Jimmy, did you really push Joan down the stairs?

When most composers write songs, they rarely write lyrics that are stated as literal prose.  Imagine if the following were the words to a new hit single: “I was walking down the street and happened to meet up with John who I had a conversation with.  John said, “Hello fella, long time no see, should we go out to lunch some time?  I work till five o’clock every day except this Saturday”—STOP!!!  Could you imagine a lyric like that, yet alone trying to sing it?  It would be so dreadfully boring that it wouldn’t even be funny as a HA HA HA Parody. (LOL)

Lyrics, like poetry, provide an often-different less pragmatic mode of verbal communication from conventional linear writing.  With lyrics, the lines, parameters and structures are less literal, more open-ended and far blurrier.  (For example: I remember hearing David Bowie talking about cutting up lyric lines and words and sort of arranging them all together). When interviewed, Mick Jagger said that when he’s writing a song, he first writes down the words strictly as prose.  Then he adapts the words and works with them to becoming a lyric.

Lyrics are often metaphorical on purpose.  I’ve heard many artists say that they would like to have the listener take whatever they feel (in a sense whatever they want) from a lyric – not shove the lyric down someone’s throat as a verbatim statement.  Kurt Cobain had commented that literal lyrics were one-dimensional and boring and that he tried to keep his lyrics blurry.  With that blur, there are many potential interpretative possibilities. It’s sort of the difference between looking at a clear simple picture, versus an image with multiple dimension, shades, hues, textures, layers and even effects.

Some lyrics are stream of consciousness as in Walk This Way by Aerosmith or Come Together by John Lennon while he was still a member of the Beatles.  These lyrics can take the listener on a sort of surreal journey, as these words often filter up from the subconscious of the writer.

Most people don’t have any problem with the above-mentioned styles of lyrics.  They can be interesting, open to interpretation and thought provoking.  What people usually do have a problem with though are the types of lyrics that dramatize a situation, often violently.  A lot of people, especially non-music fans take these lyrics as being the gospel truth of the writer – as if the lyricist meant every word completely graphically.  Especially if it’s violent, it would be presumably stated strongly, therefore, it incites reactions in people who don’t understand the art form as a medium or the real meaning behind the song.

Of course, Rapper Ice T didn’t really mean that he was plotting to go out and kill policeman in his song Cop Killer.  The song came out originally on Body Count in 1992, an album by the rap & heavy metal band of the same name which Ice-T had been fronting.  Said Ice-T, “I’m singing in the first person as a character who is fed up with police brutality.”  Ice T considered Cop Killer to be a protest song.

However, the song wasn’t perceived simply as a protest song by a portion of society that was loud and vocal regarding their disdain for the song.  In addition to the actual lyrics, the fact that he is a rapper and that the music itself sounded intense, are all contributing factors to people’s supposed outrage.  Ice T received intense protests, pressure and death threats from the police, government and conservative social groups and shortly afterwards, the offending song was removed from the record.  In the next year, Warner Brothers dropped both the band and Ice-T as a solo artist from their label roster.

Ice T ran into his problem regarding Cop Killer with the general public (the police and the good law abiding citizen thing) but certainly not his fan base.  His fan base loved the song and identified with it largely from the vantage point of an “internal revenge fantasy” based on getting even with the police, who may have oppressed them or treated them unjustly, especially in the inner city.

I ran into a problem too, for my song Joan Fan Club which was released on my first LP in 1980, but for me, it was the complete opposite problem that Ice T dealt with in Cop Killer.

In the song Joan Fan Club, I put myself in the role of the ringleader, summoning the troops (in this instance the cheerleaders, jocks and normal popular kids in high school) to attack Joan (who was fat and ugly.)  I wanted to make the song as vile, disgusting and intense as I could!  Yes, I meant every word of it!  I was going to recreate the drama and make people live through it!  That would make my point – Live through this and see how it feels!

Here is an example of the lyrics:
Joan is the girl she waddles in class
I’m gonna stick some thumbtacks in her back
Gonna push her down gonna spray her with mace
Gonna touch her little pizza face

Joan is the girl we make her cry
She shivers and shakes on Friday night
Gonna egg her house throw some trophies too
Joan we’ve made this fan club just for you!

