Genius is as genius does … sparking the explosion of punk’s three-chord wall of sound, cutting four essential LPs on the first four tries, making rock dangerous and fun again … the Ramones were your crazy cousins from Queens who blew up the high school, the radio and everybody’s imaginations in the name of freedom. And now their lead singer, Joey Ramone, is no more.
Passing into the universal feedback tone on Easter Sunday, Joey (born Jeffrey Hyman on May 19, 1951) succumbed to cancer just a month before his 50th birthday. Diagnosed with lymphoma in March, he split the scene in the blink of an eye, but left behind a legacy that presaged a great portion of alternative rock: With tunes such as “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Teenage Lobotomy,” “I Wanna be Sedated,” “Rock ’n’ Roll High School” and “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg,” the Ramones blew minds and influenced people from the Sex Pistols and the Clash to Metallica, Nirvana, Green Day, Weezer and beyond. For a taste of their brilliance (featuring Joey’s sweet raving voice and dementedly poetic lyrics), check out such two- and three-minute masterpieces as “Beat on the Brat,” “Ramona,” “Don’t Come Close” and “I Just Want to Have Something to Do.” Cooking up a synthesis of Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys and Phil Spector, these cretin-hoppers restuffed the whole rock enchilada, throwing in a special ingredient of outsiderness that embraced the disaffected, the devastated and the estranged.
In joy, rage and sadness, Joey Ramone gave us all he had.The Hot & the Bothered is edited by MT arts editor George Tysh. E-mail him at [email protected]