Joey Ramone, 1951-2001

Photo by Maggie St. ThomasJoey was the sweetest, sweetest man. I know to look at him, people think this guy must be so weird, but he was wonderful—and excruciatingly shy. He never came out of his shell, except onstage. When we made Rock 'n' Roll High School, [director] Allan [Arkush] told me I was the Ramones' No. 1 fan. I was into Jackson Browne at the time. Allan gave me a tape of the band, and I listened to it, and then I met the guys in the band, and they were all so shy. They would come and sit on the floor in my trailer. They wouldn't even go out to get the catered food. They just ordered pizza. They seemed so awkward and shy; they didn't seem like the band on the tape. Then they got onstage and performed, and I was like, "Oh, this is who these guys are." (P.J. Soles, star ofRock 'n' Roll High School)

It started for me when I was in the seventh grade in the '70s. I was into Styx and Rush and Queen and that kind of stuff. One day, my sister brought home It's Alive, their live album. She played it all the time, and I thought, "Man, these guys really suck." And then, somehow, I found myself singing the songs all the time and getting into the Sex Pistols and the Clash. After that, I took all those Rush albums and threw them away because Rush just didn't make sense anymore. (Brendan Harkins, bass player/singer, the Fenians)

Joey Ramone made me realize that not being punk rock was the most punk rock thing you could do. (Derrick Brown, poet/singer in John Wilkes Kissing Booth)

I've had a cassette copy of Ramones Mania for at least 15 years. It's seriously the most played piece of music I've ever owned. And when I put it on yesterday, I started crying in my car, wearing my sunglasses so people wouldn't see me. He was one of my all-time musical heroes. I mean, you think about it, and it's like, "this song means this," "I met that girl to this," "I got drunk to this," "I took a bunch of thorazines to this"—I didn't know thorazines were dinosaur tranquilizers, and I couldn't move for hours—and just all sorts of stuff. I dug out my old Ramones T-shirt, and I'm going to wear it a month straight in tribute to him. I'm gonna try not to wash it. (David James, Noise Noise Noise Records, Costa Mesa)

My dog, Joey, is named after Joey Ramone. He's a total punk dog. He pukes and belches and farts right in front of people. It's just like Joey Ramone. You either think that kind of behavior is really offensive or really cute. (Claudia Figueroa, editor,Apparel News)

I was a punker going to USC, and I found out that the Ramones were playing at the Roxy. When I got there, there was a big crowd outside, and we were all told we'd have to sign waivers to get inside. Well, this was a bunch of punkers with pins in their faces, and the idea of having to sign a contract to hear a band didn't go over big. And then we got inside and found out the "concert" was actually the Ramones lip-synching to "Rockaway Beach" for, like, it must have been 20 times. It turned out they were filming a scene for Rock 'n' Roll High School, and the two actors in the movie, a girl [P.J. Soles] and I think Clint Howard, were getting slammed in the mosh pit pretty bad. The girl was supposed to walk up to the stage and hand Joey a note, but people kept cutting her off. People were getting really pissed-off and they started yelling at the band and spitting on them. Joey got on the mic and said, "Hey, this is not very cool, man!" And then someone threw a glass ashtray that narrowly missed his head. He got back on the mic and said, "That really was not very cool, man!" And then the crowd rushed the stage. (Will Swaim, editor,OC Weekly)

I don't remember it being quite that traumatic. Though I do remember it was kind of tense. I remember the crowd got so crazed that Allan Arkush started yelling, "They're actors! They're not normal people! You can't crush them against the stage!" (P.J. Soles)

Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I'm amazed he lived as long as he lived. I interviewed him a bunch of times when I was at KROQ, and every time I did, he looked like he was on the verge of death. With all the influence he had on music, he was not a very dynamic guy when you spoke to him. He was very introverted and so frail—really the last guy you would have thought of as a rock star. He didn't have a rock-star persona. He didn't have an unsigned-band persona. (Jim "Poorman" Trenton)

When I'm driving to the strains of "Beat on the Brat" and all those other Ramones songs, it sometimes gives me that edgy, gotta-get-some-sleep, don't-fall asleep-or-you'll-crash feeling. (Paula Spas, singer, The Angoras)

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