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The Other Joey


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THERE'S MUCH ballyhoo these days concerning San Jose's quest to be recognized as a "major city," whatever that means. Some folks think a baseball team will do it, while others think more live music venues, art galleries, independent bookstores and coffee shops will do it. Usually I'd migrate toward the latter, but these days, I've just about given up hope.

However, there's one ridiculous idea that just might work, and we'll turn to another city, The Big Apple, for inspiration this time. New York City is probably the greatest "major" city in the world, so it makes sense to follow their lead. Here's what I'm talking about: On November 30, 2003, down by CBGB's, the legendary rock club where the Ramones got their start 30 years ago, the City of New York rechristened the corner of Second and Bowery streets Joey Ramone Place. Joey had kicked the bucket a couple of years beforehand.

The Ramones were the greatest punk rock band that ever lived and you don't have to know a rat's ass about punk to be familiar with them. When they toured England in the mid-'70s, they at least partly influenced the Sex Pistols to launch the biggest revolution in pop music history since the Beatles. And it all started at CBGB's in the Bowery. That's where the photo on the Ramones' first album cover in 1976 was taken. There was never a band more "New York" than the Ramones, which is why the city's officials were wise enough to rename the corner of Second and Bowery Joey Ramone Place. Thousands of fans filled the streets for the dedication ceremony.

Aside from playing at One Step Beyond in Santa Clara many times, the Ramones' only connection to San Jose is the fact they were here in town when Stephen King phoned them and asked them to write the theme tune for his Pet Sematary movie.

That's a true story.

Since we're making comparisons, there should be an equivalent San Jose scenario to this whole street-renaming business. We all know that this town boasts a habit for renaming monuments and things for people who aren't dead yet—the McEnery Convention Center, the Norm Mineta International Airport and the Diridon Train Station come to mind immediately. And probably the best equivalent of a local living music legend in San Jose would have to be Joey Myers, the drummer for a million San Jose bands throughout the last few decades, so many that even he probably can't remember them all. If you don't know who he is, you should.

From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the corner of South First Street and San Salvador was a thriving alternative music scene almost rivaling something you'd experience in San Francisco. Myers played probably a thousand gigs in every club on that street, in countless bands.

Are you with me here? That's right—following New York City's lead, the SoFA District should be renamed Joey Myers Boulevard. If San Jose wants to be a major league city, it should acknowledge its own alternative culture, the same way New York has. It only makes sense.

For those of you who were around when First and San Salvador rocked—long before the nauseating dance clubs took it over—this is a great way for San Jose to officially acknowledge an ignored slice of its own history. And Myers himself agreed.

"Hanging out down there—bartending, deejaying, drummin' or whatever—amongst the brows (high & low), artists, bohos, musicians, skaters, painters, drag queens, etc., there was always somebody to have a few drinks with and either solve all the world's problems or invent some new ones," he explained via email. "We mostly accomplished the latter."

So get on the horn and call the City of San Jose Planning Divisions (408.277.4576) and tell them you want to change the corner of First and San Salvador to Joey Myers Place. Now.

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From the April 20-26, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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