“Now I wanna run away from home now I wanna be all alone now”
I was playing with my toys in my parents’ living room when I learned that John Lennon had been shot. In 1994, I was putting away records at Radio Erindale with friends when Metal Mike ran in and said, “Cobain’s gone, man.” I believe it was my husband who had texted me to say Lou Reed had passed.
It’s weird the way we find out these things these days. On my way home from a pal’s dinner, I checked my phone and news trickled in my little device that Tommy Ramone had died. It wasn’t shocking. Everyone dies. When Joey Ramone died I was in stresses of being a new mom. It was another rock and roll heartache. There are bigger things in this universe to mourn and to be angry about. Tommy Ramone’s passing is a reminder that all things go and all things remain in some way.
I bought Rocket To Russia after having a huge argument with my then girlfriend about the importance of The Ramones. We agreed on The Clash and Black Flag, but for some reason, she couldn’t stand The Ramones. I was ok with her dislike, but I couldn’t listen to them without her saying something about it. It was aggravating. She found them to be too “happy.” Anyways, I skipped class the day we argued and went record shopping with the full intent of acquiring and listening to enough Ramones to make my ears bleed.
Too happy? Bullshit.
“Lobotomy, lobotomy, lobotomy, lobotomy!
DDT did a job on me
Now I am a real sickie
Guess I’ll have to break the news
That I got no mind to lose
All the girls are in love with me
I’m a teenage lobotomy”
Everywhere The Ramones went turned to punk. Their first UK tour practically legitimized punk across the spectrum and it was soon after they played Toronto, that promoters went wild promoting local punk acts here.
I have no idea where I first heard them, most likely on the radio, but as far as my subconscious goes, it feels like I was born being into the band. The quick spitfire of each of their songs: furious drums that don’t quit even long after the song is done; the skilled angry staccato of the guitar; humming drone of the bass; and Joey…oh Joey. I’ve been secretly in love with Joey since Rock n Roll High School.
All those gangly limbs, bad lip synching, striped shirt, tall obscured face, and nerdy exterior…I have a thing for it. And that voice. Joey’s voice didn’t give a fuck and neither did he. The Ramones were the most unpretentious and geekiest anti-social image to arrive on any scene and because of that they connected with some of the most disenfranchised of the kids.
I have a Ramones song for almost every memorable angry occasion in my life. Today I was running though. I’ve taken to not using music to run lately, but today it felt necessary to bring The Ramones with me. The first few kilometres were I Wanna Be Sedated (I loop songs over and over when I get a good pace, or it’s my OCD, whatever). Road To Ruin is my brain dump album. I’m crazy and my anxiety of late has been on full tilt. Gimme anything to get rid of that uncontrolled feeling.
Then I Don’t Wanna Go Down To The Basement. Hey daddy-o I don’t want to go to the hole. The dark place that I keep running from. Their debut album is so unapologetically raw, bass driven, and full of animalistic young energy. Plus Judy is a Punk has my name in it. “Perhaps they’ll die, oh yeah!”
(plus Havana Affair is a great song when you’re running through frou-frou Yorkville)
The Tom Waits cover I Don’t Wanna Grow Up is practically my anthem at 41. Although sung with an almost happier light by Waits (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!), in the hands of The Ramones it becomes a song of lifetime defiance and sticking it to the man.
I’m Affected has that classic eighties feel combined with a CBGBs punk that was more modernly relatable to my Talking Heads and Blondie loving peers. Don’t get me wrong, I love those two bands too (particularly The Talking Heads), but having fallen for The Ramones via their short hard driving bursts of songs, Phil Spector’s production of End of The Century brought out their excellent musicianship to the forefront. And Joey is so angry on here.
I could go on. I ended off my run with my go-to album which is, as you guessed it, Rocket to Russia.1, 2, 3, 4 You better know what you want… I can’t give you anything.”
I can’t give anyone anything. How I feel that. You know how little I got. It’s true.
With Tommy Ramone going to that great gig in the sky, it gives one a moment to pause, especially if you’re getting up there yourself. Who knew we’d be aging punk rockers, aging grungers, aging anything. I thought I’d never see 30, let alone, 40, but here I am. Yet The Ramones are still there playing on my long runs, or when I’m angry, or if I feel like the only one in a crowded room. While the world mills about dancing and dinner making, I’ll be bop-bopping hopefully until I take my last breath.
Anyways, I’m on a bit of an adrenaline rush, a sweaty mess that needs a shower, and a bit melancholy in turn. I just wanted to write some thoughts down as I reminisce and subject my kids to more Ramones for the rest of the day.
Can I bring my Ramones shirt to the big gig?
RIP Tommy: Not Fade Away by Michael Robbins http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/246998