Can I have your autograph?
Hey fat pig we’re gonna push you down the stairs
That’s right we’re gonna touch your little pizza face
FAT! Hey fatty, you’re a real fox
You know the whole school wants to go out with you
Written in 1977 – © 1979 Skafish

Skafish performs with cheerleadersSomething I didn’t expect though, was that many people took these lyrics as literal.  You might ask, “Why shouldn’t they?  You sang them and wrote them, didn’t you?”  I erroneously assumed that EVERYBODY would know that I didn’t really mean that I was intending on acting out these lyrics or advocating for anyone to do so for that matter.  How could they?  That me of all people: someone with a nose the size of an adult man’s small penis, boobs, huge feet, dressing strangely and wearing make up was going to attack someone in school — like I would even have the nerve to think of doing so for one minute!  I was busy fearing for my physical safety every day — not attacking “fat and ugly” girls.  Remember kiddies, Jimmy wasn’t the prom king! (LOL)

The problem started with the fact that my fan base really liked it – they loved Joan Fan Club!  They perceived me as mean spirited, clever and oh so cynical!  The song mirrored their own viciousness vicariously lived out through the song and me and their post teenage angst holographic illusion they created of me.  On top of that, they damn well expected me to live up to it – I better call them, or at least someone remotely fat and ugly names if they were in my presence, especially if others were near.

It really kicked into gear when Glinda Harrison and I first launched skafish.com in October 2000.  We started getting emails from the vast world of cyberspace where fans were initially cordial and I responded back to them.  Then suddenly, they viciously turned on me!  I committed a horrible sin!  One worthy of a lifetime of eternal damnation…I was (I can barely get it out – I’m choking up right now – please be delicate with me) nice to them.  OK—I finally said it!  I WAS NICE TO THEM!  (Please don’t tell anybody) –I was actually friendly!  Don’t hate me, please…

“Jimmy, did you really push Joan down the stairs?  And if you didn’t you are a complete Official Joan Fan Club underwearfake and sellout” was the gist of some of these emails received via skafish.com.  These kinds of “fans” (term used loosely) tried to pigeonhole me.  Now that’s funny!  Anyone who knows me or has listened to any of my work should know that I can’t and won’t be reduced to one-dimensional shtick – disingenuously living up to the fans expectations, keeping the gravy train rolling.  If I was ever going to do that, I would have played it safe from the beginning – and playing it safe in the music business is very simple.  As an artist, you attempt to live up to the expectations of your fan base.  It is just like being a politician and playing up to your constituency.  Whether in music or politics, it really means that you better be pretty darn one-dimensional: not complex, contradictory or multi faceted.  I remember hearing Nikki Sixx of Motley Cure laughingly saying that his group would lose their audience if that audience thought The Crue drank milk.

I’ve lost fans many times throughout my career by not living up to their expectations and by following my own singular artistic evolution.  Honestly, that’s quite fine with me and I don’t mean that in a quasi defensive way.  I’m happiest being me and yes, I am a very complex and hard to define individual.  I could never make performing and creating similar to a predictable office job…Why do it then?

Just a few weeks ago I actually ran in the same problem with being pigeonholed once again.  This time, the vicious attack was based on me doing something oh so bad – eternally sinful…oh my God, I’m going to be hated by everyone forever now — What would the punk and punkettes think of this?

I created a Christmas Jazz album?!?!  Yes, the same person who spewed sacrilegious lyrics, sprinkled authentically blessed Catholic Water on audiences throughout the world, made a Christmas Jazz record, with no shocking lyrics – or any lyrics at all!?!?

But this person who posted the nasty review was so uninformed that he actually thought that I (Joan Fan Club Skafish) wasn’t me (Christmas Jazz album Skafish.)  Believe it or not, he actually thought that I was a different Skafish and there were two Skafishes.  He couldn’t even begin to perceive that someone who did Joan Fan Club could have POSSIBLY did the Christmas Jazz record “Tidings Of Comfort And Joy: A Jazz Piano Trio Christmas.” Here is the one star review he wrote which was posted on iTunes:

Not THAT Skafish
Looking for “Joan Fan Club” or the quaint Christmas fave “Disgracing the Family Name?” Then go on, New Wave Seekers, because this is not that Skafish.

