Gino DePinto, AOL At last, our saga with Andrew W.K. and Marky Ramone comes…
- Posted on Apr 15th 2011 2:30PM by Lou Carlozo
Jorgen Angel, Redferns
The book's author -- and Joey's brother -- Mickey Leigh stresses that he'd rather celebrate his brother's incredible life, so this April 15 will mean little more than visiting Joey's grave in Lyndhurst, N.J. and seeing that it isn't overrun with punk junk.
"A lot of fans have to put things down on his resting place that time of year -- motorcycle jackets, papers -- and it all turns to mush and has to be cleaned up," Leigh tells Spinner. "I don't plan on coming out with a commemorative coin or anything. But then again, maybe it could have a Ramones eagle on it," he says, laughing.
Leigh's outstanding book, praised everywhere from Rolling Stone to Publisher's Weekly, is a bracing inside account of the Ramones' rise from the guy who also happened to be the band's first roadie. Now in paperback, the memoir contains an added epilogue that brings the story of the whole Ramones family into the present. In fact, Leigh could've released a series of books about his brother based on the outtakes alone.
"The original manuscript I wound up with was 900 pages, which I had to edit down," he says. "I just let it flow. Some people say it would be cathartic, but I don't know about that. I don't feel any better about my brother not being here. But I had to make sure everything was balanced and that everyone was treated fairly, and that the story still got told."
Max Redfern, Redferns
And what a story he tells. Leigh and his older brother came from a highly dysfunctional family, marked by divorce and the unexpected death of their stepfather. The prospects of Ramone amounting to anything appeared slim. Obsessive-compulsive and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Ramone seemed destined for intense therapy or institutionalization. Their very conservative birth father wanted Joey to join the army, and about the best Joey could do for a real job was making wire-and-plastic flowers, which came after a stint making canvas paintings with dried soup and ice cream didn't work out. "Jeff thought this concept was going to be the next big thing," Leigh says in the book.
"I wanted to write the story so that if you never heard of the Ramones, or are into jazz or classical, that it was a great story and you can relate to the family aspect of it," Leigh says. "The other main thing I wanted to bring out was that here was a guy that faced so much adversity and overcame it, to inspire people with this story."
In documenting the Ramones' unlikely rise, Leigh hits on the tragic as well as the triumphant. He goes deep into the infighting, bizarre love triangles and fraternal feuds that at times caused Joey to jealously thwart Mickey's own music career. Not that Leigh holds onto any of that now -- he's too busy planning the annual Joey Ramone Birthday Bash for this May, on what would've been his 60th birthday.
Meanwhile, there's the pending release of a still-untitled posthumous Joey Ramone solo album, which gathers material from many sources. "It's going to be a great album and I can't wait for people to hear it," Leigh says. "We're finished production and we're working on the mixes. It looks like 16 to 17 songs, including two I recorded with my brother in his apartment. We were able to pull the vocals out and put music tracks around them. People are going to love it, and it's more versatile than anything I think people have heard."
Read an exclusive excerpt of Mickey Leigh's 'I Slept With Joey Ramone' below.
I'd noticed how folk singer Richie Havens tuned his guitar to a chord, and just barred the frets with one finger. I adapted that technique for Jeff, using just the bottom two strings for starters.
Normally, a chord is formed with three notes from the musical scale -- think of the Three Stooges singing, "Hello, hello, hello!"
Playing the two bottom strings formed an inverted chord with just the fifth and the tonic (the first "hello" and last "hello"). It was just enough to imply the chord, especially if you sang over it -- and enough to mimic a song.
I showed Jeff how to hold the pick and play down strokes. I got him accustomed to the fret board on the guitar, and tried to show him where the chords found in standard rock progressions lay on the neck. Of course it was rough, but for a lefty, he seemed to be doing well with this simplified two-string method. Jeff was catching on quickly, which made it enjoyable for both of us. He had only played drums, and didn't sing, so it was hard to tell previously if he had good pitch or not. We were finding out that Jeff had a pretty good ear.
Jeff asked me to teach him a song. He'd been listening to Alice Cooper's 'I'm Eighteen' about 20 times a day; so I figured that was a good one to start with. It wasn't terribly difficult chord wise-- there were only three. I showed him the frets to put his finger on, and sang the song as he changed the chords. After two times around, he was doing it by himself.
A few days later I came home and Jeff was sitting there with the guitar, again. He had become totally attached to it.
"Hey Mitch, tell me what you think of this!" Jeff said, very excited. He began to play the chords to 'I'm Eighteen.'
"Yeah, that's it, that's 'I'm Eighteen'," I said to him.
"Yeah, wait, wait," he said, starting over.
Jeff started playing the chords to 'I'm Eighteen,' again, but then started singing different words over them.
"I DON'T CARE, I DON'T CARE, I DON'T CARE ABOUT THIS WORLD. I DON'T CARE ABOUT THAT GIRL. I DON'T CARE."
"Whaddaya think?" Jeff said, after he went around it twice.
"Well, it's a start," I said, "But dontcha think you need a little something more in there?"
"Okay," Jeff said, "How about this?"
He used the same chords in a different sequence, but continued singing, "I don't care." over and over.
"Yeah, right, something like that," I laughed. I had meant the words, but tried to encourage him, saying, "But that's pretty good for a beginning!"
"Well, I think it's really good!" Jeff said.
Surprisingly enough, he called it 'I Don't Care.'
It turned out to be the first Ramones song ever written.
A few days later he wrote another great song called 'Here Today, Gone Tomorrow' -- with the same three chords!