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Talking to Danny Fields About the Ramones’ Gabba Gabba Heyday

Danny Fields is a punk legend’s punk legend. He’s not the most famous person to emerge from the creative petri dish of 1960s, ’70s, ’80s New York, nor the richest. He hasn’t been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, unlike many of the musicians he has worked with, including the Ramones, Iggy Pop, and the Velvet Underground. But if you are interested in this period in downtown Manhattan, when the city was bankrupt of money but teeming with talent — and many people are, as the phenomenon of Patti Smith’s 2010 memoir Just Kids confirmed — then Fields is your guy. Now 78, he has been a kind of Zelig, somehow involved with what seems like everyone who ever mattered in pre-MTV music.

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Fields grew up in Queens, left for a while to go to school at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard, and made it back to New York in 1960, settling in Greenwich Village, then the beating heart of counterculture in the city, if not the United States. He made friends with Andy Warhol and sort of lived with Edie Sedgwick, worked in and out as a music journalist, became for some time the publicist for Jim Morrison and the Doors, was the first person to give Iggy Pop cocaine, and helped Nico get a record deal with Elektra. “Danny’s a connector, he’s a fuel line, a place where things are liable to erupt,” Iggy Pop said in a 2015 documentary about Fields called Danny Says (named for a Ramones song they wrote about him). “I imagine that Danny’s legacy, aside from the brilliant way he’s chosen to live his life, is how he has enhanced the lives of others by being a connector.” Thankfully for history, Fields had a journalist’s eye, too, and either documented this world or at the very least kept a memory bank filled with stories about it, which he will gladly share if you happen to randomly meet him, as I did one afternoon some years ago. Though our interview a few weeks ago for this piece was by phone, on that day we sat in his living room surrounded by photos of him with the gods and he’d tell amazing tales about any of them if prompted.

This spring, Fields is re-releasing My Ramones, a book of photographs he took of the Ramones at the beginning of their career, originally published in 2016 as a limited edition. The more than 250 photos in the book were shot between 1975 and 1977, during, among other scattered and wild moments, the band’s first tour. Fields became the band’s manager after seeing them live at CBGB in 1975 and, bored while they were busy recording their debut album, picked up a camera and started shooting. Here, the punk behind the punks tells us what they were like.

Ramones on Park Lane, during a guided walking tour of early morning London.

Today, everybody documents everything, but how did you know it might be of value one day to document your life with the Ramones?

I didn’t. I just started doing it for a lack of something to do, because when you’re a manager, you’re sitting at the recording session and thinking, “I’m redundant here.” I did my job — got them the record deal. The engineers turned a lot of knobs and set up microphones and things, and there was nothing I could do. So I took out my camera. I took two rolls of film — 75 pictures — of the early recording sessions. And because I was their manager, I could take candid pictures. I had a Nikon F2 and I used a 35mm or an 85mm.

The Ramones really defined what it looked like to be a punk, partly because of these early photographs of them. Were they image conscious? Was it something that they had to think about or did it just come naturally to them?

Well, both. There’s nothing they didn’t think about. And what they thought about was what will project naturally. They were big fans of the New York Dolls. They would look at them and think, “Oh wow, they’re glam, should I be glam?” And they tried it out for a while. Joey was a fan of the New York Dolls, and I think he was very proud of a tight pink leather suit he had. Johnny, before I met them, wore silver lamé pants. It was a phase. They said, “You know what, we can’t be like the New York Dolls because these clothes are so elaborate, and you’d have to have a wardrobe person with you. What if we just do something that we never have to think about again, which is what we look like every day?” The leather jacket and Levi’s and Converse. It was classic, and they knew that. Simple and classic suited them. They only thing they’d change was their T-shirt and the socks.

Dee Dee, Johnny, and Tommy flicking through bins of vinyl at Free Being Records on Second Avenue.

Did you think they would be a huge success?

