~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, February 8th 2013
Few rock stars have had a persona as sharply drawn as the late Joey Ramone, front man of the Ramones. The ripped jeans, the shaggy hair, the leather jacket, the shades, the voice halfway from a mutter to a croon: it was as if he had walked on stage from the pages of a comic. SuperPunk, here to save the world from the forces of prog rock.
So it’s a shock to come across his record collection, which has been put up for auction and apparently authenticated by his brother Mickey. First, the quantity: there are only 97 albums. You can have more than that without even liking music.
Secondly, the line-up. There’s easy listening. Paul Anka! Pat Boone! Herman’s Hermits! We can, perhaps, put this down to youthful bad taste, or Joey’s need to practise the crooning end of his vocal range. But still.
There’s glam. Two T. Rex albums, now you’re talking: just the right diet for a future punk front man in 1972. But also—oh dear—two by Slade, and one by Sweet. While it’s good to picture Joey following the British pop scene from afar, he might have done so with a discerning ear. Where are David Bowie and Roxy Music? And how on earth did David Essex sneak in?
There’s prog. Genesis, ELP, and even Yes. So much for SuperPunk. There are even two albums by Cream: that’s almost their entire oeuvre.
No Beatles, no Stones, no Velvet Underground, no Pistols or Clash. Not even any of the bands the Ramones used to hang out with at CBGBs—Blondie, Television or the great Talking Heads.
There’s Dylan, but only a compilation. There is, to be fair, a thread of cred. The Beach Boys, The Who, The Kinks, The Doors, Hendrix, The Pretty Things, Iggy Pop (finally, a bit of Bowie), Toots and the Maytals, Marvin Gaye, Ike and Tina Turner. It’s great to come across Plastic Bertrand, the closest Belgium ever got to a Ramone of its own. But it’s a bit much to expect him to represent the whole of the new wave. Did Joey not own copies of the albums he made himself?
Born in 1951, in his mid-teens when the Beatles and the Stones stormed the States, Joey could have had the greatest record collection ever. Instead, he ended up with two albums by The Human League, two by Rod Stewart, one by Carly Simon, one by Donovan and one by Sonny and Cher. O tempora, o Ramones.
Tim de Lisle is editor of Intelligent Life and rock critic for the Mail on Sunday