In 1976 The Ramones tore open the New York music scene with their teenage rants. Bassist DEE DEE RAMONE has confessed to his crimes in
writing. Words: Lawrie Thomas Photograph: Barbara Zampini
IF SOMEONE MENTIONS The Ramones. what are the first words that spring to mind? ‘Addiction’, ‘heroin’ and ‘glue sniffing’ all suggest themselves, as do ‘punk’, ‘New York’ and ‘cartoon’.
Alternatively. some of their song titles might rear their ugly heads: ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’, ‘Rockaway Beach’ and ‘Teenage Lobotomy’ all reek of The Ramones. If we wanted to be unkind, the words ‘brainless‘. ‘gonzoid’ and ‘young, dumb and full of come’ would probably feature prominently. The words ‘writing a book’ wouldn’t get a look in.
Improbable as it seems, bassist Dee Dee Ramone has gone and done just that. His book. Poison Heart: Surviving The Ramones, is the tale of Dee Dee’s life and numerous near deaths. From his adolescence to his first encounters with rock ’n’ roll and drugs, via his involvement with the emerging New York punk scene of the early 70s. the visits to the mental hospitals and the formation and dissolution of the Ramones, Poison Heart reads like a harrowing desperado narrative dredged straight from the tormented soul of a rock ’n’ roll William S. Burroughs.
‘The book started coming together when I was living in Westbourne Park in London.’ drawls Dee Dee. ‘At that time I was withdrawing from the world because I was preparing to go off drugs, so I just sat down on the ﬂoor with a sharpie and a notebook. Over the years I must’ve rewritten the thing ten times.’
These days, Dee Dee is clean and living with his wife Barbara and his faithful giant Airedale, Banﬁeld, in Manhattan’s legendary and infamous Chelsea Hotel. The Chelsea has long played a central part in New York mythology and. at various times, has acted as home to celebrities as diverse as Dylan Thomas and Sid Vicious. It’s also been a recurring theme in Dee Dee’s life.
‘The Chelsea is an oasis of freedom for alternative people,’ says the native New Yorker. ‘The people here have always been
a really nice to me A dead Woman ever since I ﬁrst
came at me head came here first through the m 1974. You can do what you
hotel awning and when I heard her head exploding I thought someone had dropped a ﬂowerpot or a TV
want — you can play guitar all night long, have terrible
arguments, kick in the window if you get locked
- u out on the from their room. balcony, yen in Dee Dee Ramone the lobby . . .’
The Chelsea has also been the inspiration for a forthcoming work from Dee Dee’s ‘sharpie’ — a collection of stories titled Chelsea Horror Hotel.
‘lt’s a semi-fictional account of all the atrocities that have gone on in this hotel.’ explains Dee Dee. ‘()ne time I was walking out the lobby and a dead woman dropped right in front of my feet. She came at me head first through the hotel awning and when I heard her head exploding I thought some-one had dropped a flowerpot or a TV from their room. What happened was she had cut her wrists. jumped out of a window. hit a cab and landed face first on the
DEE DEE RAMONE
Dee Dee Ramone: gabba gabba grey
sidewalk. But hey. that's New York for you.
‘But for the moment I’m just going to get on with my normal business — taking the dog for a walk. getting something to eat in here and staying out of street trouble, and believe me. that’s a big success in New York.’
Dee Dee Ramone: punk rocker par excellence. sometime storyteller and full-time dog walker. Truly one of a kind.
Poison Heart: Surviving the Ramones is published by Fire Fly and can be ordered direct from Helter Skelter, 4 Denmark Street, london, WCZH 8LL.
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