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What's new in iJamming!...
Tue, Oct 23, 2001
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
My immediate reaction to September 11
PART 2: Messages from friends & family overseas
PART 3: Observations & quotes from others.
PART 5: COPING - 2 weeks later
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured albums
(Hub, Slumber Party, DJ Harry, Spearhead, The Who tribute
Albums that sound different since September 11
(Charlatans UK, Arabian Travels, Cafe del Mar, Sugarcult)
Featured wine region 3:
Featured wine region 4:
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother (DB, Spooky, Jody, RSW, Bad Boy Bill)
FEATURED Wines (Langlois Cremant de Loire, Honig Sauvignon Blanc, Campbell's Muscat, Brumont Gros Manseng, Dr Frank Gewürtztraminer, Daubree CoteRotie, Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, Mas Saint Laurent Picpoul, Quivira Dry Creek)
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
From Homework to the Disco:
grows up and dumbs down
The iJAMMING! chat:

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
The Return of Shoegazing:
DOVES take New York by swarm
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
Musing with SALLY TAYLOR:
"I'm not interested in what the major labels have to offer."
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
Featured vine:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
From the JAMMING! archives: RAYMONDE in 1985
The full iJamming! Contents
ramones aren't meant to die
It's a full week after the event, and I'm still feeling the death of Joey Ramone. When you get to the point where your parents, uncles and aunts and even best friends start dying, as I have, the demise of rock'n'roll stars and other celebrities tends to be put in necessary perspective, yet Joey's departure DOES feel like a family loss. Naturally I'm asking myself 'why?'

The first answer, of course, is that for many of us - and I'd like to think that means most people who come across across this site - the Ramones were the very definition of seminal. You'll have probably read somewhere else in the days since April 15 how, without the Ramones, half the rock music out there now wouldn't exist and all I can say about that statement is - it's true.

The American punk boom had beauty with Blondie, and brains with the Talking Heads and Television, but it needed brawn if it was to make an impact with 'the kids.' That's where the Ramones came in. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy - da Brudders - took Phil Spector's old-fashioned wall of sound, the Bay City Rollers' contemporary fake pop glee, and then wrapped it with more authentic rock'n'roll street smarts than the previous decade of fakers combined. Legions of disenfranchised American kids rightly saw in the Ramones' partly affected, partly natural dumbness a mirror depiction of their own dumb lives, and promptly took up the "Gabba Gabba Hey, we accept you, you're one of us" battle cry.

Chris Stein, Joey Ramone, Marky Ramone and Debbie Harry, Liberty Island, New York, December 1990.

"The American punk boom had beauty with Blondie, and brains with the Talking Heads and Television, but it needed brawn if it was to make an impact with 'the kids.' That's where the Ramones came in. "

Over in the UK, meantime, the impact was even more pronounced. The Sex Pistols were already up and running, as were the Clash and Damned in their own rudimentary forms, but few would deny that it was with the arrival of the Ramones in 1976 that the punk flame was actually lit. I've still got my 7" copy of 'Sheena Is A Punk Rocker' from 1977, donated by a friend from my local Norwood/Dulwich crew whose lives were forever changed by Da Brudders. This crowd was a group of older kids (15 to 16 at the time I was 12-13) that for some reason allowed me to hang out with them on the terraces at Selhurst Park. Part of a mass of British youth who couldn't relate to the dinosaur rock of the era, they had already been turned on by the pub rock boom of Dr Feelgood and co, and when that first Ramones album came out, they were straight onto it; they knew the real deal the moment they heard it, even though - or was it especially because? - it came wrapped in an American flag.

A number of those Palace fans were at that first Ramones show in London in 1976 (the same one for which Mark Perry started Sniffin' Glue), and over following years, even as they traversed the globe, got serious jobs, and settled down, they continued to get together every time the Ramones came to town. At least one of those friends (hey Piers, whereever you may be) kept a pair of torn 'Ramones' jeans in the cupboard that came out every time - but only every time - the Ramones came to town. It was a dumb habit to have, but it was the kind of totally celebratory, completely harmless dumbness the Ramones aspired to. One of the greatest moments in Piers' youth came at the very end of the seventies when he and some of his fellow fanatics traveled to Norwich to see the Ramones on tour, and ended up playing pool with Joey all afternoon after soundcheck in a bar. Piers was relentlessly enthusiastic about life in general, but he could never stop talking about that occasion in particular. At my own easily impressed age, I had to admit that it seemed a pretty cool thing to boast about.

