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REMEMBERING JOEY RAMONE: April 15th Death Anniversary
Joey Ramone Died April 15, 2001

DETROIT - April 15th is a loaded day, not only is it tax day but its also the day the Titanic sunk into the ocean. We also lost an influential rock musician that day, one Joey Ramone. He was a part of a seminal rock group called The Ramones, a rough cut stripped-down rock and roll band from Queens, New York. They influenced thousands of bands all around the world and were at the forefront of a musical revolution. Towering at 6'6" Joey Ramone, (born Jeffrey Ross Hymen) was a prominent figure in the rock music scene where they held court at CBGB's in the Bowery section of New York.

The Ramones first formed in 1974 and played a thrashy set of heart-pounding, foot-stomping rock and roll. They never bothered with stage banter with the audience. Instead, they opted to dive into the next exhilarating song with a ferocious appetite for energy and speed. Some authors cite them as being the first true punk band. The Ramones released a landmark album "Live At The Rainbow London" in 1977 and set the standard for a commercial-stage presence and delivering pure talent without a fancy light show or pyrotechnics. They wrote quick jerky songs with monosyllabic lyrics that anyone could understand. The common themes centered on frustration, boredom, drugs and the absurd "We're a Happy Family" and "Animal Boy" where Joey says, "You can't keep me in a zoo... I am not an animal.... Animal Boy!"

The Ramones all had similar haircuts but the bandmembers were not related. They climbed up the alleyways into the hearts of the fans but never achieved a large radio presence. They gave TV interviews and made it known that they were not your parent's rock and roll band. They were the subject of Roger Corman's cult classic "Rock and Roll High School" movie. Corman was known for producing cult classics and cheap horror films. The band continued to release albums on a steady business without big commercial success and worked with noted talent Phil Spector.

The Ramones were pranksters and stayed on the comedic side of the Punk Rock phenomenon. They released a video response to LIVE AID for the song "Something to Believe In". Joey pleads the public to support "Ramones AID" with references to Hands Across America. The Ramones offer their slogan to the people with Hands Across Your Face. The song was to support the 1986 "Animal Boy" LP and in retrospect, it was a reckless move. They were positioned to do something big for needy people but instead made a visual joke. The Ramones had attracted top talent of the day in their rock video with The Circle Jerks, X, and their star was rising. For the first time, they were getting regular airtime on MTV Networks and could have used this platform to unite Punk and Alternative acts to come together for a cause.

We caught up with the Ramones at the Michigan State Fair in 1993 or 1995. They played outside at the bandshell on the old closed fairgrounds in Detroit off of Woodward Avenue. The band played its traditional speed which was fast and full of adrenaline. You could hear someone call out the time for each song "One two three four..!!!" and the band would kick-off but one couldn't tell who was saying it. The Ramones would play their songs with blinding speed and an impromptu mosh pit formed before the front of the stage. At the shows end kids lost their shoes and when the show was over you could see shoes scattered all over. The fans were scrambling in the dark trying to find their matching shoes. I ended up losing a shoe at that show and walked out with someone else shoe on my foot.

The Ramones were an impressive rock band and left a huge impression on many people. Not all of their influence was musical. The Ramones were stylish in their leather jackets and motorcycle boots. They influenced both men and women on both continents. Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols borrowed his look and physical body posture from Dee Dee Ramone. The Ramones never veered off their musical path and stayed with a heavy rock sound. They never evolved from their formula and the band members never talked much to each other offstage. Some biographers claim this is why the band lasted so long and went the distance. They never broke up but did go through a change of players throughout their long career. Joey Ramone has a street named after him, in the East Village, with Joey Ramone Place. He still continues to fascinate, inspire and serve as an icon for future fans and musicians to come.






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