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"It's a trap when you agree to being one person because when you step out of character with that, you look like a hypocrite."

-- Bono, on his Macphisto persona

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Eulogy: Bono Remembers Joey Ramone

U2's main man pays tribute to one of his seminal influences

Time magazine, April 11, 2001
By: By Bono

 

When we first formed the band, Adam and I were 16, Edge was 15, and Larry was 14, and we were fans of the Ramones. They kind of stopped the world long enough for bands like U2 and others to get on. It was suddenly the end of Progressive Rock and virtuosity over melody and the end of interminable guitar solos and the rock-band-as-music-school. These were all the things that prevented you from getting on the train when you were a kid if you hadn't been to music college.

At one of our rehearsals, we were visited by a big-shot TV director who was going to give us a break on the national airwaves. We'd been fighting in our garage about how our own songs should end, or start or even what middles they should have when this TV director was coming to see us, so we played him two Ramones songs when he arrived and told him they were ours, and he thought this was amazing. And then when we went on the TV show, we played them two of our own songs, and they didn't notice. So that's our first debt.

This was the best Punk Rock band ever, because they actually invented something. There were great bands like the Stooges and the MC5, but I think that they were still blues bands. The Ramones were actually the beginning of something new. They stood for the idea of making your limitations work for you. In film jargon, they would be "a pure situation." They talked like they walked like they sounded onstage. Everything added up. That takes an extraordinary intelligence to figure out.

When I was standing in the State Cinema in Dublin in 1977 listening to Joey sing and realizing that there was nothing else [that] mattered to him, pretty soon nothing else mattered to me. If they remind me of anything now, it's that singular idea. It travels further and deeper than the baggage of possibilities you pick up along the way.

This was a really important moment in the last 25 years, because suddenly imagination was the only obstacle to overcome. Anyone could play those four chords. That's why hip-hop has taken off, because you don't have to be a virtuoso, you just have to have great taste. You have to be able to hear it more than you have to be able to play it. Suddenly, the grasp becomes more important than the reach. Suddenly, a bunch of kids from the north side of Dublin who would never have had a chance to get on the musical merry-go-round watched it stop for just long enough to jump on. We were a band before we could play. We formed our band around an idea of friendship and shared spirit. That was a preposterous notion before the Ramones.

I spoke to Joey a couple of days before he died. He wasn't able to say much, but I just told him that we were thinking about him. He was indomitable to the last minute. A doctor wanted to put a tube down his throat to help with his breathing, and Joey wasn't having any of it because he didn't want his voice affected, because he had some solo gigs coming up. He was fighting it off and fearless. A great spirit.

© Time magazine, 2001. All rights reserved.



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