It’s almost inconceivable to think that this date marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Joey Ramone and, in effect, the end of the Ramones, and yet it’s true: on April 15, 2001, the man born Jeffrey Ross Hyman came to the end of a seven-year battle with lymphoma, reportedly listening to U2’s “In a Little While” at the moment of his passing...but don’t worry, Ramones fans, we’re not remembering him by spotlighting that U2 song.
Instead, we’ve gone through the entire Ramones catalog and pulled out a song from each of the band’s studio albums that was penned - or possibly co-penned - by Joey. It’s a tremendous playlist that reminds you that in addition to being one of the most memorable frontman in rock history, he was a brudda who could write some really great songs, too.
“Beat on the Brat” (from Ramones, 1976): Although credited to the band as a whole, this song was written by Joey when he was living in the Birchwood Towers in Forest Hills, New York. “It was a middle-class neighborhood, with a lot of rich, snooty women who had horrible, spoiled-brat kids,” Joey said in Ramones: An American Band. “There was a playground with women sitting around and a kid screaming, a spoiled, horrible kid just running rampant with no discipline whatsoever. The kind of kid you just want to kill. You know, ‘Beat on the brat with a baseball bat’ just came out. I just wanted to kill him.” (Spoiler: he didn’t.)
“Oh, Oh, I Love Her So” (from Leave Home, 1977): One of many songs on which Joey’s love of ‘60s songs about teen romance come shining through, their innocence somehow always remaining intact despite the rough-and-tumble music often surrounding them.
“Sheena is a Punk Rocker” (from Rocket to Russia, 1977): Featuring guitar work from longtime Ramones associate Ed Stasium, there were more than a few girls who claimed to have been the inspiration for this tune, but Joey admitted that the name came courtesy of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. This was, for the record, the first punk song to ever make the Billboard Hot 100.
“I Wanna Be Sedated” (from Road to Ruin, 1978): Reportedly inspired by Joey’s experience at the hospital after burning himself with hot water, the song ended up getting a video a decade after its original release - one directed by Bill Fishman, who would later helm the video for “Pet Sematary” - in conjunction with its inclusion on the compilation album Ramones Mania.
“Danny Says” (from End of the Century, 1980): Although the name “Danny” was one borrowed by Joey from the band’s former tour manager, Danny Fields, it wasn’t actually about him...or at least that’s how he tells it, anyway. “It’s a love song Joey wrote to Linda [Daniele],” Fields said in a 2014 Uncut article. “It’s a poisoned song, and I get introduced as the person it’s about. Well, it’s not about me: I had nothing to do with the album, and it’s about a love affair that turned into a tragedy.” (Quick closing note, in case you don’t know what he’s on about: Joey dated Linda, then Linda married Johnny Ramone, and whether Linda and Joey had broken up before Linda started dating Johnny... Well, that all depends on whose story you choose to believe.)
“It’s Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)” (from Pleasant Dreams, 1981): Produced by Graham Gouldman of 10cc fame, this song features what may be one of the greatest choruses in any Ramones song, just because it spotlights the diversity of Joey’s vocal range.
“Everytime I Eat Vegetables It Makes Me Think of You” (from Subterranean Jungle, 1983): At the very least, this is one of the greatest song titles in the Ramones catalog, but it’s actually a pretty dark song once you realize that Joey’s singing to a girl who’s been institutionalized and that she’s effectively a vegetable now. If you can’t enjoy the lyric, “She eats Thorazine in her farina,” then you may want to move on to the next track, but we’re cranking it alllllll the way up.
“Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)” (from Too Tough to Die, 1984): This track is particularly notable because it’s the first time Daniel Rey collaborated on a song with the Ramones, co-writing this tune with Joey. In a few years, he’d be producing the band, sitting behind the board and twiddling the knobs for Halfway to Sanity, Brain Drain, on which he famously co-wrote “Pet Sematary” with Dee Dee Ramone, and ¡Adios Amigos!
“Hair of the Dog” (from Animal Boy, 1986): One of three songs penned by Joey for the band’s Animal Boy album, the title should be a dead giveaway, but... Yes, it is indeed about alcohol...or, more specifically, about the guilt of alcoholism. How appropriate that it should follow “Somebody Put Something in My Drink” on the album.
“Bye Bye Baby” (from Halfway to Sanity, 1987): Any Ramones song that runs over four minutes is pretty much “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida” by their standards, but it’s hard to complain about the length of this one when it’s such an unabashed homage to every Phil Spector song ever. (Unsurprisingly, it was later covered by Ronnie Spector...but as a duet with Joey!)
“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight” (from Brain Drain, 1989): We almost took a pass on including this Joey-penned selection from Brain Drain in favor of “Come Back, Baby,” but just because it’s not the holiday season doesn’t mean that this song isn’t still amazing.
“Censorshit” (from Mondo Bizarro, 1992): Inspired by the shenanigans of Tipper Gore and the PMRC, Joey first started playing this tune with a side project called The Resistance, but he always had an eye on putting it on a Ramones album. In an interview with The Roc, he also teased a possible collaboration that - to our knowledge - never came to pass, sadly: “I’ve been doing a lot of shows and I’ve been playing [‘Censorshit’]. It sounds great, and everybody really loves it. I just did a show at the Bottom Line here with John Wesley Harding - he’s fucking amazing, man, he’s real hip - [and] he did some anti-censorship song, and I played ‘Censorshit,’ and he loved it He said it was great and we should write together.” Oh, what might’ve been... [P.S. We’re pretty sure this is the John Wesley Harding song in question was this one, which he did with Steve Wynn for Sire’s Just Say Anything compilation.
“When I Was Young” (from Acid Eaters, 1993): We almost didn’t include a song from Acid Eaters, since it’s all covers and therefore obviously doesn’t contain any songs written by Joey, but we decided to go ahead and include this Animals song, since it’s arguably one of the least-familiar tracks on the album to the average listener while still being one of the best things on the album.
“Life’s a Gas” (from ¡Adios Amigos!, 1995): How better to close out this list than with a song bearing this title? To be sure, it’s an apt summation of Joey’s life, and while it obviously ended sooner than anyone would’ve liked, there ain’t nobody who can say that he didn’t leave behind plenty of great music for us to enjoy in his absence.