From Publishers Weekly
Singer-songwriter Joey Ramone, who cofounded the rock group the Ramones in 1974, died of lymphatic cancer at age 49 in 2001. Born Jeff Hyman in Manhattan, he grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, with low self-esteem and what is described as an obsessive compulsive disorder, but he soon escaped to Greenwich Village, where he became a punk pioneer. Commercial success was elusive. While the Ramones remained an underground band, they are regarded today as a huge influence on the entire punk rock movement. Joey's brother, Mickey Leigh (who formed his own band), recreates that electric era, striking all the right chords in this dynamic biography. With skillful writing, he finds Joey's musical roots in their dysfunctional family life. As they attempted to deal with their mother's divorce and remarriage, the accidental death of their stepfather, financial worries and neighborhood bullies, their interest in rock, drugs and far-out fashions escalated. With angst-ridden anecdotes, the book traces the trajectory of the Ramones over two decades, from early gigs and recording sessions through sibling rivalry, feuds, fights, eccentric escapades and 2,000-plus performances before they disbanded in 1996. Leigh and Legs's mashup of memories with solid research makes for revelatory reading in this compelling portrait of a musical misfit who evolved into a countercultural icon. (Dec. 1)
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Leigh (né Mitch Hyman) offers an insider’s perspective on the household in which brother Jeffrey grew up and of Jeffrey’s subsequent exploits in the Ramones (Jeffrey was Joey). Of recording with Phil Spector, Joey observed, “Phil would make us run through the song a thousand times . . . and then he’d get drunk,” start “stomping the floor, cursing . . . and that would be the end of the session.” As for Joey’s contentious relationship with tough-guy guitarist Johnny Ramone, Leigh quotes drummer Tommy Ramone: “Johnny liked Joey—as much as Johnny liked anybody,” which says much about the band’s inner workings. Leigh illuminates Joey’s mental health problems with his own memories, providing context for the struggle it was for Joey to assert himself. Eventually, Joey became the most quotable Ramone and the lyricist of such anthems as “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” Adding the “first person accounts” of “family, friends, colleagues, and industry professionals” to his own testimony, Leigh makes an essential addition to the Ramones files. --Mike Tribby