No. Yes. I mean, you hope. But I couldn’t have predicted. They were in trouble because of their tempo, radio-wise. Too fast or too loud, or too comical. “I Wanna Be Sedated” — are they serious? That’s a single? It’s a cute tune, but it’s a little weird for a lyric. And yet, though they were “punk,” they were [really] pop songs. And now all music sounds like that. That rolling fast rock. Green Day popularized it and now TV commercials sound like that. It turns out that musicians don’t want to have to learn a lot of complex fingering. They just want to let it rock and let it roll — make it hummable. And it got called punk.

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What was the first time you heard the word “punk”?

The first time I heard that combination of letters? 1930s movies, about a little gangster or someone like that. It’s been in the language for five hundred years, so I don’t know. And when it was applied to them you sort of go, “Okay, it’s a good word, it’s four letters, ends with a K.” Of course, wherever you went it meant something different. There was a style of mohawks and piercings and extraordinary hair, and that was punk. Requiring safety pins and all that. Those kids invented that look for themselves with a little help from Malcolm McLaren, who first saw a safety pin on Richard Hell in New York and went back to London with a fashion idea.

In England, the music had a more political aura. The Ramones were not at all political. In England there were some people saying, “You have some nerve calling yourselves punk, you’re not political, you’re fraudulent.” And what could we say? We didn’t call ourselves that! [Everyone else] called us that. It just became a word that means we don’t really have another better word for this, but it’s different so we’re gonna call it something easy to remember.

Joey on the steps of the Roundhouse in London in 1976.

Tell me about life on the road with them.

I don’t know. Again, unless there was a major market, there was no need for me to be on the road. I didn’t tune the guitars and I didn’t carry things. I was there but I wasn’t into slogging. I wasn’t into sitting in a van with them. The few times I did, I thought, “I’ve got to take the train next time.”

The first times in Europe, all they could do was hate the food. I didn’t want to be around that. It’s food. How can you bother to hate it? You eat it if you’re hungry and leave it alone if you’re not. But they would get into big things about it during their tour in England, because backstage [in England] food is generally Indian. They didn’t like it, and they always wanted hamburgers. Then it’s, Where’s the ketchup? Ketchup wasn’t a common staple in England then. That’s what life on the road was. Who needed that?

Compared to some of the other people you’ve worked with, were they easy to work with or were they divas?

No one is easy to work with who is worth working with.

Dee Dee and his spare Rickenbacker guitar

I’ve always been particularly fascinated by Dee Dee. There’s all these stories about him being a prostitute and nobody really knows for sure. What was he like?

He was more social than the other guys. He was more likely to make friends with people in other bands. Was he a prostitute? I don’t know. Every kid is a hustler at some point. Why starve if you’re good looking? You don’t have a lot of years to be good looking, and if you starve you won’t even get to live them out. So I don’t think he was majorly a hustler, but in times of emergency people do things. As long as they cause no harm, who cares?

Have you noticed how nostalgic people are for this era of New York? Why do you think that is?

There’s nostalgia for it everywhere. I think it was one of the last times when there were humans instead of the internet. Instead of Facebook. With people being really human, and having adventures that made you need to be alive, not to be on the other end of a monitor or keyboard.

Recording “Ramones,” the first album

People like Fran Lebowitz have said sometimes that New York now sucks in comparison to then.

We were all twenty years old or something, so of course the world was better. I think Fran once said something like this, too: Look in a mirror [when you’re young], you’re never gonna look better. Do I miss that, or would I trade with anyone [to get it back]? Of course. Who wouldn’t? But it’s not real, so why waste any time missing it.

You weren’t waking up every morning and saying, “It’s the Seventies! We’re lucky to be alive!” You’re going, “Am I gonna get laid? Am I gonna pay rent? What color socks should I wear?” You don’t think about it as a glorious era. People who claim they miss the Seventies  are the people who weren’t born yet. They’re the ones who say, “It must have been so great.” That only happens when things change and you look back on it.

Was there a moment that you realized that the Ramones had become bigger than just a band?

