Birthday boy Joey towers center, mother Charlotte Lesher is on the right.
Geraldo Rivera is an idiot, and The Geraldo Rivera Show was Oprah on crack, minus the nuance, double the audience manipulation. But—and this is a big “but” here—there is some quality entertainment to be had in the trashy daytime TV of yesteryear. There was the trend of the day, of course—drumming up the public panic on Satanism, but Geraldo also liked to run features on famous people’s moms—a surprisingly interesting subject, especially when guests actually seemed to get along with their parents.
The clip here is from an episode titled “Heavy Metal Moms”—I can’t pinpoint the date, but the density of hair bands should tip you off. Apparently Geraldo wasn’t clear on the genre of Heavy Metal, because the line-up included Steve West of Danger Danger, Joe Leste of Bang Tango, Kristy Majors of Pretty Boy Floyd, and Mark Craney of Jethro Tull and… Joey Ramone (plus all their moms)! I gotta’ say, Jeffrey Ross Hyman (Joey’s real name) and his darling mother Charlotte Lesher are really sweet together—she’s incredibly supportive, even singing a little of “Beat on the Brat” and “I Wanna Be Sedated!” Joey’s sister-in-law also pops up in the crowd. What a happy family!
I’m far from an expert on John Cage, but of the works of his I know, I find “The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs” to be among the loveliest. Since it’s short, simple to perform, and its haunting melody is easier on the listener than a lot of other 20th Century classical music, it’s one of his most oft-performed works, as well, and YouTube is full of fantastic versions. Cage composed it in 1942, limiting the vocalist to three notes and further instructing him/her to sing in a flat affect, avoiding vibrato. The musical accompaniment was written for a piano with the lid shut on its keys, the pianist directed to make percussive taps with his/her fingertips and knuckles in various places on the piano’s outside, including the bottom. This video shows that process quite clearly, and here’s what the notation looks like:
Musicologist Lauriejean Reinhardt had much to say in her illuminating essay on the history and meaning of the piece. (If this stuff doesn’t interest you and you just want to hear the Joey Ramone rendition, skip all the way to the end, no one has to know.)
Cage composed “The Wonderful Widow” in response to a commission from the soprano Janet Fairbank (1903-1947), whom he had met during his brief appointment at the Chicago Institute of Design in 1941-1942. Fairbank was an ambitious amateur singer from a wealthy family with close ties to the Chicago arts community … Endowed with modest vocal abilities, Fairbank nevertheless endeared herself to critics and advocates of modern music by her tasteful and intelligent performances and her tireless promotion of contemporary music.
Her interest in Cage proved prescient, for the Carnegie Hall recital that occasioned the setting of “The Wonderful Widow” coincided with the composer’s now-famous concert at the Museum of Modern Art, an event that placed the young Cage at the vanguard of modern music.
Evidently given free reign to prepare the song’s lyrics, Cage selected the paean to Isobel from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, a passage that not only gave him a theme, and some lines to lift directly, but also the piece’s title. Frankly, I find the sparseness of Cage’s interpretation a relief from the difficult density of Joyce. From Reinhardt again:
Cage’s song text, condensed and rearranged from Joyce’s original, only intensifies the lyrical dimension of the passage, for it highlights both the sylvan imagery with which the child is described (“wildwood’s eyes and primarose hair,” “like some losthappy leaf,” “like blowing flower stilled”) and a number of key alliterative phrases (“in mauves of moss and daphnedews,” “win me, woo me, wed me, ah weary me!”) that give rise to the passage’s lilting lyricism.
Compare Cage’s lyrics below to the passage from Joyce here.
night by silent sailing night,
wildwoods eyes and primarose hair,
all the woods so wild
in mauves of moss and daphne dews
how all so still she lay
‘neath of the white thorn,
child of tree
like some lost happy leaf
like blowing flower stilled
as fain would she anon
for soon again ‘twill be,
win me, woo me, wed me,
ah! weary me
now even calm lay sleeping
Madame Isa Veuve La Belle.