A common musically-gifted name. Like “Partridge”? XTC vs the lovely group with David Cassidy, methinks.

This pigeonholing process I’ve been through also reminds me of a story Andy Prieboy told me in the late 1980’s.  Andy and I went to high school together and played in a couple of bands back then – him as a singer and me as a keyboardist.  One of the bands, a group I formed called Sway, played at our prison camp high school auditorium, Bishop Noll Institute in 1973 and because the road crew was smoking pot backstage, we were banned from ever playing there again.  For those of you who don’t already know, Andy replaced Stan Ridgeway as the singer of Wall Of Voodoo and had international success in the 1980’s.

When Andy came back home to East Chicago Indiana to visit in the late 1980’s we reconnected.  Months later, he was back in Los Angeles, and when I flew there to perform for the IRS Records 10 year Anniversary in September 1989, I saw Andy again and played keyboards on some of his tracks in the studio.

Andy was talking about the international press core that he experienced traveling with Wall Of Voodoo and made the comment that the press wanted, expected, even demanded that he be a complete A**Hole.  After all, what else is a rock star?  And if you’re a real rock star, you must: do heroin, be rude, violent, not show up for gigs, puke in public, be tortured and act out and treat the press like shit.  Obligatorily, you must be arrested at least once!  Here, the press tried to pigeonhole him.

My typecasting problem with Joan Fan Club was different from Andy’s as it wasn’t from the press — and it wasn’t with overweight support groups protesting the song and calling me an insensitive person to people of plus size – like “I’m fat and I still love myself.  Let’s ban this terrible song Joan Fan Club.”

It was the simple fact that some of my fan base didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t the snotty monster my song so virally portrayed.  The song was supposed to emulate something quite ugly, even diabolically despicable about how horrible high school life can be for those who aren’t popular.  Joan Fan Club was about real life experience – my life experience – and I was going to damn well tell it my way – the way it actually happened.  I just put myself in the role of the attacker to make it as real as I possibly could and have the maximum impact I could hurl out to the world from my inner rage!  (Journalists knew the song was autobiographical by proxy, so I assumed everyone else would too.)

YES, I WAS JOAN!!!!!   As with most of my songs, Joan fan Club was about intense and confrontational social commentary – it wasn’t pretty what I went through – so the song wasn’t going to be pretty!  I was the one who was pushed down the stairs, attacked everyday – and threatened always.  My home was attacked – there was no place of safety  – the monster of abuse created the rage and that rage created the art which I am proud of for the guts it took to do it!

In reflecting upon what Ice T, Andy Prieboy, myself or any artist has been through regarding how the world as a whole reacts to what we create, perhaps it is always most important to remember to simply be who you are – just be you!  That has always been my philosophy.  Keep it simple!  Keep it real!  Keep it true!  It doesn’t matter at all what anyone thinks!

For the compromises one incurs to “make it,” the price tag is just not worth it: loss of self-respect, cynicism, losing your fire to create what only you can create and worst of all, boredom.  For Ice T, he was expressing his rage from the inner city – for Andy, why should he try to live up to a farcical “A**hole boy” stereotypic image of what the press core demands?  For me, I would never make fun of someone or be mean spirited to impress my supposed fans!  I wrote Joan Fan Club as a vehicle of social commentary, awareness, confrontation, purging and ultimately healing, even though some people didn’t really ever “get it.”

Let me know what you think!