Maybe during the fortieth anniversary in 2016. As I said before, in the midst of a moment happening, you’re not thinking this is momentous. You’re thinking, Can we live through this? I was only with them for five years. [Later] when they would play a huge city, the neighborhood would have to be police-barricaded because there were so many fans, and they’d play in a stadium for 100,000 people. It must have had its own headaches. You’re sort of restricted now. Wherever you go there’s armed guards around you or keeping people away from you. It’s sort of the opposite of what you loved about what you were doing in the beginning. This is what you wanted, to be so famous that you needed police barricades outside your hotel? No. That’s the price of it, though.

Ramones perform at The Club in Cambridge, MA.

What did they want?

To make enough money to retire so they’d never have to work again. And at the end, when they started making a lot of money, they wanted to invest it well. I don’t know; they wanted to buy nice real estate. What does anyone want when they’re fifty years old?

Did your parents understand the kind of success you had?

No. I was a wretched rock and roll loser. “We thought we brought him up better!” But then my friend Linda Eastman married Paul McCartney, and my father would say, “My son is a friend of a Beatle!” Immense fame eclipses everything, doesn’t it?

Do you remember if John Lennon ever came down to see the Ramones?

I don’t know. You don’t keep track of that. Especially after you’ve stopped caring. Jack Nicholson was at the Whiskey to see Iggy — so what?

Ramones’ first video shoot at M.P.C.’s TV studio. The video contained eight songs in seventeen and a half minutes and has never been officially released.

The real fans matter more.

I’m a real fan — that’s the thing.

I once came to your apartment because I was writing a story about a friend of yours, and it’s like a New York yearbook come to life, filled with framed photos of you with every cool famous person ever.  What is it like to live with all these memories literally staring you in the face?

Recently the kitchen in my apartment was redone and I had to take out giant old appliances and bring in giant new appliances, and to do that I had to take down all the pictures.

No!

Yeah. I went to Madrid for two weeks in February; when I came back it had been done. They are all stored in a carton. So I’m living with empty walls now. And sometimes I miss them. I’ll say to someone, “Let me show you this,” and I start walking to where they used to be, and they’re not there. Just nails sticking out of the wall.

People tell me to put them back up, but I don’t know, it’s kind of mummified. I don’t want to think about [the past]. It’s gone, it’s over. I’m happy that people think I was fabulous, but at any given moment one doesn’t feel very fabulous, and you only sort of get that when people see those pictures and go, “Oh my god, these pictures are so great, can I take a picture of the pictures?” So I guess I should hang them up. People expect you to play the greatest hits.

Shooting pictures for Rock Scene Magazines in the alley behind CBGB, now named Extra Place.

My Ramones: Photographs by Danny Fields
By Danny Fields
Reel Art Press
176 pp.

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Growing Up Punk in Mexico in We Are Mari Pepa

It doesn’t matter that Iggy Pop endorses Carnival Cruises, or that Ramones-style crunch chords now power Top 40 country hits. Today punk is whatever you need it to be when you’re at the age that you need it. And it’s endlessly localizable: In its blurt, the giddy Swedish school girls of Lukas Moodysson’s recent We Are the Best! found not just the pleasure of revolt but also a chance to seize a political high-mindedness they found lacking in their parents, even if the only song their band bothered to write was an attack on their gym class.

On the other side of the Atlantic, in the Guadalajara of Samuel Kishi Leopo’s sweet (but sharper-edged) We Are Mari Pepa, gangly teen boys take up guitar and drums to shout about what matters most to them, too. Their band, Mari Pepa, manages two songs before the film ends. The chorus of the first they bellow in English: “I wanna cum in your face, Natasha!” Only after the aggro shock-comedy of that can they admit to more tender feelings: “Because I love you!”

In both films, punk is an identity, a chance to vent, a thing to do for kids not into sports — and not successful, yet, at love. Unlike those principled Swedes, the boys of Mari Pepa are horny and rude, often dispiritedly so, catcalling strange women and calling each other “faggot.” (Bass player Moy, played by Moises Galindo, gets that because he’s spending too much time with a girl.) Writer/director Leopo makes no apologies for this collective nastiness. Instead, he presents it as a default mode for communication among the film’s middle-class boys, all motormouthed and inexperienced; not one of them can make it through a conversations without claiming to have had sex with someone else’s mother. It’s a stage of development, and Leopo suggests, in the final reels, that the band’s sympathetic songwriter Alex (Alejandro Gallardo) may be growing out of it.