The 1993 compilation Caged/Uncaged - A Rock/Experimental Homage To John Cage features contributions from punk and artrock figures like Lee Ranaldo, Arto Lindsay, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Elliot Sharp and Ann Magnuson, and is available to hear and download for free on the wonderful UbuWeb. And on that comp, “The Wonderful Widow Of Eighteen Springs” was performed—stunningly—by Joey Ramone. The timbres of his voice are somehow perfect for this song. It may be that I find the familiarity of his singing comforting, but I think this completely dusts some (SOME) versions by trained operatic singers. It sounds like the percussion is performed here on regular drums instead of a closed piano.
I resignedly anticipate opprobrium from the purists.
Leisha Ganbatte is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Barcelona, Spain who enjoys creating sugar skull versions of punks like Blondie and the Ramones. Ganbatte’s designs appear on everything from posters to pillows and she’s even got a line of cat inspired stickers that feature images of Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie as Aladdin Sane. Ganbatte’s latest subject is the one and only Morrissey whose image she has emblazoned on a line of stickers along with lyrics from the Moz’s solo catalog. Swoon! Prices vary from item to item. Examples of the ridiculously cool stuff that is available in Ganbatte’s Etsy store follow.
Maria Bartiromo is a popular finance reporter who has worked for CNN and CNBC television. She was the first reporter to broadcast live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, has won a slew of journalism awards and is in the Cable Hall of Fame. She’s also someone who Joey Ramone had a heavy crush on. Joey invested in the stock market and was an avid fan of Bartiromo’s and watched her TV appearances religiously.
“I started getting emails from him and he would say Maria, what do you think about Intel or what do you think about AOL and I thought who is this person emailing me? It’s crazy, he’s calling himself Joey Ramone. Sure enough it was him and we developed this friendship. And he was attuned to the markets. He really understood his own investment portfolio. Joey Ramone was a fantastic investor.”
He even wrote and recorded an ode to his money muse “Maria Bartiromo” which appeared on his solo album Don’t Worry About Me released posthumously in 2002.
“What’s happening on Wall Street
What’s happening at the stock exchange
I want to know
What’s happening on Squawk Box
What’s happening with my stocks
I want to know
I watch you on the TV every single day
Those eyes make everything OK
I watch her every day
I watch her every night
She’s really out of sight
“He said to me Maria, I wrote a song about you and he said just come down to CBGBs in Manhattan, be there at midnight. I said, Joey, I’m sorry to tell you but I have to be on the air at 6am and I can’t be anywhere at midnight except in my bed, so I didn’t go.” She did, however, send a camera crew. “Sure enough, the cameraman came back with the tape and there’s him and his band with this song Maria Bartiromo and I just love it. It’s a tremendous tribute. I just love that. It’s great, just great.”
In this clip Bartiromo reflects on her friendship with Joey and what it was like to be honored in song by a Ramone.
I watched the Morton Downey, Jr. documentary, Evocateur, the other night (it’s streaming on Amazon) and was reminded of how much fun that loudmouth could be back when his TV show ran on WWOR in New York City in the late 80s. Drawing from local talent, Downey often featured some very cool guests. In this particular episode from February 1989 on punk and metal, Downey, wearing a goofy earring in his ear, is uncharacteristically even-tempered and and downright civil to his guests Joey Ramone, Ace Frehley, members of The Cycle Sluts and my label-mates Circus Of Power. It all makes for some great television, short on facts or insight, but full of the anarchic energy and mayhem triggered by Downey’s unpredictable and explosive gasbagotry.
When Downey does come on strong, it’s fun to watch these rockers cower like kids being lectured by an overbearing slightly psychotic teacher.
Joey Ramone, famed front man of the Ramones, was the real deal. And the personal property from his private estate are definitely the genuine article. Selected items to be presented by RR Auction include a stage-worn leather jacket and pants, a pair of his trademark shades, guitars, hand-written notes and song lyrics, as well as his personal vintage record and poster collections. Refer to our online catalog for a complete listing of items in this exclusive first-time offering. And make them your own.
The auction will happen on 2/21/2013. Go here for more information.
