Monday, October 04, 2010

I Slept With Joey Ramone – A Family Memoir – Mickey Leigh with Legs McNeil

Mickey Leigh is, of course, Mitchel Hyman, the brother of Jeffrey Hymen, otherwise known as Joey Ramone. Legs McNeil is, of course, one of the founders of Punk magazine, the zine that named a movement. Together they have put together Mickey’s story and, through him and his family, the story of the Ramones.

The book is a fascinating read right from the start – Mickey keeps it concise, hitting on the interesting points of their childhoods – diseases, geekiness and an immense love for rock’n’roll. According to the authors, it is Mickey who first discovers r’n’r, who first picks up an instrument, who first has a group, who first plays in a band with Johnny and Tommy, and who helped encourage Joey and keep him together through bouts of mental instability (Joey had severe OCD, which was not something that most people understood in the late 60’s/early 70’s, which is why he spent time in institutions).

But through it all, Joey’s love for music kept him going – and all kinds of music. He was into hippie/stoner rock (Johnny made fun of him for wanting to go to Woodstock), folk rock (James Taylor, another musician who had been institutionalized, helped him through some tough times) and glam rock, where he got his first chance to sing (he had previously been a drummer) in Sniper, as Jeff Stardust, wearing a skin tight, black jumpsuit and purple platform boots!

Of course, the years and the trials & tribulations of the Ramoes are all well documented, as well as Mickey’s struggles with music and his many starts and stops in the biz. He is brutally honest about everyone – including himself – and everyone appears as the humans that they are – not rock stars and very far from perfect. Everyone comes off as a complete jerk at times, but there are stories of love and support and fun and celebrations.

Of course, Joey’s final sickness and death is especially tragic and still terribly sad and Mickey conveys the pain that the family went through and the support everyone gave to each other. It is still horrible to think that three of the creators of punk (Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee) are all gone. But this book celebrates their lives – good and bad – and everyone who loves r’n’r should give it a read. Well done!