After the Ramones said “Adios amigos” for the final time in 1996, singer Joey Ramone wasted no time in starting the recording of what would unfortunately turn out to be his posthumous solo album, Don’t Worry About Me, due out February 18th on Sanctuary Records. Ramone died April 15th of lymphatic cancer.
“We started right after the Ramones’ last show,” says producer Daniel Rey, who has also worked with the Ramones themselves and White Zombie. “We cut the music pretty quickly, and then Joey just took his time on the vocals. We recorded a couple songs at a time. We did all the singing in my house. I live, like, two blocks from Joey in the Village.”
Although Don’t Worry About Me is a solo album, Rey says that Joey didn’t stray too far from the Ramones’ signature spirited three-chord punk sound. “I think some of it’s a throwback to their heyday, like Road to Ruin-type stuff, and there’s a few nods to other of Joey’s favorite bands, like the Who, the Kinks, Slade, T. Rex. There’s a song called “Venting” that’s sort of classic Ramones and “Stop Thinking About It.” Even [Ramone’s cover of the pop standard] ‘What a Wonderful World’ is sort of in the classic Ramones style. It’s pretty full on.”
“What a Wonderful World” will be the album’s first single, expected at radio in early January. Rey says that the song, which occasionally surfaced in Ramone’s live show, reflected the singer’s outlook. “Joey was an optimist and the song is very positive, life-affirming, and the changes are great. They’re very powerful in their own soft way.”
Ramone was joined on the album by bassist Andy Shernoff (the Dictators), with drumming duties shared by Frank Funaro (Cracker and Del Lords) and former bandmate Marky Ramone. The Misfits and Captain Sensible guest on other tracks, and Ramone’s brother Mickey Leigh adds a vocal part to the album-closing “Don’t Worry About Me.”
According to Rey, Ramone was able to see the project almost all the way through to its conclusion. “It wasn’t mixed but all the recording was done,” he says. “Ironically, right before he got sick was when he finished the last little bit, and then I mixed it after he passed. I’m sure he thought about [death], but he also didn’t dwell on it, and I think he was just trying to be positive. It wasn’t anything that he talked about. That’s one reason why the vocals took long, because he wanted to sing when he felt good. I was basically on call for the last year or two. Whenever Joey was up to sing, I was there.”
A two-song holiday disc featuring Ramone and his brother Mickey Leigh is due out December 18th on Sanctuary. The disc consists of “Merry Christmas, I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight,” recorded prior to the Ramones’ version, and a new track, “Couldn’t Sleep Last Night.”