Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Review: I Slept With Joey Ramone by Mickey Leigh

The term “ahead of their time” was never more appropriate than when it was applied to The Ramones. In fact, they seemed almost out of their time. When their first album appeared in 1976, nobody knew what to make of it. And by 1980, it seemed they were already over. In 2010 they are as revered in some circles as The Beatles.

Mitchell Hyman, whose stage name is Mickey Leigh, is the brother of Jeffrey Hyman, aka Joey Ramone. He was with him every step of the way. I Slept With Joey Ramone is the fascinating, and ultimately tragic story of his and everyone else’s favorite Ramone.

The personal insights that only a brother can offer are what make this memoir so special. I have read literally hundreds of accounts of the early days at CBGB‘s. Not until I Slept With Joey Ramone did I understand what was really going on. Joey suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder, and was the kid everyone picked on. Gangly and geeky, it looked like he never had a chance. Coming from a broken home, with a dad who thought “tough love” was the answer, certainly didn’t help.

But these four guys who called themselves The Ramones changed the world. The cover of the first Ramones album is as iconic an image as James Dean‘s from Rebel Without A Cause. So what happened? The ridiculous and futile feud between Johnny and Joey is the answer that is proposed here.

The loss that so many people felt when Joey passed from lymphoma in 2001 has never been more fully told than in his brother’s account. It is truly heartbreaking. I Slept With Joey Ramone is the best story of the man’s life I have ever read. The tales of the author’s experience as a member of Lester Bangs’ band Birdland are just gravy.

I tear up every time I listen to Joey Ramone’s final album, Don’t Worry About Me. Especially his version of “It’s A Wonderful World.” I Slept With Joey Ramone had the same effect.

Article first published as Book Review: I Slept With Joey Ramone by Mickey Leigh on Blogcritics.

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