I left upstate New York at 18 still thinking Robin Trower and the Marshall Tucker Band were music. Until fall 1976, when I came across Punk magazine #3 (the Joey Ramone cover) in Boston. It was like some message inside me suddenly got decoded: Oh—I get it! When my first-ever job in NYC went south the following winter, I decided to go over to 10th Avenue and see if Punk needed any help. Fortunately for me, they did (unpaid). Sitting there hand-lettering pages, John Holmstrom would flip a tape of the Ramones’ first album. Side one, side two. Do you mind if I play this again? Nope. Flip, flip. Side one, side two, side one, side two. That’s how I learned to love the Ramones. It only took a day or so before all that FM radio crap in my head that was supposed to be so fucking great just crumbled in the tidal wave of Johnny Ramone’s guitar. Pretty soon I was pestering Holmstrom and Legs McNeil to meet Joey Ramone. Legs eventually came up with an errand for me. He sent me over to Joey Ramone’s—actually Arturo Vega’s—loft to pick up a couple of letters that were going out to California with some complimentary copies of the magazine. Probably the best work-day of my entire life. — emily xyz
(edited from my journal of the time)
March 31, 1977 — Thur., day one for the Ramones. The only mundane things I can recall doing were returning books to the library, going to the bank, buying some candy…and going to Punk [magazine office, on 10th Avenue and 30th St.] and finishing “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” [recommended by someone on the magazine staff]…The important things were: I met Joey Ramone — really!! — and I saw the Ramones at CBGB. …
Scene: Me boarding 2nd Avenue bus [in midtown] and riding down to 1st Street, wearing white jeans, black Punk t-shirt. The address I’d taken from the office was “6 east 2nd Ave.” But haha — there is no “east 2nd Ave.”! Figuring it’s just Legs’ fucked-up mind, I walk down east 2nd street till I find no. 6. I am faced with 3 buzzers — no. 2 on bottom, 3 in middle, 4 on top. No one told me which apartment. I press no. 2.
Voice: Who is it?
Me: Is this where Joey Ramone lives?
Voice: Who is it?
Me: Emily from Punk.
Voice: Just a minute.
(A few seconds later, the door is opened. I’m face to face with tall, shirtless, black-haired, barefoot Joey Ramone.)
Joey: Hi, how are ya?
Me: Fine, how’re you? I didn’t wake you up, did I?
Joey: Nah, I been up for a — for a couple of hours. It’s nice of you to come all the way over here for these things.
Me: Oh, that’s OK. (thinking: I’d’ve crawled up the Trade Center to meet you!) I like the walk. It’s a really nice day.
Joey: Yeah…it is. Well, like, I haven’t written these letters yet, but — um — it’ll only take a few minutes.
Me: Oh, that’s OK, take your time. I got all afternoon. Uh, we were also wondering, do you have the addresses of these guys? ’Cause we don’t, but Legs said you’d probably have ’em. (note: Phil Spector and Rodney Bingenheimer)
Joey: (by this time up the stairs and in loft) Umm, no, I don’t. I have Rodney’s someplace but I haven’t got one for Phil.
Me: Oh. Well that’s OK, we’ll get it then.
Joey: I mean, I don’t have Rodney’s address, I have a phone number.
Joey: But if you call him up and ask him — like — where to send them, he’ll give it to ya.
Me: Yeah, that’s fine.
(The Loft: wood floors, a lot of space; a big white RAMONES backdrop at one end; huge red and green supermarket signs painted on boards hung on walls; 4 or 5 mattresses in various areas on floor; a small table with chairs; a sink w/ well-stocked shelves; 2 broken guitars; and alot of stereo equipment and records. Also a grey cat.)
Joey: (walking over to a pile of albums) I got some really great old records out in Denver.
Joey: (leafing thru the stack) Yeah, look.
(The Ronettes, the Shirelles, etc.)
Me: Oh yeah, these are great! (you gotta be kidding)
Joey: Yeah. Really! We just demolished this one record store. We went in and found all these great records in the oldies bins and we just took everything. ’Cause nobody out there is into this music, I guess.
Me: Yeah, really. What’s it like out there? How was it in California?
Joey: Oh, it’s great. They really like us out there. California’s nice — it’s warm.
Me: Can I ask what you were doing — like, were you recording or doing concerts or what?
Joey: No, we were doing shows, you know, playing in clubs and stuff…
And so on. I picked up Radio Ethiopia, asked if it was any good; he said he didn’t know, he didn’t really care for it except for the cut they had released as a single (“Ask the Angels”), but then he didn’t really care for Patti Smith’s work all that much. He expressed displeasure with New York radio stations like WNEW who refused to play the Ramones, especially since LA stations played and liked them. Joey [said he] didn’t understand why New York doesn’t support its own local talent. …
Anyway, there was a recording of “All the Young Dudes” playing and he confirmed that it was a bootleg Bowie. He surprised me by saying he loved Bowie (he had most if not all his albums there in the loft) — “his voice is like, so incredible; I love his voice. The way he sings a ballad is like…I think he’s my favorite singer.” I agreed and went back to playing with the cat and he to writing letters.