Jim (not Joan) Skafish


How I ended up in the grocery store with Joey Ramone

As the first Chicago punk/new wave/alternative artist ever to play the legendary CBGB’s in New York on April 12th and 13th 1977, my band and I were excited to first bring Chicago punk to New York.  At the time, we were all between the ages of 17 and 20 with the only exception being my 23-year-old drummer.  With all of us still living at home, our parents paid for our trip, thankfully, since we weren’t earning enough money as a band to pay for our little excursion.  As we navigated the trip, some of the band and road crew decided to ride in my drummer Larry Mysliwiec’s old green van, while the rest of us flew.  Along with my band came my road crew who were the people who assisted with the practical matters of musical gear, sound and stage set up.  In addition, those wild freaky friends of mine notoriously referred to as the Skafish entourage also joined in for the adventure

Right as we were just beginning our descent from high in the skies to landing at JFK airport in New York, I noticed Skafish entourage member Steve who was sitting right next to me.  He had cupped his hands together and was throwing up because he took too many drugs on the plane flight there.  It added an extra sense of tension to the landing for all of us, but luckily, Steve didn’t OD through the plane touching down.  Unfazed, however, he returned to doing drugs shortly afterwards.  I was adamant that my band and I were to never do drugs or drink and we didn’t, but preventing my entourage was a different matter, of course.  I wasn’t their daddy and mommy!

A while after checking into our hotel, it was time to go down to the club.  Carrying an oversized powder blue suitcase, I remember walking down the street toward CBGB’s along with some of my road crew and entourage, taking in what was around me.  The neighborhood looked dingy, dark, desolate and felt tough, just like the city I was raised in, East Chicago, Indiana.  As this was my first trip to the Big Apple, I was somehow expecting that sense of “the glitz and glamour of New York,” but instead we were in the run down and dismal Bowery, not strolling down Park Avenue.  As I entered the club, I psychically absorbed the feeling of a sense of cool detachment and dinginess, not the feeling of excitement that one would think comes with entering an important rock ‘n’ roll haunt.  No one there really seemed to be thought of or treated like a star.  I immediately met Hilly Krystal, owner of CBGB’s who was quite friendly and nice to me.  My first impression of Hilly was that he was tough, not intimidated by anyone, surprisingly open and non-pretentious. “Welcome. You’re a member of the club” was the feeling I felt emanating from him toward me.

Along with my large suitcase, I settled monetarily in the dressing room while taking in the surroundings: the club house pooch, a Doberman pincher who pooped virtually everywhere and all of the Ramones who were in attendance for both nights of my shows.  I also noticed Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys who seemed to be working as a waiter in the club at the time.  Various photographers who were there to capture Skafish, local punks and a journalist from Variety magazine (who ended up writing a nasty review about us) filled out the room.   My entourage for this trip included the Twiggy Girls: one 17-year-old girl named Donna and a boy named Michael who was 19, both of whom I went to high school with.  They dressed as identical clones of Twiggy the model: mini skirts, matching wigs, identical outfits, giggling in unison while walking and dancing as one.  As they settled in, the Twiggy girls started mingling around the room and flirted with everyone in sight.  The dressing room, which was shaped and sized like a narrow pantry with no door on it, had tons of graffiti on the walls — repeatedly saying, “Brian Jones is alive!”

I observed Joey Ramone walking from the front part of the club where the audience was all the way past the dressing room where I was to the back of the club which led to the john.  Don’t call it a bathroom – certainly not a restroom!  It had tons of graffiti, smelled horribly and lacked privacy, which made it really tough for girls.  On his second pass by me, I yelled out, “Hey, Joey.”  I remember not being sure if he just didn’t hear me or was ignoring me.  Then, a few minutes later on his third pass, Joey stopped and looked at me and said, “Is this the world famous Jim Skafish?”  I was startled, yet I also felt immediately comfortable in his energies, so we just started talking and got acquainted.  After our conversation, I did my first set.  The audience was into what we were doing, cool, (what does one expect – this was New York?) somewhat taken a back by the strangeness of the performance yet not violent as so many of the Chicago audiences had been toward us since we debuted in February 1976.

