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[whitespace] Joey Ramone Life Is a Rockaway Beach: The music changed when Joey Ramone started practicing the art of rock simplification.

End of An Era

Joey Ramone was responsible for some of the best nights of my life

By Gina Arnold

THE DEATH of Joey Ramone this week, of lymphoma, at age 49, may well be the first rock death that matters to people of my generation. (Kurt Cobain doesn't count, because he chose his own road there.) Joey--born Jeff Hyman--was, after all, the founding member of America's premier punk-rock band, the man indirectly responsible for some of the best nights of my life.

Hearing of his passing spawned a number of memories, like the time we went to see the Ramones at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma, circa 1981, and a bunch of rednecky farmers' kids yelled "fucking punk-rockers!" at my sister and me, apparently merely because we had short hair, since there was nothing else remotely punky about us. Gosh, we were proud!

A few years later, I overheard someone on King's Road in London say there was going to be a "secret" Ramones show in the basement of a hotel in Hammersmith that night, and I forced my cousin Marilyn to drive me to it. I remember how shocked I was to meet English Ramones fans, who wore Queen and Led Zeppelin T-shirts. In America, the Ramones were still obscure punk icons, but to those English kids, all three bands were equally important.

Of course, there were countless awesome Ramones shows in the Bay Area as well. I remember one at the Keystone Palo Alto, around the time that Pet Sematary came out, where the band appeared wreathed in dry-ice smoke, put their legs up on the amps and rocked hard for 90 minutes.

Again and again, I saw them and they never let me down. In the '90s, the Ramones underwent some personnel changes, but their sound was so changeless, it didn't really matter. A one-two-three-fo! Cretins want to rock some mo'!

In 1996, upon the release of their last LP, Adios Amigos (with its wonderful single, Tom Waits' "I Don't Want to Grow Up," the words of which don't bear scrutiny on this sad day), they scored a slot on Lollapalooza, thanks mostly to the championship of the band Rancid, which not only refused to tour without them but gave up half its bus and truck space to ship the band's equipment.

I spent a week on that tour, and the Ramones were the highlight. Every time they played, the collected members of Soundgarden, Rancid, Rage Against the Machine and sometimes even some of Metallica would emerge from their buses and gather on the side of the stage to pay their devoted respects. The band used to choose someone to wear the cretin head, and it was considered a huge honor by everyone ever chosen.

The last time I saw Joey Ramone was in the middle of a blazing hot Sunday afternoon in New Jersey, last May. He was standing by the side of the stage at the Hoboken Street Fair on Washington Street, singing quietly along with Ronnie Spector, an artist he has always admired.

I almost went up to him to say "Hi" or something, but what can you say to people like that, other than "Thank you"? Thank you for your music. Thank you for your shows. Thank you for enriching my life. Thank you for providing me--and the world--with so much joy and fun and understanding.

I chickened out that afternoon, but I'd like to say it now. Thank you, Joey Ramone, for being who you were and doing what you did. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

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From the April 19-25, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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