She's a sensation: Linda Ramone and the Ramones' great rock 'n' roll love triangle

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·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
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Linda and Johnny Ramone (Photo: Azula Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons)
Linda and Johnny Ramone (Photo: Azula Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s one of the greatest love triangles in all of rock ‘n’ roll. As a teenager, the Queens-born Linda Daniele, now known as Linda Ramone, met the Ramones at New York nightclub CBGB; a few years later in Los Angeles, she reconnected with frontman Joey Ramone during the making of the seminal punk quartet’s cult classic film Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (which turns 40 this week), and a romance began.

Joey and Linda seriously dated for more than three years, and their affair inspired several Ramones classics, including “She’s a Sensation” and “Danny Says.” But when Linda went on the road with the group, she grew close to Joey’s bandmate, Johnny Ramone, and eventually these two “best friends” fell in love. Linda subsequently left Joey for Johnny, married Johnny in 1984, and stayed with Johnny until his death from prostate cancer in 2004.˜

While the Ramones didn’t officially call it quits until 1996, it has been reported that Joey and Johnny’s relationship, which had always been strained, was forever damaged, with the two never speaking again. “Johnny crossed the line. … He destroyed the relationship and the band right there,” Joey was later quoted in the book On the Road With the Ramones.

Linda tells Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM Volume that she’s aware that some haters will always think of her as “Yoko Ramone.” But she says, “Ramones fans now don't really even know this whole story. They know I dated Joey for three and a half years and we broke up. I was in my twenties. I was 19 when I [first started dating] him. I mean, how many people in their twenties stay with the person for the rest of their life? But if people egg the story on and go, ‘Oh, she broke Joey's heart, he was never the same,’ that's not true. Joey had a whole life after me. But they like that. They like the negative.”

Linda says she and her ex actually had an agreement that would allow the band to carry on, despite any awkwardness. “The truth is, I always spoke to Joey over the years,” she reveals. “I never really told anybody, but I knew that to keep the band together, you have to make everybody happy. And Joey wasn't going to be happy if he didn't get to speak to me. And it was no big deal. Did Johnny know? No. Is that a big deal? No.

“Sometimes in bands, you’ve got to do what's best for the band,” Linda continues. “And the one thing with the three of us, which no one really always thought of, is the three of us always put the band first — even before us — no matter what. And so, that's really what happened, and that is why… it was Johnny and Joey to the end. … So, ‘Yoko Ramone’ did not break up the band.”

Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone (Photo: Gie Knaeps)
Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone (Photo: Gie Knaeps)

Linda and Joey actually didn’t speak for several years, but eventually reopened their communication and came to an understanding. “I was going to go do this interview with [music journalist] Jim Bessman,” Linda recalls. “He was going to do a Ramones book at that time, and Vera Ramone, at that time [Ramones bassist] Dee Dee's wife, was going to do an interview. And she called me up to go with her. Jim Bessman told Joey, and Joey called me up and said, ‘I don't want you doing the interview.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ ‘Because I don't want you to bad-mouth me.’ And I said, ‘I'll never bad-mouth you, if you promise never to bad-mouth me.’

“So from that moment on, me and Joey made a pact. There is not one thing out there that Joey has ever said about me disrespectful or rude, or me about him.” (Joey, whose real name was Jeffrey Hyman, died in 2001 after a seven-year battle with lymphoma.) “We made a pact. That's how you do it, especially if you're a girl. ... Listen, do girls cause trouble? Of course, we all know they do.”

Linda Ramone (far left with platinum hair) in the club scene of the Ramones' 1979 film 'Rock 'n' Roll High School.' (Photo: YouTube)
Linda Ramone (far left with platinum hair) in the club scene of the Ramones' 1979 film 'Rock 'n' Roll High School.' (Photo: YouTube)

Probably the closest that Joey came to making negative references to Linda was via another song he penned about her, “Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight).” The Ramones’ holiday hit was inspired by their first argument — which took place when Joey and Linda went ring-shopping. “When me and Joey were going to get engaged, his mom, Charlotte, had come with us to get the engagement ring because she knew someone in the diamond center and was going to get us a discount,” Linda chuckles. “As the story goes, the ring I wanted was too expensive, so that became a problem. I had no idea, because I never thought about getting a diamond ring in my life. But in my mind I wanted this heart-shaped [diamond]. Now, why I didn't want a regular-shaped one, I don't know. No one asked me before about a diamond ring! ... So anyway, the ring was too expensive that I picked, and it became a big thing. And that was right around Christmastime, obviously. But Christmas ain't the time for breaking each other's hearts. I still have the ring, though — and the receipt.”

Johnny and Linda Ramone in 1994. (Photo: Catherine McGann/Getty Images)
Johnny and Linda Ramone in 1994. (Photo: Catherine McGann/Getty Images)

Linda ended up being happily married to Johnny Ramone (real name: John Cummings) for 20 years, and for the past 14 years she has celebrated their love and his legacy with an annual tribute concert and movie screening at L.A.’s famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Past Johnny Ramone Tribute events have included appearances by Billie Joe Armstrong, Morrissey, and X’s John Doe, and this year’s Vincent Gallo-curated, Steve Jones-directed celebration on Aug. 11 will feature Fred Armisen, Starcrawler (who recently covered the Ramones’ “Pet Sematary” for the same-named horror flick’s remake), and a presentation of one of Johnny’s favorite films, The Warriors. Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the final resting place for everyone from Rudolph Valentino to Chris Cornell (Linda says Armisen has already purchased a plot there), and it has become a tourist attraction for Ramones fans too, because it’s the site of both Dee Dee Ramone’s grave and an eight-foot bronze Johnny Ramone memorial that was inspired by a smaller statue gifted to Johnny by friend Rob Zombie for Christmas.

“That's what Johnny wanted,” says Linda. “He wanted everyone to go visit his statue. He said, ‘I want all my friends to talk.’ … When we were planning it, he was like, ‘I want the statue to be big.’ And it is.”

Linda Ramone at the unveiling of a statue in memory of Johnny Ramone at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 2005. (Photo: Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
Linda Ramone at the unveiling of a statue in memory of Johnny Ramone at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 2005. (Photo: Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)

The Ramones obviously had their crazy times, and it seems like this is a story destined for the big screen, a la Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Elton John’s Rocketman. In 2014 it was widely reported that Martin Scorsese had signed on to direct a Ramones biopic, but Linda says, “Because of business and the two estates, it's not going to happen right now. ... Maybe this ain't the time for the Ramones. Maybe it's just Elton John’s time. If it can't happen, it can't happen right now, and that's fine. And it's never over.”

However, Linda is delighted to see that the legacy of the Ramones, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2011, is bigger than ever. “Johnny wanted to be on the biggest band in the world,” she asserts. “We were friends with a lot of people from, like, Pearl Jam and everybody else who sold a billion records. And the Ramones did not. Johnny would say to them, ‘You sold all these records.’ And they’d say, ‘But you influenced everyone.’”

The above interview is taken from Linda Ramone’s appearance on the SiriusXM show “Volume West.” Audio of this conversation is available on demand via the SiriusXM app.

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