Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mickey Leigh (with Legs McNeil) • I Slept With Joey Ramone

This “family memoir,” penned by Joey Ramone’s brother and NY punk historian McNeil, is probably the best Ramones book out there, even if it does focus primarily on Mickey Leigh’s brother, Jeffrey Hyman. Since the main character of the book—as well as his father, his mother, and two other original bandmates—have passed away, it must be a lot easier to tell the story the way it really happened. And really, which Ramone does 95% of those interested in their story really want to know about? Joey. So who better to tell it than his brother?

I Slept With Joey Ramone is an odd title, but after the first twenty or so pages you find out why they named it that. (The brothers Hyman, like many young brothers, shared a bed as children. Sorry, nothing scandalous…) You find out a lot more, too. If you’ve read any of the other books, you know that Johnny Ramone was a dick, Dee Dee Ramone was an idiot, and the drummers after Tommy weren’t even considered full-fledged members. But what you get here is a lot of the family stuff from Joey’s childhood that really helps to explain the man he became, why he put up with the Ramones legacy for as long as he did (as well as the other members), and why being in a band with the guy—who was riddled with OCD issues, among others—was clearly no picnic either. In fact, if anything, Leigh pulls no punches and doesn’t seem to whitewash anything (except Johnny’s bigotry...ha!). You would have never gotten this much truth if the main man was still alive, let alone other family and band members. Yet Leigh’s storytelling is obviously not meant to harm—it’s meant to tell the story straightforwardly.

Like punk is to rock, I Slept With Joey Ramone comes at you with 1-2-3-4 immediacy. Nothing’s been “fixed in the mix” to make it more palatable to a mainstream audience, and no vocals have been pitch-corrected to spare the truth. When you consider that Leigh was right there as most of it happened, and his co-author Legs McNeil is the guy who co-penned the best book ever about US punk (Please Kill Me), you really can’t lose. In fact, you don’t come close.

5/5 (Touchstone Books)

3 comments:

  1. Makes me wanna read it, Bub!

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  2. I read the book the day it was released. Being the Ramones fan for close to 30 years, seeing 'em live at least 10 times, and reading every book I've ever found on 'em - thought this book was interesting for the childhood view of Joey Ramone. As far as the Ramones as a band, I've heard most of the stories before, so nothing earth shattering in the book.

    Still, I enjoyed reading it for the peek into the actual life of Joey - as well as his brother Mickey's background. Joey had some problems for sure. Rock saved his life. Can you picture Joey doing anything else?

    Best book about the Ramones as a band - my vote goes for "On The Road With The Ramones" - by Monty Melnick, road manager for the Ramones since the beginning.

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  3. You might also enjoy this Mr. Media interview with Legs McNeil, co-author (with Joey’s brother, Mickey Leigh) of I Slept with Joey Ramone and Please Kill Me.

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