Joey Ramone's brother Mickey Leigh has written a fantastic book about his relationship with his sibling. I Slept With Joey Ramone is equal parts poignant, informative and entertaining. Mickey paints an absorbing picture of what it was like to live with an awkward, OCD ridden misfit who grew up to change the musical world and save rock n roll. If you are reading this blog, than you will certainly enjoy the book Mickey wrote... so, go buy it!
I had the privilege to interview Mickey and present it to you all...
Congrats on the book, it really opens people’s eyes to parts of The Ramones history that was unknown
Well, thank you... And, yes, part of my goal was to give people important insight into the band that they did not get from any of the previously released books- so it's good to know I at least accomplished that.
I grew up in Forest Hills too, I even went to the same Junior High as you… do you think the area that we grew up in molded the band and your sensibilities?
I definitely do believe there is, or certainly was a type of humor indigenous to this particular neighborhood, or at least to a certain faction of people from Forest Hills. Basically the ones who did not meet the criteria of the neighborhood's status quo and hence became the outsiders- which my brother and I, and the others in the Ramones certainly were. I believe that is where the self deprecating and "black" humor derives from, amongst other emotional characteristics prevalent in what became known as a "punk” attitude. We developed a certain blunt, wise-ass style of humor to maintain our sanity, or insanity, depending on who was mentally balanced, or imbalanced on any given days or occasions.
There’s a lot of drama in the book. How difficult was it to dredge up all those old painful memories?
As about as difficult as it gets, since the main characters were my brother and father, who are deceased, my mom who died as I was writing the book, and my friends Johnny and Dee Dee who also died while I was writing the story. The worst was, due to deadlines, I had to write the last chapter, about my brother passing away, practically on the exact day he died. This is even difficult right now as it is April 13th, and I plan on going to the cemetery as I do every year on the day he passed, April 15. Still a tough day for me. But writing about it on the day was excruciating, though I had no choice as the deadline was May 1st. Well, one of the deadlines anyway. I did blow several. This was not an easy, or fast, book to write. The Ramones and Mickey Leigh in London 1976
Joey’s OCD was a closely guarded secret, did you have any reservations about talking about it (even though it really is so central to the book).
I'm not sure how something that was discussed several times on the Howard Stern show and heard by millions of listeners can be deemed as a closely guarded secret. Or how as it was written about by Monte Melnick, other previously published books, and witnessed by hundreds of people it can be considered a secret, much less a closely guarded one. Maybe it was to you, but there is not much in this book that had not been divulged many times before. As per his OCD, I just put it in a different light and explained its development and ramifications in more detail.
What’s the reaction been from your family and friends?
My/Joey's family read the book long before the final editing and were thoroughly impressed, moved and delighted with the outcome, as were many of Joey's and my mutual friends, including his closest ones. They were all totally supportive and love the book.
How does a band with four truly separate personalities, exist in such close quarters for so long?
Well, considering Tommy quit after three years, I don't know if you could say it was for "so long." After that, there were three other members that came and went. You must realize that the non-original members were hired. My brother and Johnny were not about to give up the only thing they loved to do, knew how to do, made a success out of, and was what kept them financially stable. How much pleasure they derived from it after a certain extent was different for each of them and not for me to gauge.
With Johnny and Joey so hostile to each other, how were you able to bridge the gap, at times it appears that you were closer to Johnny than you were to Joey.
Johnny and I were best friends and bandmates when I was 14 and he was 21. Actually Tommy was in that band as well for a period. But at the time you are referring to I was not really friendly with Johnny anymore. Unfortunately, no one was able to bridge that gap and it remained an open sore until the day my brother died.
When are you gonna start STOP back up, you guys kicked ass.
Working on it as we speak. The first scheduled STOP show will follow a book reading in Woodstock on June 25th, then STOP will get back into action.
DoDo you listen to punk anymore? What bands?