I next crossed paths a few months later with Joey and the Ramones in the summer of 1977 when the Skafish band opened for The Ramones at Club B’Ginnings in Schaumburg Illinois.  All of the wonderful free spirited punk and punkette kids from the city hijacked a bus to the show, so this upper end rock club looked like it was invaded from another planet, the planet I come from.  I like to think of it as Planet Skafish, where anyone can look like and absolutely be anything they want to be and the idea is to perpetually not conform.  That is the real spirit of punk!  As a true event to remember, there was such a tremendous aura of excitement for both the Ramones and my band from the audience that night.  Right after I stripped down to an old ladies old-fashioned one-piece bathing suit with babushka, we went into our set finale, “Sign of the Cross.”  I was dousing the audience with authentic blessed Catholic holy water (from a religious supply store) when I noticed Taco Ramone coming on stage in sunglasses defiantly holding a beer mug in his hand.  Taco Ramone wasn’t actually a Ramone, but a really great guy who worked at La Mere Vipere, the club which converted from being a gay bar to Chicago’s first punk dance club in May 1977.  At first I was confused, as I was used to being physically threatened and attacked while on stage, but Taco wasn’t doing anything except standing at one end of the stage, looking tough.  Later that night he told me that he was on stage just in case anyone there got out of hand and tried to rush the stage to harm us.  He was ready to protect us, but there turned out to be no need, luckily.

We played CBGB’s again back to back for two nights in early December of 1977, this time with the Cramps.  There was an obsessed Cramps fan at the front of the stage who literally screamed throughout their entire set at such an ear shattering volume that I could continually hear her above the PA back in the dressing room directly behind the stage.  The Ramones were on tour at this time, so we didn’t get to see each other this trek. At one point during my set, Skafish guitarist / vocalist Karen Winner was singing a portion of the Bobby Darin classic, “Beyond the Sea.”  For this piece, I was sitting down like a toddler on stage playing with a bright rainbow colored beach ball.  Then, I kept giving it to a guy at the front of the stage but he didn’t want it at all… so he gave it back to me – then I gave it back to him more forcefully… then he threw it back at me — I threw it harder at him…this kept going on and on until he turned around and stormed out of the club in disgust — but I did get to keep my beach ball.  Both our April and December 1977 shows at CBGB’s led to our first international feature story in England’s New Musical Express in April 1978.  Written by legendary punk writer Mykel Board and entitled: “New Messiah Scores With Deviants,” the story also featured pictures he had taken of us at CBGB’s.  His story introduced Skafish into international consciousness.

In the summer of 1978, we opened for The Ramones a second time at Club Monopoly in Chicago.  We finished sound check around dinner time, and Joey came up to me and said, “Come on with me.”  When I first met Joey in April of 1977, I felt an immediate connection, kinship and camaraderie with him as we were both social misfits; he didn’t fit in and I obviously didn’t either.  Joey always seemed quite introverted to me and in a way, uncomfortably shy.  He wasn’t stereotypic in any way, didn’t open up to people easily, had a hard time finding a girlfriend, all of which I quite loved about him.  So I thought it would be great to go wherever Joey wanted me to go and we left the club.  As we were walking down the street I was not at all sure of our destination, how long it would take and what we were going to do, but I was fine.  People were gawking at us a lot and I liked that.

Skafish: “Joey, why did you guys get a new drummer?” (Original drummer Tommy Ramone had been recently replaced by Marky Ramone who had previously played with Richard Hell.)

Joey: “Tommy just freaked out.  One day when we were on tour, and he just jumped out of the van and completely freaked out.”  Tommy said, “That’s it!  I’m not going to tour ever again.”

Skafish: Is he OK?  I hope he’s OK.  What about your new album? (They were doing “Road To Ruin,” their fourth LP.)

Joey: “We did some county and western on it!  We did some ballads too.” (The references here presumably are to the tracks “Don’t Come Close” and “Needles and Pins

About ten minutes later we finally arrived at our destination.  No it wasn’t a hip record store or a thrift shop with bizarre tattered vintage clothes – of all places, it was a grocery store filled with suburban housewives and screaming kids.  Why were we there?  What could we possibly be doing at a grocery store?  I walked in alongside Joey, who was a bit taller than me.  I’m about 6’3” maybe 6’4” and I would put Joey at about 6’5” or 6’6.”  Joey looked like he always did: ripped blue jeans, plain canvas tennis shoes, his trademark black leather jacket and sunglasses which I observed to be prescription sunglasses, not just vanity shades.  I had on torn and tattered boys swim trunks, which I had pushed up my rear crack to let my fanny cheeks hang out and a too tight t-shirt on.

