I Slept With Joey Ramone: A Punk Rock Family Memoir

Published on March 31st, 2011 in: Book Reviews, Books, Culture Shock, Current Faves, Music, Reviews |

By Less Lee Moore

i slept with joey ramone book cover

The Ramones have infiltrated pop culture to the point where one can hardly imagine a world without them. Yet out of the original lineup, all have passed away except for Tommy. Dee Dee died in 2002; Johnny died in 2004. Joey died from lymphatic cancer in 2001. His brother Mickey Leigh started writing I Slept With Joey Ramone not long afterwards, with the help of longtime friend and punk writer Legs McNeil.

Even in death, the legend of The Ramones lingers. Though many may assume that with such status comes financial stability, I Slept With Joey Ramone details the decades of horrible battles—with the music industry, drugs, alcohol, personal demons, and within the band itself.

Most surprisingly, at least for me, were the revelations about Joey’s lifelong struggles with mental illness; he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in the early 1970s after years of erratic, self-destructive behavior (which continued for the rest of his life). Reading about Joey and Mickey’s childhood and teen years was also eye-opening, and I felt a kinship with them because of all they endured: their parents’ divorce, the death of their stepfather, feeling like an outcast but being close with your siblings, and finding salvation in music.

Everyone who has ever heard a Ramones song should read this book, not just for Leigh’s insights into Joey Ramone, but also for his candid account of a time in history when the word “counterculture” actually meant something. Leigh leaves few stones unturned, no matter what ugliness may be found underneath. He is straightforward, sincere, and painfully honest: about Joey and the other Ramones and his own successes and failures.

You know how it ends, but if you don’t cry anyway, you’ve got no heart. I Slept With Joey Ramone is more than your typical rock biography; it is a loving, inspirational tribute to a truly remarkable, original, and iconic figure.

The paperback edition of I Slept With Joey Ramone (with an updated epilogue) was published by Touchstone (Simon & Schuster) on November 9, 2010. For excerpts from the book, press coverage, merchandise, and links to order, visit the I Slept With Joey Ramone website.

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