I Remember You


Image Source: Ramonesworld

It feels like a math equation where one of the figures is off somewhere. I run the numbers in my head, and it doesn’t add up. Does not compute. Joey Ramone has been dead for eleven years? Impossible!

Singer Joey Ramone, real name Jeff Hyman, died of lymphoma eleven years ago on Sunday. Bassist Dee Dee Ramone (Doug Colvin) OD’d in 2002 and guitarist Johnnny Ramone (John Cummings) died of prostate cancer in 2004. 75% of one of the most influential bands in my life and lifetime is deceased. Not possible, not for a band that was such a life force for so many outsiders such as myself. Does. Not. Compute.

Memory lies, but mine tells me that I first saw The Ramones play “Rock & Roll High School” on Sha Na Na in 1978, when I was five or six. I have seen film of this show since, so I know it’s plausible. I definitely remember knowing that they played “Blitzkrieg Bop” on the National Lampoon’s Vacation soundtrack. And by the early to mid ‘80s I was obsessed, soaking up whatever I could about this band of punk rock Beatles from Forest Hills, Queens.

I was first attracted to the look. Four mean-looking New Yorkers, all named Ramone (even though they weren’t related and actually hated each other’s guts), with Joey’s Anglo-Queens bleat in the middle. This wasn’t Glen Campbell or David Cassidy! The Ramones weren’t nice. They weren’t clean and polished and safe for mama. They were rebellious antimatter, and I was immediately hooked.

Next I started laughing. Hysterically. The lyrics! Sure, at eight or nine I couldn’t quite grasp a line like “now I guess I’ll have to tell ‘em, that I got no cerebellum.” But I sure as hell got “Beat on the brat with a base – ball bat,” and the image of Joey – 6’ 6” and maybe 120 lbs, most of that hair and rose colored granny glasses – beating the crap out of a crying kid with a Louisville Slugger appealed to my nascent sense of gallows humor. Later on I could plug my own life into song titles like “Outsider,” “I Wanna Be Well” and, of course, “I Wanna Be Sedated.”

But really, it’s the music. Raw, fast, aggressive punk, yes, but few bands wore their influences so obviously on their collective sleeves. Take a listen to “I Remember You” and tell me that it couldn’t have been The Who or Herman’s Hermits. “Oh Oh, I Love Her So” is straight-up Jan and Dean/Beach Boys homage, as is “Rockaway Beach.” And was there ever a greater lyrical ode to teenage puppy love than “I met her at the Burger King, we fell in love by the soda machine?” Swoon.

The Ramones were there for me during my pre-teen years. They were there all through high school. They were there all through my college years. They were one of the great constants my life has ever known, even though the quality of their records was maddeningly inconsistent. And a little piece of me still expects a new album and tour every two years.

I don’t normally get all meepy choked up over celebrity death. Not that I don’t care, but in most cases the celeb in question is just too remote from my own world. Too foreign for me to connect with. The Ramones were different. They weren’t beautiful, they were fucked up! They were a bunch of glue-sniffing, mentally shaky outcasts, and they taught me that it was okay to be a less-than-beautiful, fucked up outcast myself, and to write about it.

The Ramones were ME. How can the figurehead of that life force be dead? For eleven years now? Does not compute.

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51 comments
  1. Amen brother. The only thing they ever did that I didn’t wholeheartedly approve of was the title song from Pet Sematary (not a typo) (film of the same name). But it did bring them a much wider audience, so I guess that’s a good thing…

    • Yeah, and that was just one of the last of a long series of “sell-out” (I hate the term and use it lightly) moves to try to get a wider audience. Hello, Phil Spector! Can’t really begrudge the effort: 22 years in a van with Johnny Ramone would drive anyone to sell out. 😉

  2. clownonfire said:

    Brian,
    We hold a cult-like love to The Ramones in this family. Even baby Lord Evil Poppy had a Ramones onsie.
    I tried wearing it a few times, but couldn’t rock it the way she did…
    Le Clown

    • I’m alternating between waves of revulsion and curiosity at that image.

      • clownonfire said:

        Brian,
        I can help… magnificently revolting.
        Le Clown

      • Perfect.

  3. The Ramones weren’t there for me in my youth, David Bowie and, I hate to admit it, Slade, but a great post Brian

    • Love Bowie and Slade – before their greatest hits were co-opted by Quiet Riot. Thanks for chiming in!

  4. mollyspring said:

    Punk rock never dies!

    • Gabba Gabba!

  5. I like The Ramones, but the band who made me feel this way was Fleetwood Mac. I listened to their CDs so much between 1998 and 2006 that I had to replace them several times. Sometimes some artists know how to write the soundtrack of your life.

    Sometimes I forget that Joey Ramone died, and when I remember it makes me sad. Sad for him, but mostly sad for the music world.