Right away, my first instinct was to go into survival mode. OK, who’s gonna attack us?  Where are the exits if we have to make a run for it?  If we have to, we’ll fight back!  So we kept on walking and of course, the “normals” were staring.  To me, it’s hysterical to speculate on what they could have thought: “Did they just get out of a mental institution?”  Better yet, “Did they ESCAPE from a psych ward and should we call somebody right away to take them back where they belong, maybe the fire department or the police?”

There’s a reason why I’m saying “mental institution.”  In April of 2007, I was speaking on the phone with Dave Frey, the manager of the Ramones.  He told me a story that years ago, the Ramones pulled into a 24 hour self service gas station/quick mart late one night in Texas.  All four Ramones and their road manger went into the store while getting gas and bought a couple of items.  When the band went back to the van and their road manger was still in the store at the counter, the cashier, an elderly woman said reverently and sincerely to him, “Sir, it is so kind of you to take them out of the mental institution and watch over them like this.  God bless you.”

Back to the grocery store — Somehow, reflexively, my next mode of thought was to observe Joey and how he was handling all of this.  I started monitoring him as I tuned out the surroundings: bright garish overhead lighting, sales on produce signs, screaming kids etc… Joey remained stoic and unfazed, walking deliberately with a sense of being quite closed off to whatever and whoever was around us.  That was his way of being cool, as if he had already learned survival skills for these types of situations.  In that moment, I remember admiring his detachment, as I was much more sensitive to whatever and whoever was around me.

Then we reached our destination.  No it wasn’t for beer, Coca Cola, or even a little snack before the show – It was… cosmetics!?  I was in disbelief.  Not because I wouldn’t go to cosmetics, but because I would have never thought that Joey Ramone would be shopping in cosmetics.  Why were we in cosmetics amidst a bunch of made up sales women trying to sell Estee Lauder and hypo allergenic foundation to upper middle class housewives?  As we were standing at the cosmetics counter, looking like the oddest freakiest couple on planet earth, it dawned on me that everyone in the grocery store might just be afraid of us – in their minds, we could maybe be criminals…  So I just stood alongside Joey, quietly and observationally.  He bought two items: cover stick and face powder.  I probably looked like a person who had just been punked, or frozen in time – like when you’re mind goes completely blank for a moment…Where am I?  What’s my name again?  What day is today?  I can’t quite recall…

Then all these analytical thoughts started racing through my head:  If Joey is wearing his sunglasses which he always wears on stage, why would he buy cover stick, you know, to put under his eyes to hide bags and dark circles?  Who would ever see under his eyes anyway with his sunglasses on?  Why face powder?  His hair covers most of his face on stage, the glasses cover the rest, so what is it for?  I never did bother to ask him why, but I figured, “Hey, it’s perfect.  Why not?”  We maybe startled some housewives and that’s good enough for me.  In a very nonchalant way, Joey simply took some bunched up crumpled up cash out of his pocket, no wallet but just out of the front pocket of his jeans.  He paid for his items and we were on our way back to the club.

When we got back to the club, it was mid evening.  All of us were in this rather small dressing room at Club Monopoly before the show: the Ramones, Skafish band and my road manager Jimy Sohns.  (Jimy Sohns is the singer of the legendary Chicago band “The Shadows Of Knight,” who first hit it big in 1966 with the classic “Gloria.”  That song alone went on to sell 4 million copies worldwide and several hits followed for the band.  As Jimy’s career had gone through those well known ups and downs of a life in rock ‘n’ roll, he recently had become my road manager.)  Jimy Sohns was casually strumming his vintage Rickenbacker guitar and no one was paying much attention till the subject of the guitar came up: “Oh, this is the guitar we used to cut Gloria with,” Jimy stated.

