My friend Kat is working on a piece for college about Joey Ramone. I thought some of you might like to see the answers to the interview she gave me. Please do not borrow any of this as it’s exclusively hers.
How did you discover the Ramones? Roughly what year or age?
I was 15 or 16 and I would buy every rock magazine I could get my hands on, so I’m sure I read about them before I heard them. This was before you could see bands regularly on TV and eons before the internet so all information on music was garnered from Creem, Circus and Rolling Stone. Then I would have to go talk the guy that owned the only record store in town into special ordering albums for me, bc no one wanted the shit I was into. I finally got Rocket to Russia and ran home to play it right away. On my way home I ran into my neighbor and showed it to him. He said, “Thats punk rock, isnt it?” And I said “Yep…”
Then I went home and put the record on and wondered what the hell was wrong with the guy singing, he sounded like he had marbles in his mouth. But I loved it and played it over and over, hopping around the room.
What were your impressions of Joey as a fan? (assuming you were a fan before you were a friend).
I loved that he looked so gawky and strange, and that the way he pronounced words when he sang was so weird. He was like a glorious punk rock alien. I tore all the knees out in my jeans because of Joey, I liked the way his skinny legs looked poking through the holes.
What went through your mind the first time you saw the Ramones live? When and where was this?
I saw them at the Ritz, where heinous Webster Hall is now. It was one of the first shows I went to when I moved to NYC so it must have been around 1983. My friend Leslie made me come really early so we could be at the front of the stage and I ended up getting in a physical fight with a girl who kept trying to get in front of me. She grabbed onto my hair and I couldn’t fight her properly because she held my head down with it. I was so frigging mad. That was probably the first and last time I stood right in front of a stage. Anyway, the show was awesome, of course. I think the first thing that went through my mind was, “Shit, they’re playing so FAST.”
How did you meet Joey?
Around that same time I went to Danceteria to see Hanoi Rocks play. When I walked in Joey was standing at the third floor bar by himself. I couldn’t believe it and immediately went up and introduced myself. I said, “Hi! I’m Raffaele.” And he said, “Hi. I’m Joey.” And that was it, I didn’t know what else to say. He was the first official rock star I met in NY. I met Michael Monroe and Rik Ocasek that night too.
How did your opinions of Joey change as you went from fan to friend? (again assuming you were a fan first).
I just grew to have a great fondness for him. My opinion didnt change, I always thought he was the coolest, but my personal affection grew.
What do you think made Joey special/different/great as a friend/person?
Joey and I were never super close, like I was close enough to have his phone number and email but I never called him and rarely emailed. So I can’t say that I knew all of his secrets as a friend or anything. But to me he was always very sweet and humble, and he was easy to hang out with, no entourage or bullshit. Joey was very generous with his time and energy as far as helping out bands that he like and he really loved music and always worked to help out local bands and make things happen in the scene. He never acted like he thought he was better than anyone and he came out regularly to see bands and socialize.
What do you think it was about Joey that captivated audiences and also people on an individual basis?
That he was such a weird looking and sounding guy with so much charisma onstage. He made you realize that you didn’t have to be Robert Plant to be a frontman for a cool rock and roll band. He made it all seem possible.
As a friend, what role did Joey play in your life?
Joey was my first indication that my rock and roll dreams could actually happen. I bought his records and read about him and then I came to NY and there he was, just standing there. So he was my first rock star friend. Then when I was in Cycle Sluts From Hell he helped the band immensely, and I have often said that he is a big reason we got so much attention quickly. So his friendship helped my own musical career. Our second gig ever was opening for the Ramones (at the Ritz again) and that was huge, and completely due to him. We spent a lot of time hanging out partying with him late at night, often in our apartments until well after the sun came up. After that era things mellowed out, Joey stopped drinking and the scene changed, but I would still see him out and about. Then when I started running Coney Island High and going out with Jesse Malin we spent more regular time with him, going to movies or barbeques or whatever, because they were very close friends. Joey was just a part of my NY experience from the time I got here to the time he died.