‘We are. We are The Ramones. And you, you heard it first, right here,’ says Joey Ramone at the start of this gig from October 5th, 1981. The ‘right here’ was the Second Chance Saloon, Ann Arbor, which was one of The Ramones’ favorite clubs. The concert lasts just over an hour, and The Ramones get through 28 songs. Sometimes you need it hard and fast, so here it is.
01. “Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio?”
02. “Do You Wanna Dance?”
03. “Blitzkrieg Bop”
04. “This Business Is Killing Me”
05. “All’s Quiet On The Eastern Front”
06. “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment”
07. “Rock & Roll High School”
08. “I Wanna Be Sedated”
09. “Beat On The Brat”
10. “The KKK Took My Baby Away”
11. “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”
12. “You Sound Like You’re Sick”
13. “Suzy Is A Headbanger”
14. “Let’s Dance”
15. “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”
16. “I’m Affected”
17. “Chinese Rock”
18. “Rockaway Beach”
19. “Teenage Lobotomy”
20. “Surfin’ Bird”
21. “Cretin Hop”
22. “California Sun”
23. “Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World”
25. “Come On Now”
26. “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You”
27. “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker”
28. “We Want The Airwaves”
Then the tape cuts out before the last 2 songs, which were “I Just Wanna Have Something To Do” and “We’re A Happy Family”. But hey-ho, it was good while it lasted.
New Joey Ramone video for his song “New York City” from his posthumous solo album, Ya Know, released earlier this year.
Some CBGB legends and hardcore New Yorkers give a shout at to the Big Apple - including Tommy Ramone, Anthony Bourdain, Andy Shernoff, Andrew WK (a New Yorker in spirit), Reggie Watts, Tish & Snooky Bellomo, David Godlis, Ed Stasium, Ricky Byrd, JP Patterson and Mickey Leigh.
Okay, if you follow my posts on Dangerous Minds you know I’m a hardcore Ramones fan. Along with The Clash, Patti Smith and Television, the Ramones defibrillated my rock n’ roll heart in 1976 with their debut record - 14 songs pounded out in under 30 minutes.
With the exception of some glam bands, reggae, jazz cats and old blues re-issues, I wasn’t listening to music in the early 70s as fervently as I had during the psychedelic Sixties. But the year 1976 changed all that. When it came to rock n’ roll it was a very good year. And The Ramones first record made it a very very very good year. I was so knocked out by the “brothers” from Queens, that I started my own punk band, The Ravers, and a year later opened for The Ramones in a small club in Denver.
In 1977, The Ravers re-located to New York City and I spent almost every night at either CBGB or Max’s and my band played both clubs countless times. It was inevitable that I’d come to know Joey Ramone. While we were by no means best friends, we did share more than a few beers with each other and passionately exchanged our views on the one thing that mattered most to us: rock music.
Joey was a shy guy, almost painfully so. But if you gained his trust and he got comfortable with you, he was a wonderful person to talk to - smart, with a dry sense of humor and a sweet disposition. I liked him…a lot. And I miss him and Johnny and Dee Dee profoundly.
When rock n’ roll is your religion, as it is mine, you feel a deep debt to the indispensably essential artists who rescue the music during those critical times when a combination of greed, narrowmindedeness and apathy threaten to destroy what means so much to you. I measure my life not in years but in increments rooted in memories of a string of epiphanies related to rock, sex, drugs, books and movies.
I have forgotten so much over the years. But there are things I’ll never forget, things wrapped around my DNA tighter than a cock ring on John Holmes’ pecker: my first fuck, my first introduction to Kerouac’s On The Road, the first time I saw El Topo, my first acid trip, my daughter’s birth (definitely a rock n’ roll moment), and the first time I heard The Ramones. Like gods hovering over Olympian mountains, these memories loom large in my brain and lodge themselves in my body like invisible visceral tattoos.
It may sound shallow to admit to such a pop culture oriented theosophy, but I’m a shallow motherfucker and, as much as I’d like to think otherwise, I’m heavy into the cheap thrills that keep my prick hard, my heart pumping and fuel the ongoing urge to get up in the morning.
