Joey Ramone’s Swan Song

Written by George Tabb on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.

When I got
an advance copy of Joey Ramone’s new CD a chill went down my spine. When
I saw the promo sheet that came with it, giving me the history of the Ramones
and of Joey, I quickly tore it up and threw it away. Who the fuck did they think
they were sending this to?

Of course,
on the top of the form letter it read, "Dear Editor," or some such
horseshit. Fuck them. I saw the band when they started. I saw them when they
ended. They were not some flavor-of-the-month band I was supposed to give a
written blowjob. Fuck. They were the Ramones. And this was Joey’s last
album. How dare they try to tell me the importance of a guy who changed my life
forever? Who cares if Spin just voted them the second-best band, ever?
Who cares that they’re getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Shame? It
all means nothing to me. Or millions of other Ramones fans worldwide. We don’t
need the validation of the suck-ass music industry to tell us how important
the band was, because they certainly didn’t treat the Ramones like the
gods they were when they were around. And now that Joey’s dead, I hear
him singing on car commercials and being praised like John Lennon or something.
Fuck it all.

all gonna die in the end, and thank fuckin’ God Joey had one more album
in him.

And a good
one at that. Don’t Worry About Me is, well, for lack of a better
word, Ramones. Nothing less and so much more. It starts with a cover of "What
a Wonderful World" that begins with an over-the-top nod to the Sex Pistols’
"Pretty Vacant." Joey and company take the Louie Armstrong-stamped
tune to its pop-punk conclusion in a brilliant rendition recorded while the
late lead singer was already diagnosed with cancer. To hear him sing about "skies
of blue" truly tugs at your heart. Or at least mine.

Thinking About It" is like any Ramones song off one of their later albums.
Actually, it may as well be. With the exception of C.J., it seems Joey’s
band and the studio Ramones are the same. And with production here by longtime
Ramones producer Daniel Rey, why should it sound any different? "Mr. Punchy,"
with a "La-la-la-la, whoo-hooo!" chorus, is more of the same, as is
"Like a Drug I Never Did Before." Not the greatest, but certainly
miles above anything Blink-182 or Sum 41 or any of those other new so-called
punk bands could ever do.

When Joey sings
in true Ramones fashion about how he has the hots for Maria Bartiromo, the "Money
Honey," and wonders how his investments like Yahoo, Intel, AOL and Amazon
are doing, it’s midlife punk rock at its best. "Spirit in My House"
sounds like a track from Animal Boy. "Venting" is perhaps my
favorite song on this album. Singing along to a very kickass guitar riff, Joey
complains about "a sick fucking world" and begins the tune with, "Just
blow up your school and have a nice day." In a way, it’s very ironic.
The Ramones’ big break came when they in fact did blow up a high school
in a movie. Now Mr. Ramone questions what kind of world we live in when these
things happen for real. Brilliant.

An almost acoustic
song, "Searching for Something," has that "I Want You Around"
feel to it, but with lyrics much more insightful that come with age and wisdom.
Here Joey sings about Suzy, who used to be a headbanger, but who has moved to
Rochester, where she enjoys the fresh air and the great outdoors. In the chorus
of the song Joey sings about visiting her: "I felt like a million dollars–something
money just can’t bring." Again, remember Joey already had cancer when
he wrote this.

"I Got
Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)" will knock you down. And I
doubt you’ll be getting up anytime in the near future. Joey sings over
and over, "Sittin’ in a hospital bed, I want my life." Visions
of him in that hospital bed have been the subject of many recent nightmares,
and this song certainly doesn’t help. You can hear the desperation in his
voice. There’s "1969," a cover of the infamous Iggy Pop song.
I believe the same version already appeared on an AIDS compilation a couple
of years back, but it’s great to hear it again. Joey Ramone has always
been great with covers.

Last is the
title song. Of course, with the world the way it is, and the way life just seems
to work out, this is probably going to be Joey Ramone’s biggest hit. Ever.
The song is perfect. Kickass chords that will haunt you forever, a title that
makes you want to cry and lyrics that take you by surprise. Funny how easy it
is to forget that Weezer and Nirvana and zillions of others really just copied
this guy and his band. Anyway, fully expecting the lyrics to finish crushing
my soul, I held my breath as I listened to this song for the first time. But
instead of Joey singing about how we’re all gonna miss him, it turns out
he’s singing about some psycho ex-girlfriend who is suicidal and all, and
how he has to say bye-bye. Quite a surprise. Instead of walking away from this
album with my guts strewn about, I danced away with a smile. And with that smile
came a laugh. Joey pulled a fast one.