This year's Joey Ramone's Birthday Bash, to be held on Saturday, May 19, will include a very special addition to the format of the past 11 years. In anticipation of the forthcoming posthumous new Joey Ramone CD, "...Ya Know?", the event will culminate in a live performance of the entire album in advance of its actual release. The set will feature a band of renowned punk musicians, led by Ramone's brother Mickey Leigh.
Participants include the following musicians who appear on the "...Ya Know?" album: Richie Stotts, JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson, Jean Beauvoir, Ed Stasium, Al Maddy, Amy Hartman, and Mickey Leigh. Performing at the event will be THE THREADS, THE BRATS, THE INDECENT, Ivan Julian, and The Bullys. Furthermore, special guest appearances are expected by Tommy Ramone, Ross the Boss, Joey Lanz, Mick Stitch, Walt Stack, Yoav, Alex Holyboy, Tish & Snookie, Bebe Buell, Tina Ingrid, Louisa Bradshaw, and George Tabb.
Leigh, who served as executive producer of the CD project, said: "It was of the utmost importance to me that these remaining songs of Joey's be finished properly and made available for the world to hear." This second Joey Ramone solo CD, slated for release May 22 (BMG Rights Management) is comprised of never-before-heard songs written and sung by Ramone, who passed away 11 years ago of lymphoma. The tracks were drawn from a cache of demos and unreleased recordings that Ramone had cut at various times during the last decade and a half of his life. The resulting album is a brilliant encapsulation of the qualities that made Joey Ramone one of rock's most unlikely, yet most beloved, heroes.
Additionally, this year's Bash will be held in a new venue — the Studio @ Webster Hall — to allow for a more intimate setting in which to introduce the songs in their premiere performance. The $40 ticket price includes an advance copy of the CD signed by various musicians in attendance, and the official 2012 Birthday Bash t-shirt, not available elsewhere. As in past years, proceeds from the Bash go to benefit the Joey Ramone Foundation for Lymphoma Research.
Leigh reflects: "Over the past eight years I've been getting a barrage of e-mails and Facebook messages from Joey's fans, wanting to know when this album would be coming out. So having it finally become a reality gives me a feeling of triumph — not for me, but for my brother, and for his fans. And there's not the slightest doubt in my mind that people are gonna be blown away by it."
Called "a riveting collection of first-rate songs that embody Joey's trademark intensity and wit that can stand proudly alongside his most beloved RAMONES compositions," the CD is a fitting if belated follow-up to Ramone's first solo CD, "Don't Worry About Me", which was recorded just prior to his death and released the following year.
The CD's title "...Ya Know?" refers to the phrase that was a ubiquitous staple of Ramone's conversation and adds a significant new chapter to the seminal punk icon's hugely influential body of work. Among the numerous talented artists to whom Leigh and Ramone's manager Dave Frey reached out in bringing the album to fruition was veteran Ed Stasium, who was behind the board for many of the RAMONES' greatest releases, including their early classics "Leave Home", "Rocket To Russia" and "Road To Ruin". In addition to producing 10 of the CD's 15 tracks, Stasium also contributed instrumentation and vocals to each.
The swaggering opening track of "...Ya Know?", "Rock 'n' Roll Is the Answer" (co-written with PLASMATICS guitarist Richie Stotts) was released as a limited-edition seven-inch single for last month's Record Store Day. That song and hometown shout-out "New York City" demonstrate Ramone's knack for channeling his personal passions into bracing anthems. The playfully breezy "Make Me Tremble" (which Ramone wrote and recorded with DICTATORS founder Andy Shernoff) and the bittersweet acoustic ballad "Waiting For That Railroad" find him exploring some of the more introspective territory he had been unable to express within the format of his former band.
Elsewhere on "...Ya Know?", "I Couldn't Sleep" is a collaboration between brothers Joey and Mickey, who also teamed up to record a romantic alternate version of the RAMONES' holiday classic "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" in Joey's apartment. A previously unreleased reprise of Joey's late-period RAMONES tune "Life's A Gas" ends the album on an appropriately uplifting note.
Contributing to "...Ya Know?" is an assortment of musicians and producers whose prior relationships with Joey help to give the album an organic vibe that enhances its power and character. The cast of players includes Joan Jett, and Little Steven Van Zandt, who plays guitar on "Party Line" and wrote the album's poignant liner notes, along with such notables as former RAMONES drummer Richie Ramone, Bun E. Carlos of CHEAP TRICK, Dennis Diken of the SMITHEREENS, Richie Stotts, PATTI SMITH GROUP guitarist Lenny Kaye, punk survivor Holly Beth Vincent, members of the RAMONES' punk-era contemporaries THE DICTATORS, and producers Jean Beauvoir and Joe Blaney.