Every now and then I’d look over at him just to look at him. He was an incredible-looking person: very tall. Very thin, but with oddly wide hips. Black hair, curly at the ends. Thick lips and a small chin. Brown lenses in the glasses. The worst posture I’ve ever seen — I wondered if he’d maybe had a disease as a kid that affected his spine or back or something. He walked kind of funny and his shoulders seemed scrunched-up. I don’t know. Not good-looking, but sexy in a relaxed, fluid, gracefully-uncoordinated way.
The record ended, and I asked if he wanted it changed. He went over and asked me if I’d ever heard the Saints. No. He put on a 45.
He finished writing and asked if I thought they could read the letters, and handed me the one to Spector. Joey Ramone is right-handed, but has the worst downslant…the handwriting itself isn’t too bad, but he completely ignored the horizontal lines in the paper and wrote at [diagonal arrow] this kind of a slope. I read it and said, “Yeah, they’ll be able to read it.”
I asked if his glasses were prescription [I wore glasses, too] and he said Yes they were, and he still owed the optometrist $44 for them. (“I ripped ’em off an optometrist and now I’m afraid to go back.” “But you’re famous!” I said, unbelieving. “You don’t have to owe him any money! You can pay him!” “Yeah, but I haven’t gone back there.”)
I [asked him] if he was excited about playing that night. He said, “Oh, yeah, really excited. It’ll be so great to play with Talking Heads and the Cramps and everybody — we never played with them before, y’know? And they’re filming that TV special, too.” Some people from Italy were doing a TV film on what American kids do.
Well, I had what I came for and I split. He thanked me again for coming down; I said it’s fine, good luck & see you tonite. He’s really quite a sweet, sweet person.
They played CBGB that nite. I thought I’d be ridiculously early getting there at 8 o’clock as I did, but no way: I lucked out, met up with that guitarist Warren from the west coast, he had an extra seat at his reserved table and asked me to join him. W/ pleasure! We ended up right in front — in front of the speakers, true, but still in front. Talking Heads were a good band but I didn’t care too much for them — the vocals were just too piercing. All those TV men were around, not to mention everyone else and their cameras — what a zoo! The Ramones first show started around 1 (“Good evenin’…wer’ the Ram-ones…an’ yoh a Loudmouth-Baby, y’ bettah shuut it uup…” “WAN-TOO-THREE-FAH!”) It was so great to both hear them and see them — WOW! I may get the 2nd album — I liked “Carbona Not Glue.” Then there was a break. Then Talking Heads again. Then another break. Then the 2nd show (“Wer the Ram-ones…I don’ wanna go downnathe Byse-mint!” “WAN-TOO-THREE-FAH!”) And some more great songs. It was too great!! Finally left CBGB, w/ my head spinning and my ears ringing, at 4. Standing in the subway, I would hit my jaws together and it sounded like I had a head full of scrap metal and sleighbells. I was freezing. It was all so unreal but it was SO GREAT. …
[Next day, Friday April 1 1977:]
Went down to Punk to return the raincoat. No one was there. I hung around outside for a while, having no key; I was propositioned by a truck driver; I decided to go to Port Authority and await CBGB-Time there. …
Upon arriving [at CBs], I found 4 or 5 others with the same idea of getting in early standing around outside. I think, “It must have been like this when the Beatles played the Cavern Club, centuries ago.” … Anyway, Warren came by and we were among the first 4 without reservations to get in, which meant we got 2 of the 4 best seats at the bar. Sitting at the bar, I could see everything (Joey). …Tom [from Punk staff] came in. I bought him a goodbye green chartreuse. You should have heard him bitch about the Cramps — who, admittedly, were terrible … Well, the first [Ramones set] started around midnight (“Hallow…we’ the Ram-ones…an’ yo’ a Loudmouth-baby, y’bettah shuuut it uuup —” “WAN-TOO-THREE-FAH!”). I enjoyed it alot, but Tom said he thought it was “sloppy.” The second show started somewhere between 1 and 1:30, and the Ramones were back by 2 and done by 2:30. It was, like, amazing that the evening should’ve ended so early. I guess the Talking Heads must have played longer [the night before], because the Ramones’ sets were pretty uniform both nights. …
[Next day, Saturday April 2:]
…Decided I better do my laundry in case we left Sunday…it started raining and rained like hell all day. I had $4 left — enough to get into CBGB but no drinx. Decided to go into the city and get a 45 of “Little Johnny Jewel” [at Free Being Records on 2nd Avenue] and maybe stop in at the magazine. I got drenched. I got the record and decided not to go over to Punk. I went back to Queens, regretting that I wouldn’t be able to see the Ramones again…but I was broke and it was miserable weather, so I decided to stay home [and] start packing…
—emily xyz (as an 18 year old)