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TOO TOUGH TO DIE?
Two Ramones gone in less than two years. Not that Dee Dee's demise
is a huge surprise or anything, but it seemed like he was done for so
long ago, and then he actually got his shit together for a while, which
makes this even more sad. I lived in the East Village, oh so long ago,
when it was still a slum and pretty much had its own subculture and
underground economy, and housing for impoverished fucked-up punk
rock stars. You could run into anyone on the streets there-anyone
crazy or stupid or brave enough to venture east of First Avenue, that is.
I saw Dee Dee out and about every now and again. My favorite thing
was to see him riding this old banana-seat bike around. He could ride it
real slow up and down the street, and I remember he was good at
popping wheelies. I never spoke to the man, however, until a couple of
years ago, here in Portland, after his "solo" band's show at EJ's (the
band included Dee Dee's wife, Barbara, and Brian from the
Countdowns). Then we did talk- about mutual friends in NYC and the
state of the neighborhood (East Village Lite) -until some local gals
trying to interview him asked if they all could come over to my
Rockhouse to finish up. Dee Dee wasn't looking very at ease at the
club, and it was closing time. "Sure," I said, "just not too many people,
"since I myself was more than half drunk already.
So next thing I know, I've got a houseful, and in walks the band and
Dee Dee who, right away, goes, "Wow, you got a really cool house.
"Needless to say, that floated my boat: Dee Dee likes it here! First
challenge, of course, is always picking out a record the guest(s) of
honor (of the evening) will dig. I guess I had a moment of inebriated
enlightenment, since I put on The Sweet, and Dee Dee says, "Wow, cool-The Sweet!" And then Nellis the rock-and-roll kitty comes a-runnin' down the stairs to check out the party, and trots right up to Dee Dee, and he starts petting her and she loves him, and Dee Dee says, "Wow, you got a real cool kitty!" 'Course, I was running around like a headless fool as usual. I kept forgetting about our special guest till someone would come up and say something like, "Hey, this must be one of your Top Ten Punk Rock Nights!" and I would answer, "Huh?" and that someone would point to the couch where Dee Dee was hanging out with Barbara, and I would go, "Oh yeah ... Cool!" I was so psyched that he seemed to be happy and comfortable visiting my abode. Yes, I have to say now that it's a treasured memory. I only wish I remember more of it.I'm sad, too, that Dee Dee doesn't seem to have received anywhere near the accolades that dear departed Joey did.   The "Ramones' universe" I referred to in my ode to Joey last year can be easily romanticized, but lest we forget, lots of the "freak show" songs were straight out of Dee Dee's real life. He came up with many of their classics: "I Don't Wanna Go <   Down to the Basement" (his insane, fucked-up i   parents would lock him down there); "53rd & *    3rd" (he hustled for dope money); "Chinese Rocks" (story of his life-appropriated by his junkie pal Johnny Thunders); "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" (take a guess). He also wrote stuff like "Questioningly," a beautiful, melancholy, anti-love song. Dee Dee was good at those, too: "I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You," "Loudmouth." He immortalized and institutionalized the punk rock count-off, "1-2-3-4!" in that nasally voice. And I don't know for sure, but in my mind it's Dee Dee saying, "Hey, where are my socks? Where are my underwears?" at the end of "We're a Happy Family" (more real life). Dee Dee also made no bones about being a disco and funk fan, and even put his own skinny ass on the line with his 1987 "rap" record, Standing in the Spotlight-under the name "Dee Dee King" after B.B. King-which took the unprecedented step of melding oldies with hip-hop, and tanked.
Last year I wrote about Joey embodying the "heart and soul" of the Ramones. This is true. It was Dee Dee, however, who provided the DNA, the zygote. Born Douglas Colvin, the name "Dee Dee" somehow came to him while checking out an article about the wrestler Gorgeous George in an old Playboy, and he took the surname "Ramone" because he'd heard that's what Paul McCartney was calling himself back when that band called themselves the Silver Beatles. This was all the way back when Dee Dee was only 12 or 13 years old! Lobotomy, Dee Dee's 1997 autobiography, is astounding. Dee Dee was born under a cloud of bad luck and trouble that relentlessly pursued him-and he seemed to chase right back after it-until the end. He tells his often bleak story with plainspoken words, just like his songs, and with a strong dose of wry humor, just like his songs.
He definitely had a thing for nutty chicks; that's another reason I was so glad to see him calm and content around Barbara. He tells some hilarious tour stories, too, like being in "seventh heaven" on tour opening for Van Halen. He especially relishes the memory of getting stoned in a closet in Spain with David Lee Roth. Diamond Dave tried to make Dee Dee think he was Mexican: "I believed him but he's really Jewish!" Only Dee Dee, it seems, would even entertain the notion.. He also talks about the Runaways coming into his hotel room (L.A., maybe?) and them walking out because he was listening to Jackson Browne (!). "I told Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, 'Good, I didn't want you to be here anyway.'"
I truly hope Dee Dee enjoyed some real happiness during these past few years. Dee Dee, even more than, say, Sid or Thunders or Darby, personified the classic punk rock boy to me: scary/cute, with those beady dark eyes. Dee Dee spent too much of his time dancing on the razor's edge, walking the "fine line between stupid and clever," and endearing himself to many while driving them freakin' nuts at the same time. There was also that hopeless vulnerability so common among lifer addicts; clearly their "medicine" helps them deal, but it sours that innocence and curdles the psyche- too often beyond repair. But the music... Dee Dee gave us all those great songs. Once you've heard 'em, you're hooked. Yep, Dee Dee did a job on me. Now I can never be a hippie.
Sad to see you go, go, go, go ... Goodbye, Dee Dee. Rest in peace.
-
Christeen Aebi
BACKFIRE - VOL. 5 ISSUE #3
Dee Dee Ramone
NIHILISM ON THE PROWL!
COLLABORATORS INDEX
NIHILISM ON THE PROWL!
COLLABORATORS INDEX
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