It’s at a party full of kids he doesn’t know that rangy Alex seems to realize he might need to move on. A girl asks why his band is called “Mari Pepa,” and his answer is honest — and just a touch abashed: ” ‘Mari’ is for ‘marijuana,’ and ‘pepa’ is a reference to the female genitalia.” After that, he can’t quite bring himself to meet her eyes, but then she and Alex stand together in a state of glazed expectation as a band much more accomplished than his wails on. Eventually, Alex plumbs up a courage not unrelated to whatever urged him to write that ode to Natasha’s face. He leans in to kiss the girl whose face he’s too shy to look into.

The story is slight, but the film is full of such miraculous moments of life. Scenes of Alex lounging around his poster-collaged bedroom suggest the primalness of such private spaces. It’s a chrysalis stickered over with what it is he hopes to become. Early on, we see he’s taped a photo of his face onto the head of Joey Ramone. More powerfully still, he’s hung a sliver of mirror over Ramone’s brow in another photo — as Alex looks into it, his eyes peer out of the face of rock’s great gawky beanpole. Alex’s only adult guardian, his silent and God-fearing grandmother (Petra Iniguez Robles), gives the bedroom the stink eye; in one of We Are Mari Pepa’s few plotlike developments she strips the walls bare after hearing a preacher insist that “Hotel California” — and by extension rock music itself — demands thralldom to Satan. But she can make distinctions: She leaves up a still of Michael Jackson palling around with Paul McCartney, the latter in a smashingly sensible 1983 sweater.

Unlike We Are the Best!, Leopo’s film is no period piece. It’s set in the eternal now of punk adolescence, a time that seems never changing yet gets stranger every year. In their rehearsal space, the Mari Pepa boys have hung up a Beatles poster, and they’ve scratched their own band name on it. For them, the Beatles are punk, pretending not to be afraid of sex is punk, being young and dumb and not especially committed to anything is punk. In the opening scenes, after some half-assed skateboarding, Alex urges the rest of Mari Pepa to get serious about prepping for a battle of the bands. They work at it, for a while, until Moy gets too distracted by a beautiful One Direction fan, and drummer Rafael (Rafael Andrade Munoz) gets caught up with college applications. The contest comes up a couple times, but by the end, even Alex hardly cares. A movie about a band that never even gets to the kind of show that climaxes every other movie about a band? That’s punk, too. We Are Mari Pepa is a sweaty, urgent, beautifullyhonest bliss out.

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THE RAMONE

Mickey Leigh has Frankensteined together a 14th annual Joey Ramone Birthday Bash for his late punk-icon brother, who would have turned 63 today. The house band for this tribute benefiting the Joey Ramone Foundation for Lymphoma Research consists of Cheetah Chrome (Dead Boys), Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), George Tabb (Iron Prostate), members of the Sic F*cks, and Leigh (Birdland, the Rattlers). Three decades after its heyday, the Ramones’ loud, fast, droll style furnishes a timeless corrective to rock ostentation. Tonight, the Bullys, the A-Bones, the Independents, Heap, the Gobshites, and Andy Shernoff (Dictators) are among the teachers offering a refresher course in the art of brutal concision.

Mon., May 19, 7 p.m., 2014

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ON THE EDGE

Growing up in New York in the ’70s, music photographer Laura Levine got her start by sneaking her camera into concerts and going backstage with a homemade press pass. Before long, she was shooting the biggest names in rock for The Voice, Rolling Stone, and New York Rocker, where she eventually rose to photo editor. Now, at Steven Kasher Gallery, check out her photos of everyone from a young Madonna (circa 1982) to Joey Ramone sitting on a kitchen floor to a scantily clad Björk in Woodstock. The show coincides with an equally cool exhibit at the gallery, Rude and Reckless: Punk/Post-Punk Graphics, 1976–82, which features more than 200 rare posters alongside fanzines, flyers, clothing, badges, and stickers promoting legendary groups such as the Buzzcocks, the Slits, and Killing Joke.