Joey, Chris and Marky, Dec 1990. At the time, Chris Stein was only just returning to public life after a long-term life-threatening illlness; no one would have expected Joey to die from a "natural" disease first. Photo: Neville Wells

Only when I came to New York did I realise that anyone could play pool with Joey, more or less any time. And that that was a good thing. And there's the second answer as to why we all feel Joey's departure: he was an icon who never allowed himself to become one. With a little hardnosed ambition, joey Ramone could have parlayed his fame into serious wealth and the cliched rock star lifestyle; instead, he made made himself readily accessible in the community that made him famous. Joey was forever hosting little punk gigs, birthday parties and tribute nights; he loved the downtown club scene so much that, while he rapidly outgrew it as a band member, he stayed forever part of it as a guru. Stories of Joey's affability are legendary: he never stopped walking the streets of New York, despite - or perhaps because - of the fact that it would take him twice as long to make his destination as anyone else, so frequently was he stopped by admirers and autograph seekers. I'm sure Joey enjoyed the attention, else he would have traveled by cab or changed neighborhoods, but he enjoyed the attention in a modest way, the way in which the class geek likes to be occasionally reminded that he ultimately made it cool.

That ties in to a third reason to mourn him: the uncoolness of his cool. I heard about his death on Easter Sunday night on CNN (the third lead item on the national news - hey Joey, you really were famous!), and switched over to VH1 hoping they might have the sense to play Ramones videos all night long. Instead they were showing a Billy Idol 'Behind the Music' special. Now Billy Idol and Joey Ramone had lots in common: they were both suburban boys who became punk rockers in the mid-late seventies, reinvented themselves with new names and an image that remains/ed unchanged until the present day. But whereas Billy Idol was born with looks to die for, marketable charisma, a decent voice, and a natural ability to deliver a sound bite or a snarl on demand, Joey was what you might call beautifically challenged, could definitely be described as physically awkward, had muted charisma, a voice that could be described as passable at best, stood stock still on stage apart from occasionally punching the air, and usually recycled the same old material in every interview. (I know; I went through the routine twice and I'm not sure I got anything I didn't already know out of him either time.) But who do you admire more: the pretty boy from south London with the 'Rebel Yell' 'Charmed Life,' or the gangly youth from Queens who initially insisted 'I Wanna Be Sedated' and 'I Just Wanna Sniff Some Glue' but who also begged 'I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend' and 'I Wanna Be Well'? Unless you were born with Billy's looks, it's a no-brainer.

Joey's death hits us hard in another way. We're used to our rock stars killing themselves in one fashion or another. Hard living (Keith), suicide (Kurt), tragic accidents (Kirsty). But when one of our own dies from the kind of illness (cancer/lymphonia) that we all dread being diagnosed with, and before the age of fifty, it draws the "final curtain" a lot closer. Joey's passing as a relatively young man makes us all too aware - and perhaps frightened - of our own mortality.

Finally, we feel his death all the more because, as someone said to me this past weekend, "Ramones aren't meant to die." Though the other founding members disembarked the bus one by one, Joey kept touring the Ramones so relentlessly that you could never accuse him of riding any nostalgia trip or attempting any comebacks. He did ultimately close the book on the band in 1996 - partly, I came to understand, because his health was an issue - but I'm one of the many who felt that the Ramones never really went away. Like the cartoon characters on which they partially based themselves - think Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny, the Flintstones and co. - we came to rely on them always being there for us, cracking the same jokes, pulling the same moves, playing the same songs. It's ironic that we celebrated a group for changing so much of the music world around them while also praising them for doing so little to change themselves, but maybe that's because we just loved them the way they were. Ramones aren't meant to die. And, Joey included, they never will.

I can't claim any memory of Joey quite as cool as playing pool with him all afternoon after soundcheck when da brudders were at the peak of their UK fame. But on October 3 1990, I produced a TV story for the show Rapido, taking Joey and Marky Ramone, and Debbie Harry and Chris Stein down to Liberty Island to conduct an interview about a Ramones/Debbie Harry/Heads 'Escape From New York' tour. We traveled over on the regular tourist boat (and, oddly, not even Debbie Harry was interrupted; were they all that unfashionable at the time?) and filmed beneath the Statue of Liberty, with downtown New York as an appropriate backdrop. As someone who had come of age fearing the Ramones and worshipping Debbie Harry (any one else recall what she did to 14-year old male hormones back in 1978?!), I remember thinking I must have developed my own charmed life. I was getting paid for this? Indeed I was. Joey, meanwhile (and Marky and Debbie and Chris) was doing it because he loved New York, he loved being a Ramone, he was proud of his legacy, and he wasn't ready to give it up. My room mate at the time, Neville Wells, joined us and took pictures. It's a pleasure to make them public. The surfer dude on the bottom right has since cut his hair!

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iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2001.