Five Amazing Joey Ramone Vocal Performances
Today (May 19) would have been Joey Ramone’s 63rd birthday. The iconic Ramones singer / songwriter passed away in 2001 after a seven-year battle with lymphoma, but he left hundreds of legendary songs and thousands of performances in the annals of punk rock history.
During the Ramones’ career, the band played 2,263 shows. Joey Ramone also embarked on a solo career, releasing two albums posthumously. With so many videos of the Ramones to choose from online, it’s tough to find just five shining moments of Joey Ramone’s vocal prowess, but to celebrate one of the godfathers of punk, we present Five Amazing Joey Ramone Vocal Performances.
‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ (Live)
Whoever thought that three simple chords could create one of rock’s all-time greatest riffs? For many, ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ was their first Ramones experience, as the track leads off the band’s self-titled album. Beyond the instrumental parts, Joey Ramone captivates fans to this day by his high-energy approach and infectious chants of “Hey Ho, Let’s Go!”.
In this clip, which is hilariously mislabeled as ‘I Can’t Make it on Time’ just seconds after Joey introduces the song’s actual name, the Ramones tear through a set in Italy early on in the band’s career. Sticking to center stage as always, Joey plays around with the song’s lyrics while injecting pure energy into the crowd with this electric performance.
‘Teenage Lobotomy’ (Live in Germany)
No Ramones fan can resist screaming “LOBOTOMY!” when listening to this ‘Rocket to Russia’ staple. Performed on German television in 1978, the Ramones gave every ounce of energy they had during the near hour-long gig. ‘Teenage Lobotomy’ was busted out early in the set, allowing a fresh Ramones to pulverize this track in style.
Joey sounds perfect in this video and the legendary singer’s stage presence is awe-inspiring. Though Joey Ramone always came off as somewhat awkward in an extremely endearing way, Joey is nothing less than a rock god in this performance of ‘Teenage Lobotomy.’ The entire German performance is a must-see for Ramones fanatics, as it depicts one of Joey’s all-time greatest feats of showmanship.
‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ (Live in Paris)
Also from the band’s first release, ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ is the one track on ‘Ramones’ that sticks out for being different. Though the song remains grounded with power chords, classical chords are utilized as well. But are the Ramones going to stick to undistorted classical chords when performing with just one guitarist? Of course not!
As Joey punctuates in this 1980 rendition of ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,’ the softer, more infectiously cheesy track is just as ethereal when stripped down to the bone. The key is in Joey’s vocal approach. Adding some extra character to his vocal progression by exploring notes not featured on ‘Ramones,’ Joey’s heartfelt style in this clip hits straight in the chest and brings back memories of your first grade-school crush.
‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ (Live in Sweden)
‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ is a renowned Ramones classic, but it’s also one of Joey Ramone’s most deeply personal songs. Written by Joey, the track is widely thought to be about bandmate Johnny Ramone stealing away Joey’s girlfriend Linda. However, Joey’s brother Mickey Leigh claims the track was written after Joey’s relationship with a black woman ended due to her parents’ disapproval of the interracial relationship.
Regardless of why Joey wrote it, ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ is one of the Ramones’ most definitive anthems, mixing the band’s trademark sound with its warped sense of humor. In this Swedish performance of the song, the focus is heavily on Joey, who hits the track’s emotional undertones perfectly while remaining magnetic and powerful.
‘What a Wonderful World’
Joey Ramone’s cover of Louis Armstrong’s immortal classic ‘What a Wonderful World’ isn’t just one of the high points in the punk rocker’s career, it’s also one of the greatest cover songs in history.
Although Joey Ramone’s first solo album, ‘Don’t Worry About Me,’ isn’t quite a masterpiece, his cover of ‘What a Wonderful World’ undoubtedly is. Since the album was released posthumously, there were only a few live performances of ‘What a Wonderful World,’ but having battled cancer for over five years when the album version was recorded, Joey lends an extra touch of magic that could perhaps only come with the iconic singer’s contemplation of life and death.