How low can a punk get?
Joey Ramone, the late, lanky, leather-clad lead singer of the seminal New York punk rock band the Ramones, finally got his just deserts on Thursday afternoon, May 14, at a brief ceremony at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex in Soho.
“This is a day of kind of not necessarily new beginnings, but a day to really do what we can to right a wrong,” said Joel Peresman, president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, when a piece of the statue he was holding suddenly came loose and hit the floor with a big clang.
It has been a comedy of errors ever since the Cleveland-based shrine of modern music legends first inducted the Ramones seven years ago, one year after its gangly frontman’s death from lymphoma in 2001.
The original award presentation and acceptance for the band’s lead singer was “mistakenly omitted from the programme’s schedule,” according to the singer’s official Web site. “As a result, the statue meant for Joey ended up being abandoned at the podium.”
More than half a decade later, Mr. Peresman’s foundation was trying to set things right.
“Now, I want to introduce Dan Fields, the [Ramones'] first manager, to really come up and say some things about his recollections,” Mr. Peresman continued, “and hopefully not break this thing like I did.”
Mr. Fields, for his part, attempted to clear up some of the rumors and controversy that resulted from the initial snub.
“There was a blog from a bright and distinguished person this week going out, referring to this as making up for Joey’s non-induction—Joey was inducted into the hall of fame,” Mr. Fields pointed out. “I worked on those dinners for many years before that one, to which I wasn’t invited. But, nevertheless, it said ‘non-induction,’ so I tried to correct that.”
He continued, “I then heard from a reliable source—I’m sorry for jumping into this well of poison—that [guitarist] Johnny Ramone refused to allow any representative of Joey’s up on stage. This went out on the Internet. All I could do, knowing a little bit more about it, was to clear the air. It really was a procedural error on the part of the staff of the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame dinner.”
He added, “This is what they got when they lost me.”
Mr. Fields described the late Joey Ramone as “by far, the most ironic and funniest” of the Ramones, adding, “I think he would have enjoyed the mistake, why it got fucked up, why we’re here. I think he’s chortling at this minute.”
Mr. Fields further commented that the setting of Thursday’s event was quite appropriate: “We’re on Mercer Street, and to pay credit where it’s due, this is the street where the New York Dolls performed where the Ramones first saw them, and said, ‘These guys suck! They can’t play! Let’s start a band’—a mantra that brought us into the punk rock era.”
Tommy Ramone, the group’s original drummer and sole surviving member, later corrected him: “The Ramones loved the New York Dolls—I don’t want anybody to get the wrong impression. In fact, we were crazy about the New York Dolls.”
Accepting the long-overdue award, Joey Ramone’s brother, Mickey Leigh, dressed in a black blazer and black T-shirt emblazoned with his late brother’s visage, tried to put a positive spin on the goof. “If everything went down right at the Waldorf-Astoria, it would have been a beautiful thing. But I never knew what rock and roll had to do with the Waldorf-Astoria to begin with. This seems to be much more fitting.”
Mr. Leigh continued, “Joey loved New York City but he loved downtown especially, so having this presentation below 14th Street is something that could not have happened at the Waldorf-Astoria. Having this presentation be a few blocks away from a street named in his honor couldn’t have happened at the Waldorf-Astoria. And, because the ticket prices were $2,500 a pop, having all his friends and family here, instead of a bunch of record company executives, is something that could not have happened at the Waldorf-Astoria.”
Richard “Handsome Dick” Manitoba, former singer of the punk group the Dictators, described the rock hall’s mistake as “ridiculous. The lead singer’s the most important guy in the band!”
Legs McNeil, co-author of the forthcoming book I Slept with Joey Ramone: A Family Memoir, described the late singer as “a huge mess” who was once diagnosed with mental illness. “What this guy does with his life is so heroic,” Mr. McNeil said. “He really gave us all hope that we could all, you know, climb out of our shit and, you know, do it.“
Mr. McNeil said the late Ramones singer would be “thrilled” with his induction, adding, however, “I also know how upset he’d be with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for not having Alice Cooper in and the Stooges and Kiss and a lot of other people because Joey stood up for rock and roll.”
Mr. Ramone, born Jeffrey Ross Hyman in Queens in 1951, would have turned 58 on Tuesday, May 19. Mr. Manitoba will join former MTV talking head Matt Pinfield, among others, at a tribute concert that night in Mr. Ramone’s honor at the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza.
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