When I learned that Phil Ramone had died, I immediately thought of the photograph above. It’s the back cover of Billy Joel’s recording, The Stranger from around 1977.
While Mr. Ramone won several Grammys and at least one Emmy, he had a reputation for being a behind-the-scenes guy, so some of you may not recognize him. He’s the fellow standing, wearing the Yankees shirt.
For me, it’s a perfect photograph for several reasons: It’s a bunch of guys—obviously friends—getting together for a meal at a neighborhood restaurant. We can pretty well surmise from the surroundings that the cuisine is Italian. It helps that the guys are drinking wine from juice glasses. It tells me that outside the recording booth, this is a place and these are some people with whom Mr. Ramone is very comfortable.
You can read or hear obituaries for Phil Ramone practically anywhere today. But for me, as this photo illustrates, he was a New York guy who elicited a New York sound from every recording he produced. And he accomplished this without being a prima donna or a tyrant. He did it by being a friend.
Seated (L – R): Doug Stegmeyer (Electric Bass), Richie Cannata (Alto & Tenor Saxophones), Billy Joel (Piano, Vocals).
Location is unattributed (but I’ll bet Scungilli and Sausage & Peppers are on the menu.