Joey embodied this weird tension. Onstage, you could tell he was a super-sweet guy. And yet the whole image was dress-up rebellion. I remember being surprised at one point after having gotten to know the Ramones a little bit at CBGB: They were the only band I knew of that had an art director. Joey and Arturo [Vega] worked very closely together. There was a loft right around the corner that we could all visit and hang out. Arturo had these giant pop-art posters of supermarket price signs. I thought, “This is much more planned out than it appears to be.” Recently, I read an interview where they said, “We figured out what we would look like before we figured out what to play.” This was like a high-concept packaged-band thing, but they did it to themselves. It was brilliant.
BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG
of Green Day
If it wasn’t for the Ramones, or Joey in particular, there wouldn’t be a Green Day, an Offspring, a Rancid, a Blink-182 — there wouldn’t be any punk band, period. There are bands that are influenced by the Ramones that don’t even know it yet.
The Ramones sounded like rock & roll in its purest form — they beat it back into purity. I saw them about ten years ago on the Escape From New York Tour; me and my girlfriend at the time went. The Ramones aren’t only the sort of band that you would go and mosh to. It’s also a band that you can have romance around, too. I remember looking around and seeing people make out in the audience. It was that sort of Fifties inspiration. It’s a bunch of street guys who aren’t afraid to sing a sappy love song, too.
I was on the road in Japan, and a friend told our tour manager to ask me to call Joey, because he was really sick. I didn’t really know what to say. I just called up and said, “Hey, uh, I just bought ‘She’s the One’ on seven-inch vinyl for forty bucks out here.” And he kind of laughed and said, “I heard you guys were bringing up kids onstage and starting bands, and the song that you have them play is ‘Blitzkrieg Bop.’ That’s really cool.” And then he said, “Well, I have to go, there’s some people here I have to talk to.” And that was it.
of the Clash
The Ramones record came crashing into the London scene like a B-52 packed with atom bombs, nose-diving into the squat lands. Its influence cannot be overstated. When the group itself hit town to play at the Round House, a cool thing happened before the performance. Various members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols had already been thrown out of the venue, due to local difficulties with the promoters. So it seemed a fitting trans-Atlantic moment of mutual respect when the Ramones opened their dressing-room window, which gave out onto an alley, and pulled each of us up into the venue. Then they went out onstage and blasted off into legend: “One, two, three, four, hey, ho, let’s go!”
I first heard the Ramones in ’76, when their first album came out. I got it for my sixteenth birthday, actually. When I heard it, I was shocked. The whole concept was so minimal and Joey’s voice was so odd, so flat, in an era of shrieking metal guys. I was hooked instantly. It made me feel like, “I need to be in the city! I need to be in a band!” This wasn’t like sitting at your pot dealer’s house in the suburbs listening to Rainbow. This was “I can do that! I should! I will!” kind of music.