Rollins’ concern over Ramone release
Henry Rollins is concerned that a posthumous Joey Ramone album has put the legacy of the man and his band in danger.
And he describes the record as “one of the strangest things I have heard,” adding: “it really knocked me off balance.”
Rollins co-edited a book based on the writings of Johnny Ramone, who died in 2004. But he believes Ya Know, based on unfinished material recorded by Joey before his death in 2001, is a completely different kind of product.
“The songs were culled from demos Joey made over a period of years,” says Rollins in his LA Weekly column. “Musicians have come in and overdubbed instruments around some of the tracks, giving the songs a disembodied feel. I can’t think that was the desired effect – but what can you expect when you do something that is so completely dubious from the start?”
He says it was “a hell of a thing” to hear Ramone’s voice on new tracks 11 years after his death – but his overwhelming reaction was discomfort.
“I wonder if this record really needed to be released, despite how many of us miss Joey,” he reflects. “If Joey had liked the songs, then he would have released them. If he thought they were worthy, why aren’t any of them on Don’t Worry About Me, the album he made right before he passed away?”
Rollins cites historic examples of people ruining an artist’s legacy because their motivation was wrong. “A man called Alan Douglas took it upon himself to wipe original tracks and bring in other musicians to play around Jimi Hendrix’s vocal and guitars. The results are incredibly bad.
“Do you remember when the remaining Beatles played around with two John Lennon demos and released Free as a Bird and Real Love? This was definitely for the money – they’re the worst Beatles tracks ever and border on the perverse and morbid.
“It’s the contamination of an artist’s legacy – the betrayal of the goodness of the intent – that gets to me. Ramone, Hendrix and Lennon aren’t around to disagree, and those charged with protecting them are not doing so.”
He finishes: “Maybe it’s just where we’re at: everything is in play and if it sells then its validity is not questioned. To hell with everyone Warholian 15 minutes, decency and a sense of decorum.
“In 1927 Blind Lemon Jefferson made this humble request for some post-mortem dignity: ‘See that my grave is kept clean.’ Word.”