Aug. 10-19, 2011

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Doing It for Joey Ramone

Mickey Leigh is tired.

“Each year,” he says, “it seems to get a little harder to put this thing on for my brother. Artists keep dropping out at the last minute. There are hassles with people who want to get paid. And, you know, I have my own life. My book about him has been optioned for the movies. I’m working on my next solo album. And there are all these great, leftover tracks that Joey didn’t quite finish. I’m trying to get those into shape for a posthumous [release] for him. So, I’m exhausted. But if you didn’t do it for Joey, who would you do it for?”

“Joey” is the legendary Joey Ramone, who died of lymphoma in 2001 and who will have a party thrown in his honor on Thursday at Irving Plaza. The 11th Annual Joey Ramone’s Birthday Bash will star the likes of Richie Ramone, Clem Burke Leigh’s band the Rattlers, ex-Television guitarist Richard Lloyd, and pop chanteuse Bebe Buell. The night benefits the Lymphoma Research Foundation, and the profits will be augmented by auctions for VIP packages and meet-and-greets with some of the night’s performers. Expect a sea of dyed-dark bowl haircuts and leather jackets that are distressed by age, not artisans.

“Joey had a couple of public birthdays in the city over the years,” says Leigh. “But in 2001, when he was turning 50, our need to hold one became urgent. My brother was dying from lymphoma and we were grasping at anything we could to keep him going, like a birthday party. Joey died on April 15. We had that first proper birthday a few weeks later. Now, it’s a tradition.”

Speaking to Leigh and other legendary friends of that jolly, black-clad giant, one gets a picture of a complex, neurotic man who, regardless, was kind, smart, and supportive of other musicians—who, all the while, completely refashioned the art of singing. Ah, that dry, wry, droll baritone, the one that offered a desperately needed alternative to those shrieky metal boys.

“Joey was incredibly supportive of Blondie before we had any hits,” says Burke, who’ll play with the Stranglers’ Hugh Cornwell. “We opened for them often back in the day, and he always touted us.”

To Burke, this gig is not so much an act of contrition as a nod to those thrilling early days of the New Yawk scene, when “punk” was still a put-down.

“It’s nice to raise money,” Burke says. “But mainly, this reminds me of the reason we started playing: to have fun! So many of our comrades from 1977 are gone; those of us left need to carry on the tradition. Also, let’s give credit where it’s due—the Ramones were the Beatles of our generation. We need to keep reminding people of that.”

Not that popular culture isn’t doing its part. Ramones T-shirts (old and new) are still seen in the audience at rock shows. Earlier this month, onetime Ramones drummer Marky Ramone joined the band New Found Glory to play his former band’s songs at the teen-thronged New Jersey festival the Bamboozle. And the band’s songs have appeared in movies and on TV shows like School of Rock, Date Night, and Entourage.

Bebe Buell is many things: singer, legendary rock paramour, mother of Liv Tyler. She also puts “Friend of Joey Ramone” near the top of her CV.

“Joey was the first person to take my musical ambitions seriously,” she says, “to the point where my band and I opened for the Ramones on several occasions. Once you’ve survived that, you feel you can do anything.”

Including cleaning Ramone’s apartment.

“Joey knew I liked to clean. That’s my thing. He’d call me up occasionally and say, ‘Beeb, the apartment’s dirty. Want to come over?’ ”

Then she cracks up laughing.

“He had all sorts of weird compulsions himself, like hiding money, then not being able to find it again. One day, I went over to one of his apartments in the Village with Liv. She was staring at Joey’s turntable. She said, ‘There’s a bunch of money under there.’ Joey said, ‘I wondered where that went.’ It turned out to be about $3,000. He was pleased, of course, and gave Liv a hundred for finding it.”

Buell has many funny stories to share about Ramone. But what’s most important, she notes, was the warmth he radiated.

