I Slept with Joey Ramone: A Punk Rock Family Memoir
by Mickey Leigh and Legs McNeil
Touchstone/ Simon and Schuster
At last, a rock bio that doesn’t read like it’s a three-credit class with a lab! Nothing brings a pop star down to earth like his baby brother describing his pile of dirty underwear, and while the title is technically true, it IS a bit misleading. While Mickey Leigh mentions Joey Ramone/Jeff Hymans’ girlfriends, this is more a family history than a sordid kiss and tell.
Growing up in the really Jewish part of Long Island, Jeff Hyman led a tortured childhood of parental dissolution, schoolyard bullying, and obsessive compulsive disorder that became so bad he booked himself into the loony bin. His younger brother stood in awe of him, and when they discovered rock and roll and how to play guitar, some of the pain faded. Greenwich Village was more psychotic-friendly than Forrest Hills, and as we read through the breezy and vivid chapters, the kernel of the Ramones grows before our eyes. The story follows the band though their Bowery days, a rousing tour of London in 1976, the bizarre Phil Spector recording sessions, and eventually to Joey’s death from cancer. Some fuzzy family photos fill the middle section, and additional material by Legs McNeil adds some depth to Mickey’s story, especially for the period when they weren’t communicating.
While never financially successful, Joey and his band have become a minor industry, and plenty of people are feeding on his carcass. I can’t blame his brother for selling his story, and it’s one of the better rock biographies around — when it fawns, it fawns because your older brother is by default cooler, and when Leigh chides, he doesn’t moralize. Success doesn’t buy happiness, but at least it allows the world to see how unhappy you were. Not that we can make it any better anymore for Joey.
Simon and Schuster: www.simonandschuster.com