Monday, 15 April 2013

Joey Ramone - A New York Moment

In the early weeks of 2000, I finally bowed to the inevitable and closed my little record shop. I'd spent 14, mostly happy, years of my life behind the tiny counter, taking over the business when I was 26, but now here I was, knocking on 40 and I just couldn't sustain it any longer. I was a tense ball of stress and anxiety, with debts spiralling out of control. As I locked the door for the final time, mixed feelings of relief and an odd sense of bereavement kicked in.

Partly to help me through the mental anguish and partly to celebrate my 40th birthday, my cousin and her husband generously paid for me to go out and visit them in New York in April 2000. The break was just what I needed - a relaxing time with my family while I considered what I was going to do next. My cousin also gave birth to her second child towards the end of my stay. I happened to be travelling across town in a cab with her, when it became clear that the baby was coming and we quickly diverted to the hospital. A short time later I became ridiculously emotional holding the tiny, 15 minute old little girl, who will celebrate her own 13th birthday next week.


A few days earlier, on the afternoon of April 15th, the last day of my 30's, as I walked alone through the East Village, I crossed 3rd Avenue on 9th Street and noticed a small kerfuffle in a doorway to my right. There, towering above a throng of a dozen chattering fans, was Joey Ramone, signing autographs, talking to everyone at once, but clearly trying to edge inside the building. I fumbled in my backpack for some paper and a pen and waited patiently at the edge of the group. The great man was unstintingly polite, in spite of the barrage of questions and bits of paper being thrust at him to sign, but gradually, and before it came to my turn, he eased himself into the foyer of the building and, with a wave through the glass door, he was gone.

I didn't get Joey's autograph that day, but it was a memorable New York Moment for me. A moment that came spinning back 12 months later, when I opened a newspaper on the morning of my 41st birthday to find that Joey had passed away the previous afternoon, exactly a year after my close encounter with him. The extent of his illness hadn't been widely publicised, his death was a terrible shock and 12 years on, we miss him still.

6 comments:

C said...

A lovely, poignant tale. Shame you missed Joey's autograph but at least you did get to see him and in New York too.

The Swede said...

I was disappointed not to have got his autograph at the time, but if I had, I might have then turned and walked away. As it was, I had a few minutes to watch him interacting with his fans and to see what a genuine person he was.

flycasual said...

Nice story. I have a confession, I never really got to know much of the Ramones stuff....I think I was a decade out and growing up on the 80's meant I was into the emergence of Hip Hop as a rebellious release. I'm 40 next year so a poignant post for me too. Doing owt for record store day?

flycasual said...

oh, maybe gimme your top 5 Ramones tracks as a starter? My wife actually introduced me to 'Baby, I Love You' but I don't know if that counts...

The Swede said...

flycasual. Oh wow, 5 tracks? You, more than most, should know the agonies that would cause me!! I'll tell you what though, most people (quite rightly) cite the first three Ramones albums as essential purchases, but if I had to rescue just one from the flames it would be 'It's Alive'. For me that album distills everything you need to know about da bruddas - and it's also one of the greatest live albums ever (IMHO)! If it's on Spotify, check it out, end to end - no skipping!

It's one of the few drawbacks of moving out into the sticks, but I live such a long way from a record shop now, that it's unlikely I'll be able to make it to a store on the day. Frustrating.

flycasual said...

1...2...3...4, woah, that was an Omaha Beach style aural assault! I'm off to Primark to buy me a Ram-ones t-shirt!

Greatest Hits