He Talks to Rainbows: Joey Ramone in the Garden of Serenity

As I sit here thoroughly drenching myself (and mournfully drowning my sorrows in the process) in a steady dousing of brewed beverages, the forever youthful and vibrantly frenzied sonic splendor of the Ramones (their “Anthology” CD set) loudly blasts outta my stereo speakers like a thunderously caterwauling subway train that’s frenetically roaring through the crumbling concrete bowels of the Bronx. During the past 20 years, my aural senses have been jubilantly jolted and euphorically charged by the eye-opening, brain-pummeling, ear-incinerating sounds of the brudda Ramones. I can always count on a Ramones tune to get my spirits soaring and the blood a-pumpin’…their jauntily upbeat and often humorously twisted two-minute spurts of thrashy, sonic brattiness bring a gleeful and giddy energy to the timeworn and weary world of rock’n’roll, as well as to the predictable everyday drudgery of life itself (raucously reinvigorating it and thoroughly giving it a much needed swift kick in its complacent ass!).

Joey Ramone’s dead, and I’m too sad to adequately memorialize such a special, one-of-a-kind enigma as himself (mere words could never appropriately befit such an inspirational and indelibly creative, energetic spirit as Joey anyway). So, in lieu of a generic run-of-the-mill biographical obituary, I’d prefer to pay homage to him with my very own personal remembrance of the man and his music…

During the New Wave-enshrouded early ’80s, I first heard the Ramones (“Do You Remember Rock’N’Roll Radio?”) on a K-Tel 8-track compilation that my brother received as a Christmas stocking stuffer (I know it sounds absurdly farcical, but it’s true — I kid you not!). Alongside such radio-friendly, pop-oriented riffraff as Blondie’s “One Way Or Another” and Gary Numan’s “Cars”, the Ramones’ punky doo-wop track was pure rock’n’roll swagger at its most beastly, primal, and fun (reverently harking back to the golden oldie days of early ’60s AM-airwave exuberance!). A few months later, a friend of mine, who lived in Dallas, loaned me a badly recorded, homemade copy of the “Rock’N’Roll High School” soundtrack….I then became overwhelmingly hooked by the roaring chainsaw riffage of the Ramones, and I feverishly searched through the record racks at our local mall’s music store for anything and everything by the brotherly blitzkrieging quartet. (Okay, I admit, in my naive teen-aged mentality, I absentmindedly assumed that Joey, Johnny, DeeDee, and Marky were all full-fledged, blood-related brothers….Hell, they did vaguely resemble one another in their matching ragtag attire of tattered-and-torn jeans, black leather jackets, and Chuck Taylor Converse shoes!) Anyway, I was only able to find the recently released (at that time) “End of the Century” album, so I eagerly purchased it, protectively took it home, and then epileptically plopped it onto the turntable….Yes indeedy, I was mesmerized, speechless, and wide-eyed by the spine-shivering auditory delights that cacophonously careened from that spinning platter of punky pulsations. (Although “End of the Century” is one of the tamest and most laid-back of all Ramones releases, it still rambunctiously kicks all-out audial ass with mighty godlike thundering swaths of sonic savagery!) A couple of years later, when I finally procured a copy of their self-titled debut, it was like discovering sex, beer, and the true meaning of life all at once for the very first time (yep, in my book, sex and beer and a hefty dose of the Ramones are the true meaning of life!). And, the granddaddy of a shining moment for me, regarding concerts that I’ve been fortunate enough to attend throughout the past several years: In April of 1990, I witnessed the roaring punk rock wrath of the Ramones, live, loud, and energetically grandiose in Dallas during their “Brain Drain” tour (CJ had just recently replaced the deviant lil’ DeeDee on bass and random vocal duties). I dreamily (and somewhat drunkenly) walked away from that performance proudly grinning ear-to-ear, and I hadn’t stopped smiling since (at least not until the day I learned of Joey’s untimely passing)…

What to say, what to say? No amount of eloquent commentary or well-deserved praiseful tributes or semi-poetic misty-eyed remembrances can ease the unbearable ache of such an irreplaceable loss. Joey Ramone, the uniquely good-natured voice behind the musical maelstrom collectively known the world over as the Ramones, is gone (in the physical sense only), but his tall lanky legacy will live forevermore in the music, attitude, image, and worldly rock’n’roll rebelliousness that is the Ramones. I already miss the man dearly, and I have but one aching regret: I wish I could have had the opportunity to vigorously shake his hand, give him a great big ol’ bear hug, and profusely thank him from the bottom of my heart for the numerous years of spirited pleasure his voice has provided my ears. So, instead of grievously mourning the inevitable imminence of death, I’m gonna belligerently crank up the Ramones, respectfully hoist several 12-ouncers high above my head in honorable homage to Joey, and robustly celebrate his life and his music. I think he’d prefer it that way…