Some people draw spiritual sustenance from Jesus and Mohamed. Some from a diet of brown rice and bean sprouts. Others get off on yoga asanas and mega-doses of vitamin B. And then there are the freaks like me who find God in the almighty power chord that resonates thru my flesh and bones transforming my being into a 190 pound tuning fork made of meat, blood and cum. Hallelujah!
Rolling Stone magazine’s website is streaming the new Joey Ramone album, ya know?. It’s his second solo release and consists of tunes that he wrote during the last 15 years of his life. On first listen, it sounds good to me - a little slick and tamer than The Ramones, but still a worthy addition to the long glorious history of one of punk’s pioneers.
Check out ya know? here. The album hits the streets on May 22nd.
David Arnoff‘s post-punk era photography appeared in the NME, Melody Maker, Trouser Press, N.Y. Rocker and many other publications. The Cleveland-born, but London-based photographer and disc jockey’s work captures iconic bad boys and girls, relaxed and at their most playful. Arnoff is currently readying his photographs for a book and is looking for a publisher. I asked him a few questions over email:
Tara: Tell me about the Stiv Bators shot.
David Arnoff: I was hanging around with Stiv and his post-Dead Boys band in their hotel—pretty sure it was the Sunset Marquis—and we decided to do some shots of him on his own. He’d been messing about with a new air pistol, so we brought that along and just stepped out into the hall, after which it occured to him to maybe go back in the room and put some shoes on, but I said not to bother. We started out doing some rather silly and predictable 007-type poses before he chose to just sit on the floor and look disturbed. I always thought the stripey socks made him look even more so.
Nick Cave, 1983
Tara: You worked with Nick Cave several times. He seems like a guy very concerned about his image, yet playful, too. What’s he like as a subject or collaborator?
David Arnoff: Nick is very easy and unaffected to work with. That shot with Harpo is the result of what started out as another cancelled session at the Tropicana Motel. He apologized for being up all night and indicated all the empty bottles on the TV as evidence, but was perfectly happy for me to carry on regardless even though he was not looking his best. The only downside was he was trying in vain to play “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” not really knowing the chords and the guitar was painfully out of tune. Not an enjoyable aural experience. He was quite happy with the photos though.
Jeffrey Lee Pierce, 1983
Tara: Maybe it was the era, but several of the people you shot were junkies. Any “colorful” anecdotes about the likes of Cave, Jeffery Lee Pierce, Nico or Johnny Thunders?
David Arnoff: Far be it for me to say whether or not any of these people were actually junkies, but it’s funny you should mention Nick and Jeffrey together because I did squeeze all three of us into my little Volvo p1800 to go score on the street—Normandy, I think, around 3rd or somewhere. We then went back to my place in Hollywood, where Jeffrey became convinced they’d been ripped off. But Nick seemed more than happy with his purchase. Afterwards we went to that lesbian-run Mexican place near the Starwood. Nick tried to remember what he’d had previously and proceeded to attempt to describe what he wanted it to the baffled staff. I think they just gave up and sold him a burrito.
More with David Arnoff and his photographs after the jump…
I just wanted to put Joey Ramone, Pearl Jam and “Sonic Reducer” in one sentence. But, this is actually pretty fucking good. Joey Ramone towers over Eddie Vedder (in more ways than one) as they tear into Rocket From The Tombs’, by way of The Dead Boys, “Sonic Reducer.”
Vedder seems like a nice enough guy, but whenever he sings in this clip the energy level diminishes. I give Eddie credit for having good taste in his rock and roll heroes.
Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Here’s the late, great Joey Ramone doing a smashing job of singing the beautiful early John Cage piece The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs which is itself based on text by James Joyce. This comes from an Italian Cage tribute LP from the early 90’s that I was previously unaware of which also features a ton of other luminaries such as DM super-pal Ann Magnuson, David Byrne, Debbie Harry, John Zorn, etc.
Hear Robert Wyatt and Cathy Berberian’s versions of the same song after the jump…