“He was definitely odd and unique,” she says, warmly. “But music and OCD aside, I want people to remember Joey as incredibly kind and respectful—with women, especially. But you know something? I’m sure he was that way often. With pretty much everyone he ever met.”

The 11th Annual Joey Ramone’s Birthday Bash will be held at Irving Plaza on Thursday, May 19. Be sure to check out the tributes to Joey’s life and legacy published on the Voice’s music blog, Sound of the City.

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‘Road Recovery’

Reformed drug abuser and, more importantly, reformed teen idol Peter Frampton is making this clothing-store concert appearance alongside chain-smoking comic and actor Denis Leary to benefit Road Recovery, whose mission is to keep young musicians off drugs. Considering the fact that CBGB once stood where John Varvatos has set up a clothing shop (would Joey Ramone c. 1977 pay $200 or more for jeans?), an appearance here by the “Show Me the Way” talking-guitar dude is a bit like burying your cat in the Pet Sematary: “Sometimes dead is better.” At least it’s for a good cause.

Thu., Jan. 7, 8:30 p.m., 2010

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Joey Ramone’s Brother Is a Punk Rocker: I Slept With Joey Ramone: A Family Memoir

The latest entry in the growing field of Ramones Studies is I Slept With Joey Ramone: A Family Memoir. The angle here is that Joey Ramone, né Jeffrey Hyman, is examined by Mickey Leigh, né Mitchel Hyman, his brother. Mickey also talks a lot about his own life, which is fine for a couple of reasons. For one, he’s got an easy, unforced style (helped by Legs McNeil, an old hand at historicizing the movement he helped create). For another, Mickey’s life has a lot to do with Joey’s, maybe in more ways than he’s aware of revealing.

The Queens childhood opening is like a notebook for early Ramones records: The boys hang out, watch TV, discover rock and roll, pretend to be on drugs, and endure bullies, an asshole father (“Daddy liked men”), and a broken home—all told at great speed, without much moping and plenty of dumb jokes. (Humor high point: Joey gets knocked into a bush.) Even Joey’s many problems are sort of funny (he was regularly hauled into the principal’s office, but there he “hung out and ate Popsicles”), though it’s weird when he threatens his mom with a knife.

The brothers start playing music, which gives them a sense of accomplishment, but also of competition. Local cool guy John Cummings, later Johnny Ramone, is Mickey’s best friend, but he doesn’t want anything to do with Joey. For a while, Joey is a misfit among misfits. But they’re all Queens guys—the sort who refer to their psyches as “upstairs,” and request clarification with “Whattaya mean?”—so they stay on each other’s wavelengths. Some of the guys get up a new band, and Johnny wants “a good-lookin’ guy in front.” They get Joey instead, and the rest is history.

Or someone else’s biography. Anyone who picks up I Slept With Joey Ramone will be interested in the plentiful Ramones bio-nuggets: Who wasn’t talking to whom, what girlfriend Joey had when, how Joey could be really cool sometimes and a real dick others, etc. But though we hear some of these details from various witnesses, most of it comes from Mickey, and he has his own story—in fact, this is his story. He knows that, like always happens, the people have come to see his brother, and he’s happy to oblige. But he makes sure you get his side, too.

It’s not always cozy. Mickey believes his brother could have stuck up for him more—not just with the guys, but also with the royalties and career breaks (Joey: “I just plugged [Mickey’s] band on MTV!” Mickey: “But he plugged lots of bands he liked”). He wants you to know the reason every time he and Joey weren’t speaking, and usually Mickey—according to Mickey—is not at fault.

Don’t let that put you off, though. The apple didn’t fall too far from the other apple, and Mickey’s bitching is sort of like what you imagine Joey’s would be like if he were the one who wound up schlepping road cases with a hernia instead of being a star. Mickey is a smaller, slightly less crooked mirror of his brother. If it seems a little sad when Mickey pulls out his clippings, so does being a punk icon when your records always tank. Not to mention scoliosis, problems upstairs, and, finally, cancer.