    • The Mac were huge, no question. I always loved Lindsay Buckingham’s playing.

  6. I wear their tee proud. Kudos to you!

    • Me too, of course!

  7. Love the Ramones. A pal of mine was was their road manager for a decent while.

    • REEEEAAAAlllly?!?!? Holy awesome!

      • Oh yeah! He’s got the best stories. Also check this out.
        http://www.thelastpogo.net/page/2/
        It’s about Joey. It’s a movie a friend of mine is making.

      • Waaait, are you talking about Monte Melnick, the van driver?!?

        Most of the web is BLOCKED at the day job, but can’t wait to check that film tonite!

      • Actually, his name is Mark, nn Mongo. I think he was the Road Manager, but I’ll get everything straightened out next time we talk. I’m on a new show, so my time isn’t mine anymore 12-18 hours a day. I’m going to try to keep up 1 blog a week.

      • Awesome! And get some rest!!!

  8. Although I was not a Ramones fan at all (I don’t think I can even remember a single song that they sang), if you inserted “The Stones” in place of them in your post, I could have almost written this post (not nearly as well of course). Nice job. Every post you write exposes just a little more of you and the more I know, the more I like you. 🙂

    • Oh, man. Wendy, what a sweet thing to say. Thank you so much.

      • You’re very welcome Brian. Your blog makes me “feel” and I really enjoy that. 🙂

  9. The Ramones always take me back to one specific college summer & the Ramones-obsessed boyfriend I had at the time. Does not calculate how long ago that was. How could that have been more than 30 years ago? Not. Possible.

    • Hey, I just realized that the only Ramones show I saw was twenty five years ago this month! Mind-blowing.

  10. I saw the Ramones once in a small sort of venue in New York. It was like a bar, I guess? Anyway, Joey, Ramone spit out into the crowd and I was the recipient of that saliva. Gross, but cool that I have that story to tell now.
    It wasn’t so much their “music” that won me over as much as their lyrics. They arrived just in time for my rebellion.

    • Story of a lifetime, Grip. Story of a lifetime. 😉

  11. Not sure how I missed out on the Ramones, but I suppose I was more into the big hair bands, because when I saw the title to this post the first thing that popped into my mind was the band “Skid Row” – dating myself now 🙂

    • Oh, I remember Skid Row too. My band played Youth Gone Wild in high school. I retreated to my Ramones albums after those gigs. 😉

  12. Really, really beautiful tribute, Brian! I love the way you give all the details in a clear, easy-footed framework of your own story— without overstating the framing Clean copy, my friend. V. clean copy. Impressed!

    • !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Bluebird Nod!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Let’s jazz-scat! Doodle-OO-DAH! T-t-DAH!

      • Scoodly-owwww wow wow wooowwww… http://www.trilulilu.ro/video-animatie/the-flintstones-1×02-hot-lips-hannigan

      • *Dissolves into laughter*

      • It keeps giving and giving…

      • Largest philosophical question of the day— How come when Fred Flintstone gets hit in the head, he just has some sort of performative-identity amnesia, but when I hit my head, I get a headache?

      • And how is it that an entire platoon on GI*Joe can run through incalculable rounds of automatic fire without a scratch, but when *I* do it I end up riddled with bullet holes?!?

      • Point, set, and match!

  13. This is a nod to my passion for liner-notes, BTW.

  14. John S said:

    I was massively into punk and new wave – UK and US – in those mid-late seventies, being the perfect age for it: 17, 18, 19. Strangely I took a little while to get The Ramones – maybe they played it just a bit too dumb at first. But it is that first album that resonates for me now. I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement!

    • There’s somethin’ down there! Yeah, I also feasted on the Buzzcocks, DKs, Agent Orange, Simple Minds… alles gut. Great to have you here, John, thanks!

  15. free penny press said:

    Ok.. here comes the purple shoe woman(meaning the odd one).. I never had even head of The Ramones until a few years back. A friend was so shocked he promptly sent me 3 tee shirts and some cd’s..
    I’m proud to say I was easily converted!!
    Great post

    • Better late than never! Welcome aboard.

      • free penny press said:

        *tips hat*

      • I also know of purple shoes, y’know…

        brianwestbye.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/violet/

  16. 11 Years! My favourite band….

    • You have good taste, mate!

  17. I am very flattered that you are following my blog as I love your posts.
    Thanks
    Liliane:)

    • That works out nicely, because I really like your art! Great to have you here, Liliane. Don’t be a stranger.

  18. I actually–literally–bumped into Joey Ramone on the way to the bathroom at a concert. Yes, I’m the oblivious girl who didn’t notice the 6’6″ gangly man in front of me. LOL He was nice about it, goofy smile, “Hey, it’s cool.”

    Great post.

    • What a great story! And experience. Thanks so much for bringing it!

      Great to have you here! Welcome aboard.

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