Ramone gets new life – posthumously

Mutated Music/BMG Rights Management

By Bryant Liggett
Special to the Herald

You can’t argue the Ramones’ contribution to music. The New York punk quartet achieved perfection through their simplicity; three chords, 3 minutes (tops) and they stand the test of time today, through sound and sales.

When the Ramones called it quits in 1996, front man Joey recorded a solo debut. It was released in 2002, a year after his death from lymphoma. Joey’s second solo effort, “Ya Know?” will hit stores today. How, you may ask?

The recorded demos that Joey had been working on landed in the hands of the Ramones’ producer/engineer/mixer and friend Ed Stasium. Joey’s mother and brother, Mickey Leigh, insisted Stasium work on them. The demos had been in the hands of another producer, Daniel Rey, who worked with the Ramones in the 1980s.

“They were 4-track Fostex cassette demos originally. It took awhile for the estate to acquire these demos for reasons unbeknownst to me,” Stasium said last week from his Bayfield studio. “I talked Daniel into giving them up. If I was involved with finishing up these recordings, he would relinquish them to me.”

The rest is a product of modern technology. After Stasium acquired the songs in 2008, he spent hundreds of hours working on them, now serving as a producer, engineer, arranger and musician.

“Some of the songs were just pieces, a lot of them were fragments and some were songs. Some had one track of vocals, some had three,” he said.

Stasium finished the tedious chore of working with the digital editing software Pro Tools’ program called “identify beat” to create a grid in which he could fly around Joey’s existing vocals.

Then he created the drumbeats and arranged the instrumentation, all the while adding reference bass, guitar, percussion and keyboards. He’d work on one song over the course of a month and move on.

After Stasium recorded all of his parts at his Kozytone Studio in Bayfield, he recruited some of Joey’s friends to play on the tracks.

Little Steven Van Zandt, Joan Jett, Richie Ramone, J.P. Thunderbolt Patterson and Richard Manitoba from The Dictators were just some of the artists who were more than willing to help out. Those parts were recorded at Stratosphere Studio in New York City.

“They’re all friends of Joey’s. Not just fans, friends,” Stasium said. “Joey knew all these people who played on all the records. That’s why these people were chosen. We asked them if they wanted to do it, and they said ‘sure.’”

The result is a product identifiable with the Ramones because of the vocal presence of Joey Ramone, but the songs are a reflection of the work of someone who had grown as a songwriter, musician and performer.

“Joey was maturing in his writing,” Stasium said. “His vocals always matured, since I first worked with him. It’s a broader style. It’s not just the three chord ‘boom-bomp-boodah-bomp’ stuff, it’s a lot deeper. It’s advanced Joey stuff. He would have been happy with it.”

Since Joey’s passing over a decade ago, the Ramones continue to sell records and have finally been acknowledged by an industry that all but ignored them in their prime.

“He was shy and outspoken, but he would have appreciated being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and getting the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award,” Stasium said.

Stasium is proud not only of “Ya Know?” but of his more than 30 years of working with Joey.

“It’s a great finish,” he said. “This is pretty much it. There won’t be anything else coming out from Joey. It’s a great legacy to have been involved with from their second record to this record.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.

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