Joey Ramone had a voice to launch a revolution, and that's what he did back in 1974 with his leather-wearing "brothers" and their three-chord blasts of punk sputum that glorified pre-Beatles rock filtered through their New York brand of irony. But Ramone was so much more than a nasal Queens kid who worshipped Brian Wilson and sniffed glue. While he may have lamented, "I Don't Want To Go Down To the Basement," or proclaimed that "Sheena Was a Punk Rocker," Ramone actually listened to much sterner stuff than the Ramones songbook would lead you to believe, worshipping at the altar of some darker gods than Phil Spector and Paul McCartney.
On his first and only solo album, "Don't Worry About Me," the listener can witness Ramone's incredible range of talent and taste, as he runs the gamut from garage rock to goth to hard rock and back, stretching far beyond the three minutes per song he restricted himself to in the Ramones.
Resurrecting Louis Armstrong's sappy "What a Wonderful World," Ramone--who died of lymphoma in 2001 at the age of 49--revved it up to Buddy Holly speed, tied a rockabilly string tie on it, and made it reek with a sincerity that Satchmo missed with his torpid delivery. Ramone lingered in the way-back machine a little longer, matching Iggy Pop sneer for sneer in his almost-perfect rendition of the Stooges' classic "1969," making the song his own, before moving on to showcase his own prodigious songwriting talents. "Mr. Punchy" is a silly rave-up that would have felt right at home on the Who's Sell Out (complete with comic asides supplied by Brit chanteuse Helen Love and the Damned's Captain Sensible), while "Like a Drug I Never Took" has a dangerous edge and a playful seditiousness that Ramone rarely displayed in his work with his band. "Venting" occupies the same defiant territory that the MC5 and the Doors felt comfortable in, but the standout track is unequivocally "I Got Knocked Down (But I'll Get Up)." You can hear the steely resolve in his voice as he intones: "See me in a hospital bed / See me in a hospital / I, I want life / I want life / I want my life," showing everyone that Joey Ramone never had any intention of leaving us. At least not that soon.