I Slept with Joey Ramone: A Family Memoir

I Slept with Joey Ramone: A Family Memoir

by Mickey Leigh

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“A powerful story of punk-rock inspiration and a great rock bio” (Rolling Stone), now in paperback.

When the Ramones recorded their debut album in 1976, it heralded the true birth of punk rock. Unforgettable front man Joey Ramone gave voice to the disaffected youth of the seventies and eighties, and the band influenced the counterculture forSee more details below


“A powerful story of punk-rock inspiration and a great rock bio” (Rolling Stone), now in paperback.

When the Ramones recorded their debut album in 1976, it heralded the true birth of punk rock. Unforgettable front man Joey Ramone gave voice to the disaffected youth of the seventies and eighties, and the band influenced the counterculture for decades to come. With honesty, humor, and grace, Joey’s brother, Mickey Leigh, shares a fascinating, intimate look at the turbulent life of one of America’s greatest—and unlikeliest—music icons. While the music lives on for new generations to discover, I Slept with Joey Ramone is the enduring portrait of a man who struggled to find his voice and of the brother who loved him.

Editorial Reviews

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)
Library Journal
Don't be fooled by the title—this isn't another contrived memoir from a Ramones groupie or hanger-on. Rather, this is a heartfelt and revealing portrait of the late Joey Ramone by his brother, Leigh, and onetime friend McNeil (coauthor, Please Kill Me). Written without apprehension or vanity, the book is far from idol worship. And though it excels at sharing unflattering truths like Ramone's social troubles as an awkward, gangly teen and the start of messy obsessive-compulsive issues that led to stays in mental wards, Leigh's narrative of his life with a future punk legend only provides a more complete and compassionate picture of his big brother. He writes of Ramone berating their mother and brotherly conflicts resulting in Ramone asking friends to choose sides, but from page one to the final passages of being at his side as he died from lymphoma, it's clear Leigh wrote this enlightening book with love and respect. VERDICT The singer's myriad multigenerational fans will cherish this touching portrait, as will lovers of rock music in general, especially those with brothers. [See a Q&A with the authors in BookSmack!, 11/19/09.]—Robert Morast, Fargo, ND
Kirkus Reviews
The late Joey Ramone is feted with tough love in these cradle-to-grave memories from his kid brother Mickey Leigh (born Mitch Hyman). In Leigh's collaboration with longtime punk journalist McNeil (co-author: The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry, 2005, etc.), Joey Ramone (born Jeff Hyman) is the classic middle-class misfit whose salvation came in the rock 'n' roll teen culture of the late 1960s. Growing up in suburban Forest Hills, N.Y., Leigh witnessed his sickly, awkward OCD brother transform from a freakish, sometimes violent kid to a moon-booted glam-rocker known as "Jeff Starship." In the early '70s Jeff transformed again-into Joey Ramone, the charismatic Ramones frontman and punk-rock heartthrob. Although Leigh planned to pursue his own dreams of rock stardom, initially he settled for being the Ramones' underpaid roadie. From this vantage point he saw the band's rise to international cult stardom through New York City's fledgling CBGB punk scene. He also experienced firsthand the Ramones' perpetually dysfunctional, dark netherworld governed by the near-psychotic dictatorial ways of guitar player Johnny Ramone. Frustrated and broke, Leigh eventually cut his professional ties with the Ramones and pursued a series of dead-end musical and occupational activities. When the author focuses on his own uphill battles, the memoir hits occasional snags. He hit up Joey for residual money for his backup vocals on the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop"-used in a 1991 Budweiser commercial-and had constant feuds with his brother about songwriting credit on their several musical collaborations. This belated demand for money and recognition seems somewhat hypocritical,especially considering Leigh had previously been determined to stake out his own identity apart from the Ramones. Nevertheless, Leigh showed dogged persistence in the face of constant futility. Sadly, though, it took Joey's losing bout with cancer to fully reconcile the two brothers' differences and bring them together again. Overlong but intermittently fascinating behind-the-scenes look at one of punk's most unlikely icons. Agent: Susan Lee Cohen/Riverside Literary Agency

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It was one of those crystal-clear evenings in the late winter of 1969. My mother, my brother, and I had recently moved into a new high-rise apartment building in Forest Hills, Queens, with a spectacular view of Manhattan.

I was sitting in our new bedroom with Arlene, a friend who’d stopped by after our last class at Forest Hills High School. We could see the entire skyline from my bed by the window and watched the sun set over Manhattan. Arlene gazed at the city lights as I passed her the joint.

All of a sudden, on the other side of the bedroom there was a stirring beneath a huge, homegrown pile of rubble. It was as if this unidentifiable mass of a mess had taken on an animated life of its own.

“What’s that!?” Arlene asked in a hushed but urgent tone; she was ready to bolt should the inexplicable commotion continue.

“Oh, that’s my brother,” I answered, deadpan.

On one side of the bedroom by the window was your average teenage mess, plus a few oddities: a skinny ten-inch-long mirrored hash pipe made by Mexican Indians; an eight-track tape deck; an issue of the East Village Other; a copy of How to Talk Dirty and Influence People by Lenny Bruce; and some guitar picks.

On the other side, my brother’s side, was the pile.

It had levels, or more like tiers: clean and dirty shirts; pants, socks, and assorted underwear; a pair of brown suede, calf-high fringed boots (like the ones Ian Anderson wore on the cover of the Jethro Tull album Stand Up); all covered by a huge Afghan shepherd’s coat. Below, in another layer, were records, newspapers, rock magazines, and wrappers and boxes from various food groups, all surrounded by dishes, cups, and glasses that doubled as ashtrays, containing liquids that had created multicolored foam—beer-mug-type heads that had risen up to and above the rims of the glasses.

Sheets and blankets snaked their way in and out of the living sculpture. An unseen mattress lay on the floor supporting the escalating geological wonder that was my brother’s side of the room.

“Uh, are you sure that’s him?” Arlene asked, somewhat confused, in that I hadn’t even glanced over in the direction of the mysterious mass. “I don’t see anybody.”

“Yeah, that’s him,” I replied, “unless there’s a new tenant in there that I don’t know about.”

Arlene giggled, half genuinely, half nervously.

Hearing our voices, my brother cleared through enough of the debris to pop his head up and see what was going on.

His sunglasses were already on.

They were rarely off.

“Hey, how ya doin’?” he said to Arlene. They’d seen each other around the neighborhood.

“I’m okay,” Arlene said to my brother. “Did we wake you up?”

Looking out the window and seeing that it was almost dark, my brother replied, “No, no, that’s okay, I was up.”

As he started to clear his way out of the heap, we realized he didn’t have any pants on.

Arlene said, “You know, I kinda gotta get goin’. I told Alan I’d stop upstairs.”

“Yeah,” I said. “My mom will be home soon, anyway.”

I moved to the middle of the room to shield Arlene’s view.

I didn’t have many girls come over after that.

My brother—the guy without the pants—lived on to become Joey Ramone, with quite an amazing story.

I lived on to tell it.

© 2009 Mickey Leigh

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