Joey Ramone’s Friends And Family Tell Us How They Really Feel About U2’s Tribute Single

Joey's brother and former bandmate say 'Gabba Gabba Hey!' to U2's gesture.

When U2 do something, they go all in — whether it’s partnering with Apple to gift their surprise Songs of Innocence album to half a billion iTunes users at once last week (whether they wanted it or not) or using their musical muscle to pay tribute to one of their heroes.

In the latter case, U2 used the first single from the album to honor late Ramones singer Joey Ramone on the buzzing track “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone).” While the lyrics don’t specifically name-check the towering punk godfather, they tell a story about the first time U2 snuck in to see the Ramones in Dublin more than 40 years ago and the impact it had on their musical lives.

“I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred/ Heard a song that made some sense out of the world/ Everything I ever lost now has been returned/ The most beautiful sound I ever heard.”

Redferns/Frans Schellekens

So, we wondered, what do Joey’s friends and family think of this unexpected honor? We asked them:

Mickey Leigh, Joey’s Brother

Redferns/Ebet Roberts
Joey, with his mother and brother Mickey

“I’ve been working on a letter to express… I’m not sure grateful is the right word, but awestruck is a better description,” Leigh told MTV News of his reaction to the song. He worked with Apple for weeks to gain approval for the use of Joey’s image without knowing exactly what it was being used for. “It made me feel so good… [When I] finally found out what it was all about, my jaw dropped right away.”

At first, Leigh was worried that he might not like the song, given the widely varying quality of the tributes to his brother over the years. “And then I went to a friend’s house and I had to keep my heart going there, it’s so beautiful. I loved it. It’s Bono’s interpretation and his spirit, but it also captures Joey’s spirit. He described my brother’s spirit well. I think he got just what Joey would have wanted out of it.”

Marky Ramone, Longtime Ramones Drummer

Getty Images Entertainment/Theo Wargo

“I’m very grateful U2 wrote a song about my former friend and bandmate Joey Ramone,” said Marky, who kept the beat for the band for 15 years and is the only living member of the group who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. “Joey would have been honored. It is well-deserved.”

Jesse Malin, Punk Singer, Friend Of Joey

Getty Images Entertainment/Neilson Barnard
Like so many people who knew and loved Joey, Malin — who, like Ramone, grew up in Queens and later lived around the block from his hero — not only had feelings about the song, but also a great story to tell.

“One of the perks of playing music is you get to travel the world, play songs, meet girls, get free beer and in a lot of cases meet your heroes. And they [The Ramones] were so good to us, we learned so much on our first tour of theaters with them,” he said of the outing his former band, D-Generation, took with the group in the 1990s. “Joey and I connected a lot, he was my neighbor, we talked all the time… you meet a lot of people who get into music for the money, the drugs, the chicks the ego, but he breathed rock and roll.”

Malin recalled the time U2 played “Saturday Night Live” in 2000 and invited Ramone to come see the taping. Joey, in turn, demanded that Malin leave the recording studio to accompany him. The duo crammed into a tiny backstage dressing room with Bono and the band he said, “they were treating us like royalty, opening my beers… they treated Joey with so much love.”

After the show, Malin, Joey and Bono walked down 5th Avenue together to the secret “SNL” after-party, where, once again, Bono lavished attention on them and Malin gained a new respect for the band. “The thing I respect about U2 beyond this song is how they’re giving a shout-out to Joey as their inspiration,” he said. “They’re not on a bandwagon of ’now we’ll be into the Ramones because they’re dead.’ He [Joey] got to feel the love and respect from them and this song is coming from truly the right place and I totally back it after seeing how they were with him.”

If nothing else, Malin, who recently hosted the 40th anniversary tribute to the Ramones’ first gig, loves the idea that the song may turn a whole new generation on to the Ramones.

John Holmstrom, Illustrator, Founding Editor of Punk Magazine

Getty Images Entertainment/Robin Marchant
Holmstrom is not one to mince words. He’s not the biggest U2 fan because he “can’t really relate to them as a rock band.” But, he’s glad they’d did what they did. “It’s wonderful that the song is getting so much attention,” he said. “I watched football on Sunday and I saw U2 [in the Apple commercial that uses the Ramone tribute song] and I see all these images of punk rockers all over the commercial. I think it’s great because this stuff was never on the radio and any attention it gets is good.”

In a release announcing the global release of Songs of Innocence on iTunes last week, the group included a story about how, as teenagers in Dublin, they snuck in to see the Ramones in the late 1970s.

“The 4 members of U2 went to see the Ramones playing in the state cinema in Dublin without thinking about how we were going to get in,” they wrote. “We had no tickets and no money.. My best friend Guggi had a ticket and he snuck us through a side exit he pried open. The world stopped long enough for us to get on it. Even though we only saw half the show, it became one of the great nights of our life…”

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