Poison Heart," "Pet Sematary," and "I Wanna Live;" producer for the Ramones, the Misfits, White Zombie, Green Apple Quickstep, D Generation, and a bunch of other stuff he can't remember). If you factor in the aged and wealthy audience, you'll begin to get an idea of what Joey meant.

In fact, the night was filled with weird moments: Dan and I sitting outside Bimbo's 365 Club watching the limos jockey for space; Joey (wearing a t-shirt reading Keep Music Evil) shaking hands with Mayor Brown, both looking pleased as punch; Dan having his picture taken with the Mayor on one side and Joey on the other; Joey and Daniel Rey (backed by the Bimbo's house band - which included ex-Movies bassist Robin Sylvester and Tubes/ Grateful Dead keyboardist Vince Welnick) tearing through the Louis Armstrong classic "Wonderful World," as well as "I Wanna be Sedated," and a cover of the Stooges' "1969" while the aforementioned aged and wealthy audience looked on in stunned terror; and finding myself discussing the Groovie Ghoulies with John Wesley Harding. And then I overheard the following introduction being made: "Joey Ramone ... Boz Scaggs."

Just before Joey sat down with us, an enthusiastic onlooker in a tie-dyed t-shirt exclaimed, "I am SO happy! It was beautiful! And the Sheriff is beside himself right now! Joey Ramone!" The Sheriff he was referring to was, of course, Michael Hennessey - the Sheriff of San Francisco and apparently a big Ramones fan!

Teenage Kicks: How did you get involved with Thunder Road?

Joey: I found out about it about nine months ago. I got asked by Matthew (King) Kaufman. And I said, Yeah, I'd do it. It's for a good cause.

Here's Dan again! This time he's flanked
by Joey Ramone and SF Mayor Willie Brown.
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Teenage Kicks: Have you ever played to a more bizarre audience?

Joey: The Ramones did some kind of computer thing... Bill Gates was there. But those guys are all fans, ya know. Actually, the range is pretty broad.

Teenage Kicks: You should've seen the people's faces!

Joey: I did! It was kinda funny earlier, we were doing our soundcheck and these people were sitting at the tables - and the whole room cleared out! But the kids stayed. That kind of brought it home, meeting the kids. It's about them.

Teenage Kicks: The only other rockers the program mentions are Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I guess they donated some money...

Joey: It's nice. Most people only think of themselves, so it's kinda nice when somebody's doing something. Why not? Ya know what I mean?

Teenage Kicks: How would you describe this evening in one word?

Joey: Surreal!

Teenage Kicks: Are you still doing your DJ gigs?

Joey: Yeah, I've been doing some DJing. People give me their shows... I take over their radio stations. I call them "radio coups." I've done a few. I did DC, and Boston, and Asbury Park, New Jersey. I was hoping to get a show of my own. I got promised by this guy in LA, but the station changed. They got a new program director and he didn't feel the same way. They went Top 40, or something.

Teenage Kicks: Do you play whatever you want?

Joey: Yeah! Or I wouldn't fucking do it! I like to turn kids on to music that they should be exposed to. They might have heard the names, but not the music - like the Stooges and the MC5. And then I play new bands that I like - like D Generation and the Independents.

Teenage Kicks: One of the songs you and Daniel Rey did tonight was "1969," which you covered on the Iggy Pop tribute album (We Will Fall, 1997 Revolver Records).

Here's Miami Vice star Don Johnson and Joey Ramone
But where is Dan?
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Joey: Yeah. I recorded that with Daniel on guitar, and Jerry (Only) and Dr. Chud from the Misfits on bass and drums. We did a benefit in LA on Thursday - me and Daniel with 22 Jacks backing us up. D Gen played... Everybody that was on the album, for the most part. For me, it's kind of a passion play. You do it because you're a fan.

Teenage Kicks: And the proceeds from the album go to AIDS research?

Joey: Yeah. It was fun because it was a reason to do a Stooges song and it was for a good cause.

Teenage Kicks: What else do you have coming up?

Joey: Me and Daniel co-produced the Independents, and we're working on a new record for Ronnie Spector. I wrote some of the songs. There's a song called "Bye Bye Baby" that's done as a duet. And she's doing Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory," and "Don't Worry Baby." Brian Wilson wrote it for her, but Phil (Spector) wouldn't let her record it because he didn't write it. That would have been the follow-up to "Be My Baby." And Dee Dee's got a new album out; I wrote a song with him.

Teenage Kicks: Are you still on good terms with the other Ramones? I heard you and Marky getting into it on Howard Stern's show...

Joey: Mark's got a problem, ya know. And... that's about it.

Teenage Kicks: What about Johnny?

Joey: We... communicate.

Teenage Kicks: Any chance of a Joey Ramone solo record?

Joey: Yeah... I've got stuff I'm working on. But the last thing I wanna do is go back on the road. I need some time to stand back from it. I'm doing the projects that I like. After 23 years of touring, I'm taking a break and doing what I wanna do. 💕

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