What did he mean to you personally? (because I am trying to express his impact on the people around him in this paper)
I’m not sure how to answer this. I loved Joey and I’m very grateful that I got to have him in my life. He was the personification of NY rock and roll and a lovely person.
What kind of impact do you think Joey had on the world?
The Ramones changed everything. There was nothing like them before or since, and they still have rabid fans all over the world. As I said, I think Joey made people see that they didn’t have to be Adonis with a perfect voice to be a great frontman.
I’ve heard vague evidence that Joey was a warm, loving person. What are your thoughts?
Something I would like to convey in this project is Joey, like others, had some kind of adversity that he in a sense overcame to achieve the things he did in his life. I know he had OCD and would like to know what you think about the role that aspect of his life played to influence his professional life. Since I am having a difficult time structuring questions around a subject I find sensitive I would love it if you would share your thoughts on this. Basically did you see this side of him and how do you think it affected him. Also if you think that was a big factor in his drive and heart for his music.
I know that Joey had OCD but I didn’t see evidence of it very often. I know he had a little thing where he would have to step up on curbs more than once. And physically he was just fragile, like he had really bad balance and moved slowly. I know he was never that strong physically and I would imagine the OCD made touring harder for him, but I never heard him discuss it. Joey was very private about that kind of stuff. I don’t think it affected his drive for music, except maybe that he loved rock enough to get out there and do it regardless of the issues that could have held him back.
I’ve heard it said that Joey was a very complex person. Do you have any opinions or explanations about this?
He was complex, as we all are. He also wasn’t perfect, as none of us are, but any opinions or explanations I might put here wouldn’t be fair because I wasn’t privy to his very personal life. I wouldn’t want to speculate or open up things that he might have wanted to keep private.
What were you doing and how did you feel when you heard the news that Joey had passed away?
I was on a train with Jesse. We knew he wasn’t doing well in the hospital and we were waiting for news. Jesse got a message on his cellphone that Joey was gone and we didn’t talk, just looked out the window feeling sad for the rest of the ride.
Having recently lost Biscuit of the Big Boys I really felt the energy change in Austin. Did you have any similar feelings with Joey gone? Or is he gone?
Yes. For me it was the end of the rock and roll era in NYC.
How do you think Joey’s passing affected people in the scene in NYC?
I don’t know for sure. I know he’s missed. I know that the bands he was trying to help out were sorely affected by his loss. He was in the middle of shooting a video that he was funding and directing for his favorite local band The Independents when he died (I played a vampire queen in it btw, I don’t know what happened to the footage). So those guys were just crushed, they loved him personally and all the help he was going to give them was gone, it was a double blow. I think we all just miss him and his name still comes up a lot in conversations when I’m out.
Was there any social evidence in the week following?
There are always a lot of people trying to get in on the drama when someone famous dies. Everyone wants to be at the funeral and feel a part of it. I hate that kind of stuff and didn’t participate. I mourned Joey in my own way. I think I had a conversation with him while I was doing the dishes, sort of telling him I hoped he was okay and wishing him well on the other side. I did go with Jesse to the unveiling of the tombstone a year after he died, that was much quieter.
When the Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, were you at the ceremony, watching it on TV. Where were you?
Jesse went, I watched it on TV.
What were your feelings on the induction, and what was said by Tommy?
I don’t remember what he said, actually, but I always thought Tommy seemed pretty cool. Definitely the most rational of the surviving members.
Were you at the dedication of Joey Ramone Square? How did you feel? Please describe a little about what it was like.
No, I had to work. I saw people waiting around CBs when I walked past in the morning. Again, Jesse was there so I got the lowdown from him. I think it’s wonderful that they named that spot after Joey, I pass the sign often and it makes me feel hope that rock isn’t completely dead. I’m sure Joey loves it.
Did you have to travel specifically for the event? If so could you describe what the circumstances were that compelled you to go?
Nope, it’s in my ‘hood.
In closing I would like to ask if you have anything you would like to add: comments about Joey, memories, observations, etc.
Joey was a lovely person and a real rock star and I am grateful I knew him.