Album: Bloodletting (1990)
Charted: 19


  • This song is about being in love with an alcoholic. Concrete Blonde lead singer Johnette Napolitano wrote it about Marc Moreland of the band Wall Of Voodoo - the bands played many of the same Los Angeles venues in the '80s. Moreland died of liver failure in 2002; Napolitano discussed Moreland and writing the song about him in a concert known as the "D.C. Sessions." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Michael - Cleveland, OH
  • The lyrics to this song didn't come easy, as they were very personal and intense. In a Songfacts interview with Johnette Napolitano, she told the story: "We did a demo with no lyrics. It was just like scratchy vocals, just me making sounds, basically, where I knew the melody would go. And right away everybody reacted to it. There weren't any lyrics, but there was something about the music that everybody really reacted to. And so we went to England to record the record with Chris Tsangarides, our producer. I knew what I wanted to say, but I wasn't looking forward to saying it. And so it was the last vocal that I recorded.

    And I remember Chris every day, 'Do we have vocals to 'Joey' yet? Do we have words to 'Joey' yet?' And I'm like, 'Not yet.' So I literally wrote them in a cab. I knew what I was going to say, it's just a matter of like a cloud's forming and then it rains. The lines are forming in my head and they're all in my head, and I know the chorus, and I know what I'm going to say. It's just a matter of fine tuning the details and how I'm going to lug it out. And then it rains. The clouds all formed and it rained. And then it happened. And that was it. And it was just there."
  • This is by far the biggest hit for Concrete Blonde, and their only one to make the Hot 100 (they have placed several songs on the Modern Rock charts). Johnette Napolitano has expressed little interest in hit singles or album sales, which led to tensions with the group's label, I.R.S. Records, which signed them in 1986. After five albums with I.R.S., including the gold-certified Bloodletting, the label offered them a deal where the group was sold to Capitol Records.

    The group still refused to serve the musical tastes of a wider audience, and they ended up on independent labels. These days, their artistic credibility is unquestioned, but at the time, they took some criticism for daring to have a hit song. Napolitano addressed this in a 1993 interview with Happening when she said: "People call that song a 'sell-out' only because it sold records. If I could intentionally write a Top 40 song, don't you think I would have done it on the first album?"
  • The video drove home the alcoholic theme. It featured Napolitano with the band playing in a small club while one lone patron drinks to excess. It was the only Concrete Blonde song to receive significant airplay on MTV.
  • This was a #1 hit for four weeks on the US Modern Rock charts. It gained popularity as "alternative" music was coming into the mainstream and radio stations were looking for stuff like this to play. Finding female voices was particularly problematic for radio program directors in this era of Pearl Jam, so this song was a welcome addition to many playlists.

Comments: 24

  • Brad from TennesseeWhy do people always want to punish others for being successful or having a successful song. Isn’t the point of playing music to have other people hear it or share your message. Johnette has the best female lead voice of modern era. She’s phenomenal and should have to apologize for it.
  • Yamaseta from PennsylvaniaI would argue that this is the best pop love song ever. I know of no other song where the narrator doesn't ask for anything and then not only offers to give, but give more. Though there is definitely a sentiment of enabling, there are no hints of co-dependency. She even recognizes her choice to lower her boundaries with the line "Detours, fences/I get defensive."

    As far as the enabling.... When someone can't be saved, isn't it humane to offer comfort? It's definitely sad, but if someone is bent on destroying themselves, and you're willing to love them unconditionally and offer them safety while they do it, shouldn't you?

    Then if you look past the theme of alcoholism and just focus on the love that's expressed, it's clear. She's put all of her fear and anger aside, has forgiven unconditionally, and is now willing to make herself vulnerable in order to bring comfort to this person. She's setting out no requirements, not in need of anything from him. Her only mention of love is that she's willing to "give a little more."

    Even on the musical side, it's pure, simple rock. A traditional arrangement with La Bamba chords all pulled together with a soulful voice that uses emotional accents and crescendos perfectly. It pulls you in the way that a true classic always does.

    No other song that I know combines rhythm, guitar, and simplicity with lyrics that express the sacrifice needed for true agape love better than this one.
  • Emmy from Bellville, OnMy friend Brittney is singing this for vocals.
  • Mark from Jeffeson City, Mo, MoAs a recovering alcoholic, I have a love/hate relationship with this song. I'm pissed at where I was but happy where I am. Took every drop to get there too.