Joey’s fights with Mickey may not have the historical interest of his fights with Johnny Ramone, but they’re of the same kind: petty, absurd, and entertaining. And, unlike Joey and Johnny, Joey and Mickey made up. Several times. The last time, though, is very sweet. “He pulled me down to him, and he just didn’t let go. I can still feel that hug.”

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MONDAY | 5.19

[MUSIC]

TOO TOUGH TO DIE

Joey Ramone lives

His corpse lies in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, and the street that the city named after him sits 13 blocks south of tonight’s venue, but Joey Ramone still has his birthday celebrated in New York City. The 2008 Joey Ramone Birthday Bash will be the eighth since his death in 2001, and, as always, the focus is on the survivors: Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom, featuring most of the remaining Dictators; the Shangri-Las’ Mary Weiss, passing up the opportunity to feature songs from last year’s surprisingly good Dangerous Game in favor of heritage tunes like “Leader of the Pack” et al.; and Television’s Richard Lloyd, unveiling his new band, the, er, SmuftyDogs. Truly bold/reckless attendees can play the CBGB drinking game—for every mention of John Varvatos’s semi-hostile takeover of the Ramone’s old playground, help yourself to a drink. Last man standing wins. At 7, the Fillmore at Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Plaza, 212-777-6800, $25

ZACH BARON

[SHOW]

HEAVENLY BODIES

Preaching to the choir

Burlesque isn’t so virginal, but then was Mary, really? “I’ve never been one to disagree with Catholic doctrine,” says La JohnJoseph, who, as the Madonna, preaches against abstinence-only education (“It doesn’t work—I’m a virgin mother, for goodness’ sake!”). La JJ can’t prove that Mary was unsullied, but with America’s Next Top Mary, we see she certainly didn’t lead a boring life. Highlights include Julie Atlas Muz (as God) doin’ it with Jo Boobs; Dirty Martini giving birth to a chicken; Legs Malone in a “morning-after” routine; Darlinda Just Darlinda seducing baby Jesus; and Tigger! doing “something hilarious and acrobatic.” At 10, Galapagos Art Space, 70 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, 718-782-5188, galapagosartspace.com

SHARYN JACKSON

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TOO TOUGH TO DIE

His corpse lies in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, and the street that the city named after him sits 13 blocks south of tonight’s venue, but Joey Ramone still has his birthday celebrated in New York City. The 2008 Joey Ramone Birthday Bash will be the eighth since his death in 2001, and, as always, the focus is on the survivors: Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom, featuring most of the remaining Dictators; the Shangri-Las’ Mary Weiss, passing up the opportunity to feature songs from last year’s surprisingly good Dangerous Game in favor of heritage tunes like “Leader of the Pack” et al.; and Television’s Richard Lloyd, unveiling his new band, the, er, SmuftyDogs. Truly bold/reckless attendees can play the CBGB drinking game—for every mention of John Varvatos’s semi-hostile takeover of the Ramone’s old playground, help yourself to a drink. Last man standing wins.

Mon., May 19, 7 p.m., 2008

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Bludgeoning Riffola, Suitable For When Fucking the World

The cover art for the She Wolves’ Mach One a chick in thigh-high boots, regarded from the waist down—capably tips off consumers to the exciting, get-hard punk-rock noise waiting inside. With Donna She Wolf (late of Cycle Sluts From Hell) on guitar and vocals, the band’s forte is bludgeoning riffola that’s often knuckle-dragging and provocative, as on “Art of War,” with its shouts of “Undefeatable! Undefeatable!” Achieving density somewhere between Budgie and Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers, the She Wolves are in a pretty good place if you desire equal portions of catchy tunes and heavy rock. Bonus points accrue when the band backs the mighty Syl Sylvain on a wall-of-sound take on “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”; at song’s end is a clip of Joey Ramone fondly musing about seeing Syl’s New York Dolls at the Mercer Arts Center. In the flesh, Jayne County also makes an appearance here, startlingly effective on a cover of “California Alles.” “Fuck the world/Call some whores/We’re gonna have some fun!” Donna declares. Who would beg to differ?