Saturday, May 20, 2023

The First Time I Saw Joey Ramone: For His Birthday (May 19, 1951)

Text by Shari Edmands / FFanzeen, 2023

Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2023
Images from the Internet

I became acquainted with Shari while she worked at Max’s Kansas City, in the late 1970s. She is an amazing artist and cartoonist, and I published a few of her humorous Max’s Funnies in the print version of my physical FFanzeen in the early 1980s. This is a reprint of a Facebook blog on May 19, 2023 that she wrote about the first time she was Joey Ramone perform in a pre-Ramones band which shared a bill with SUICIDE, reprinted with her permission. – Robert Barry Francos, 2023



The First Time I Saw Joey Ramone: For His Birthday (May 19, 1951)

The very first time I saw Joey Ramone perform live was as “Jeff Starship,” fronting the glam rock band (we called it “glitter” back then) SNIPER, at Coventry, on Queens Blvd in Sunnyside, Queens in 1973. I was 16 at the time and going to Art & Design High School in the city. SNIPER was opening for a duo that my Art & Design friends and I had heard much about, and we’d gone to check out: SUICIDE. We knew the singer was a painter/sculptor/installation artist that was getting a lot of attention, so we were intrigued.

When we got to the club, we found a place to sit on the floor about twelve feet from the stage. The crowd all found seats on the floor around us. The room filled up fast.

When the lights went down, and SNIPER got on stage, I was immediately spellbound by the lanky front man with bangs and sunglasses. First of all, he was taller than anybody I had ever seen in my entire life – let alone someone fronting a rock and roll band. Even without the 8-inch-high hot pink platform boots he was wearing, he would’ve been taller than anyone I’d ever seen. Super long skinny legs in hot pink shiny hip-hugger spandex pants, hot pink platform boots, and a dangling long black scarf. Long dark wavy hair with short bangs, big cheekbones, and round shades. And he had a stance that looked as if he was hardly moving, but even without moving much, his delivery actually seemed quite aggressive. He had a unique vocal style. Everything about him was unique.

I don’t recall the music very well to tell you the truth. And I don’t recall the other members of the band because I couldn’t keep my eyes off the singer. I just remember thinking “I will never forget this front man for the rest of my life.”

After their set, we were anxious to see the headliner. I’ll make this next part short because this story is really about Joey, but I can’t leave out my first impression of SUICIDE.


It got dark, and all of us in the audience were sitting on the floor, waiting for what seemed like an interminable amount of time, looking at the door behind us from which the duo would be entering. Finally, a guy dressed all in black leather comes into the room, dragging a large thick chain behind him. Slowly approaching the stage, he wields the chain menacingly around the edge of audience, shouting unintelligible stuff, and being incredibly menacing. I can’t remember if he was on a mic yet, but he was loud. And I don’t remember if the keyboard player, Marty Rev, was on stage yet at that point. I only remember my first glimpse of the singer, Alan Vega, and he held us all in thrall. I was sitting there, and I remember thinking, “Okay this is scary. If I get up now and try to leave, I’d have to make my way out by stepping over all these people in the dark, and he’s gonna see me, and he’s gonna come running after me with that goddamn chain...” I had no choice but sit there and wait and see what happens next. So, I stayed. When they were finally on stage, the music was deafeningly loud and strange, and different from anything I’d ever heard before. And despite the terrifying theatrics of Alan’s entrance, the music was actually mesmerizing, and I became of a big fan of SUICIDE. Years later at Max’s, Alan and I would become great friends. He was a real sweetheart. A true innovator.

Back to my Joey story…

For three years, after seeing that show at Coventry, I would remember that strange looking singer I saw fronting that opening band, wondering what ever happened to him, if he was still performing.

By 1976, I was still living at home in Queens, and going to SVA (School of Visual Arts) in the city. One day I was at my boyfriend’s place. He had just bought a new album. It was by this band THE RAMONES; he said that I just had to hear because they were great. Totally different than anyone. Then he showed me the album cover. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Oh my God, that’s the GUY!!! That’s the GUY!!! That’s that front man I told you about! The lanky one with the bangs and the glasses! It couldn’t be anyone else! That’s the singer of SNIPER!” It was so weird that I was the only one in my crowd that ever saw him play in any band before THE RAMONES. Needless to say, that was a great first album, and the rest is history.

I saw them for the first time at Hurrah’s in August 1978 with my friend Jane. She and I were up front and center, standing right against the stage. And many years later I met his beautiful mom, Charlotte, a very sweet lady. And it was obvious that he inherited those big high cheekbones from her.

Anyway, that’s my Joey Ramone birthday story.

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