    Who's the guy in the video? Is it John Wesley Shipp?
  • Shoreh from Hollywood, CaJohnette has never revealed the true Joey. The replies she has given to the question has varied from Marc Moreland to Joey Ramone. The truth be known it was a three month hot & heavy tryst with a younger man from some time spent out Eat in the late 80's. She has vowed to never reveal him as was not at all happy with the song at the time.
  • Fred from Toronto, Cape Verde Just watched johnette playing joey guitar solo blau hosen.It appears this is the same women that took a polaroid of me in my lobby a few years back. I followed her down the street till she got on a bus. What's up?
  • Fred from Toronto, Cape VerdeThis song has so many parralles with my life. Or am I hallucinating again. The Mason's wanted me to join in 1975. We know they are into anagrams my name if you use foil (a math term for first inside outside and last) gives you joey. The women of Toronto started to call me joey at the same time. A brunette of my youth the last words said to her were "you scare me" her girlfriends pushed her on me. It went way to far before I found out she was underaged, playing touchy feely. This same girl would destroy my life, she knocked on the door of the only women I would have asked to marry while I was at work. I was a drunk for at least 25 yrs. The guy in the video looks like me.
    When I was about 25 I was the super of 40 apartments. The girls called me joey there also, I had my pick, but turned them all down, because I had a lady friend. I was painting the eaves one day and overheard about ten of them talking, he won't f--k me, he is gay for sure no man has turned me down for a blow job, a cattier bunch I have never met. They even said who is that brunette I've seen him with (that would have been the lady friend). See the way she throws herself at him, meanwhile they were all throwing themselves at me. Oh and thanks Julie for sticking up for me. Jez I even had my name in the women's washroom at the Young Station(bar), is he or is'nt he?
    During my drinking I did not want a girlfriend why bring her down. And I was not the brightest some women would give me the eye and I would be looking over my shoulder, who she giving the goo goo eyes too. And ladies you don't know what it's like having 10 or 20 of you saying pick me, pick me. I feel like a piece of meat.
    Anyway I learned at an early age women talk out of school, where as men do not. And it does not matter what women say about you as long as they are talking. And boy do I get them talking the stories I have fabricated are huge beyond belief. As far as money goes they can keep it the poor are the best class of people. And as another comment suggests, hard headed women has been a thorn in the side of man. Some women say that one got away but I will get him before I die. Enough said.
  • Amanda from Riverton, WyIf there is one thing I understand well it is hurt people.She knows she was enabling him and tried to leave and do the right thing.No guesses "don't get crazy" he went crazy.She couldn't let go and,he was hurting her and himself.He was well once,she hoped it would happen again.The things we know are best,are not always the easiest things to do.My heart goes out to her,I know exactly how she felt.Letting go and holding on to someone you love,can be more excruciating than you ever thought possible.

  • Diane from Gananoque, OnPeople would get me out of the house and/or pool because my song would be on
  • Mel!ssa from Pittsburgh, Pado they still play the video. its been like 15 years since i've seen it!
  • Timmy P from Cleveland, OhSomebody said: "The video featured Napolitano with the band playing in a small club while one lone patron drinks to excess". However, the lone patron never touches the bottle in front of him.
  • Dan from Stockton, CaA song about two people who should not be in love and perhaps aren't. Probably more Joey's fault than hers, but it's never one hundred percent
  • Eddie from Philadelphia, WaPassionate as hell, one of the best vocals, ever.
  • The Last Dj from Hell.a., CaSomeone once dedicated this song to me after I explained and proved her wrong about what it actually meant. She thought it was about a couple who were scared to love one another. As if the lyrics are not clear enough..."hard headed women's been a thorn in the side of a man ever since the world began."
  • Bobpape from Austin, TxIs it just me, or does Johnette Nopanitano have one of the most sensual, female singing voices EVER???
  • Michael from Cleveland, OhThe song was written about Marc Moreland, the former guitarist for Wall of Voodoo. I heard it straight from Johnette Napolitano's mouth during a concert.
  • Brian from Gregory, MiIt's about being in love with someone that's not perfect. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Ever. You know very well that this person was not a fictional character. She was in love.
  • Bryan from Longview, TxThis song was not written about a fictional character. Joey was, and still is, a washed up drug addict in Dallas, TX. He was a roadie for bands in the 80s and 90s, and had relations with Johnette Napolitano, the singer of Concrete Blonde.
  • Scott from Columbus, OhWhat a perfect rendition of the effects alcoholsim takes on a person involved from the outside... my heart goes out for this song in apprecitation for what she felt when writing it.
  • Jeffrey from Dowagiac, MiTo me the lyrics not only portray someone who is living with an alcoholic (or addict), but also a person who is an enabler who will do anything to allow the other to be happy. Specifically, the line "I've got the money..." tells me this enabler will beg, borrow or steal to provide for "Joey's" habit.
  • Robert from Puyallup, WaThe live acoustic version of "Joey" on the 'Still In Hollywood' compilation is marvelous. At the end of the chorus, Johnette several times has to modulate her voice because she's out of breath. The effect, however accidental, makes her sound heartbreakingly vulnerable.
  • John from Stephenville Crossing, CanadaA really good song. It's my favourite by them. Yeah it was not written for Joey Ramone. Joey is just a fictional character made up to tell the story of being in love with an alcoholic.
  • Kris from Toronto, Canadawas NOT written about Joey Ramone of the Ramones
  • Michele from Warren, MiWas written about Joey Ramone of the Ramones.
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