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Happy Birthday, Joey Ramone

Stop The Presses!

Given his sense of humor--and irony--Joey Ramone surely would have gotten a kick out of it: At a small ceremony held yesterday at the new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex in downtown Manhattan, no sooner had Rock Hall Foundation President Joel Peresman begun to explain the mistake that in 2002 had caused the late Ramones lead singer's induction statue to get left abandoned at the podium, than a piece of said statue fell on the ground and had to get re-attached before it could be presented to Joey's brother Mickey Leigh.

"Gabba gabba/ We accept you/ We accept you/ One of us."

In 1984 when I was an editor at Creem Magazine, I wrote a review of the Ramones album Too Tough To Die in which I portrayed Joey Ramone as rock and roll's Statue of Liberty, waving not a torch, both rather the "Gabba Gabba Hey" sign he'd oh-so-proudly wave at the close of every Ramones show and their outsider's anthem, "Pinhead."

The image worked then, and 25 years later, it still works: the tall, gangly Ramone with the bad eyesight, in his street-based uniform of leather jacket, T-shirt, ripped jeans and sneakers, beckoning any and all freedom-loving, music-obsessed guys and gals to follow whatever source of inspiration was guiding them and simply go for it, expressing whatever they wished to because, when you get right down to it, that's what rock and roll is, or at least is supposed to be, all about: heart, attitude and above all else (and that includes "musicianship"), desire.

As yesterday's ceremony's final speaker, drummer Tommy Erdelyi, the last surviving member of the original quartet, aptly put it when talking about what drove him, Joey and fellow departed colleagues guitarist Johnny and bassist Dee Dee to form the band in the first place: "We knew what needed to be done." And the rest, as they say, is history--a history put slightly more right yesterday with Joey Ramone finally getting the respectful nod he unfortunately never lived to witness while he was still alive with the "acceptance" of the pioneering punk band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Given all the mostly meaningless sludge that passes for rock these days, it might seem like the qualities the Ramones displayed throughout their career are in short supply. But anytime you hear that "Hey ho, let's go" rallying cry, you can bet that somewhere, someone is feeling the nurturing light of that ever-shining beacon of rock and roll hope that Joey Ramone so faithfully represented.

Next Tuesday (May 19) in New York, Mickey Leigh will be presenting the 9th annual Joey Ramone Birthday Bash, with past, present and future rock and rollers honoring what would have been his late brother's 58th birthday. Proceeds from the show will go to the Joey Ramone Foundation for Lymphoma Research; if you want to check out details on the concert, or want to make a donation, or both, go to And tell them Schlitze sent you.

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