Johnny Ramones’ eyes lit up and seemed to bug out of his head.  “I’ll give you a thousand dollars cash for it right now,” Johnny offered for the guitar.  Jimy, as one would assume, refused to part with his historical axe.  Johnny still persisted for a while as he really wanted it, but Jimy wouldn’t part with this piece of rock music history.  As I was exiting the dressing room, I don’t remember Joey having done any vocal warm ups before his set, but I do recall that later down the road, he did study opera for a while to train his voice which is a great idea, one I highly recommend for any singer.

That evening, we did our performance and the Ramones followed with theirs.  Joey was in good voice and the band played their songs about the same speed on their records; maybe a bit faster.  At tempos similar to their studio recordings, the lyrics and vocal melodies were still quite audible.  I really loved the Ramones clever, well-written songs of this era featuring Joey’s very distinctive voice.  The audience was fantastic – not as wildly dressed as the July 1977 show, but a bit more laid back and hip.

Months later, I was told that The Ramones were looking for me to see if I was lurking around at a show of theirs at The Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, which I couldn’t attend.  Different Ramones were asking where I was hiding as that was something I might have done.  “OK, where is Skafish?  Is he around the corner or something?”  Right after my first LP was released in the May of 1980, I went backstage to a Ramones show at a Chicago college and I gave Dee Dee Ramone my first LP.  I remember him repeatedly saying, “Now which track is the best one?”   I surmised that he would probably recall the first track, as he wouldn’t have to think about it.  So I told him, “The first track is the best one.”  This way, he could put on the record and not have any trouble remembering which track is the one I recommended for him to listen to.

Back in the day, Joey did find a girlfriend who moved in with him and accepted an engagement ring, only later to break up with him. After the break up, she ended up marrying Johnny Ramone and consequently stayed married to Johnny until he passed on.  This disappointment further emphasized Joey’s alienation and for the rest of his life, he never made a serious or long lasting commitment to another woman.  This contributed to Joey and Johnny not speaking for many years, which required an intermediary to be on tour.  Even in the small confines of a tour bus, they didn’t speak to each other, so the intermediary would have to pass messages between the two of them.  The intermediary would speak on John’s behalf, “John says our shows are selling out in Spain, so we should add some more tour dates to make some money.”  Joey would then respond, “Tell John that I am – thinking about it.”  As one their albums was aptly titled, “Too Tough To Die,” the Ramones weren’t going to merely fade off into the sunset, even amidst financial stress and personal issues.  Now that Johnny and Joey are both in spirit, it is my sincere hope that they can resolve whatever barriers came between them.

In 2001, I remember getting the mail and preparing to read the new Rolling Stone, when my eyes caught part of the cover:  “Joey Ramone 1951-2001.”  I was stunned and felt paralyzed.  All of the images: memories, performances, scenes and experiences I shared with Joey and the rest of the band started racing through my mind, like a flash slide show I wasn’t in control of.  I felt resentful and sad that Joey didn’t achieve the success he rightfully deserved and now it was simply too late for him.  He was gone… At first, it didn’t seem real to me, as most of us initially feel when someone we know leaves this dimension.  I started to cry and I was quickly going into emotional overwhelm, when I rushed downstairs into my basement where I keep a little spinet piano just to privately write songs on.  I took all of the pain, sadness and disappointment of that moment and channeled it into an alternative rock / pop song for Joey named “Forever Fetal,” a song I do plan on recording.   I co dedicated the song to my band member Barbie Goodrich who transitioned into spirit, also from cancer, about 6 years prior.

It’s ironic to me that as I’m writing this over thirty years after I first met Joey Ramone, I recently noticed that Joey and I crossed paths again, this time on the Internet in rock ‘n’ roll cyberspace — as both being included on a list entitled: The 16 ugliest men in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.  My, oh my, how flattering!  Wouldn’t my mommy and daddy be proud of me?  (LAM=Laughing at myself!)  Yet to me, Joey Ramone represented everything that is beautiful about rock ‘n’ roll: a home for the disenfranchised, a special singing voice, a unique individual with a one-of-a-kind essence and a timeless icon…

Skafish