By Nicki Escudero
By Amy Silverman
By Brian Palmer
By Chris Parker
By Troy Farah
By Lauren Wise
By Lauren Wise
He describes the Ramones as lazy songwriters. Before he quit the band, it was agreed that the publishing be divided equally, regardless of who wrote the actual songs. Ramone was roped back in after quitting, specifically to pen songs. He did, and stood back and watched as the members helped themselves to his publishing.
"And now that I think about it, especially with that producer [and co-songwriter] Daniel Ray, I feel robbed," explains Ramone. "The Ramones were constantly in my face because they needed material. I just wanted to mind my own business and be left alone, but after awhile I started agreeing with them. I was happy when CJ [Dee Dee's replacement] was in the band. Every time they'd want me to give them a song, nothing was ever out in the open. It was always a wearing-me-out situation. It didn't make my life much easier."
In Lobotomy, Ramone characterizes his kinship with singer Joey no differently than would any member of any rock 'n' roll band after decades of degradation together. When Joey's name comes up today, Ramone suddenly switches to personal pronouns when referring to the band. He explains how glad he was that Joey "was on all my records and sang those songs. I'm glad he was the singer. I brought him into the band, I discovered him and forced him on the other guys, and everybody liked him.
"Now I don't like Joey at all," he continues. "I never will again. I used to be his best friend. I fought all his battles. But he's too difficult. To never say 'thank you,' ya know. And to get so much from me, my publishing, all that.
"Right now, do I wish I could play with him? I wish I could be playing with, like, John and CJ and Marc [three fourths of the last Ramones lineup] and that could be the Ramones. I saw Johnny Ramone a couple of weeks ago by accident, so that was okay. I had a nice talk with him."
Lobotomy's imagery sparkles at times like lines of coke laid out on a mirror ripped from the back of a hotel room door. The story flows smooth and strong as a shot of dope, just as Dee Dee Ramone would have it. Yet it's hard to imagine how he can remember certain details of his early days.
Ramone's life was an endless succession of street corner copping, junkie squabbles, hustling, exhaustive tours and recordings that led ultimately to a prolonged spell in a nut house and his departure from the Ramones. Personal detachment and survival are themes that thread throughout Lobotomy.
From his fucked-up adolescence in Germany to his lonely, just-up-from-the-street methadone-guzzling existence in a cheap London hotel and on to reclamation with contentment and marriage in a drug-free lifestyle, Ramone doesn't justify anything. He just is.
One pitiful passage in Lobotomy finds a destitute and homeless Ramone sitting in a Manhattan restaurant in 1992, watching his girlfriend stroll by on the sidewalk with three tricks. That day seems a world away now.
His road to recovery is littered with regretful tales of treating others like hell and nearly killing himself off in the process. Nevertheless, there is a real heart beating through Lobotomy.
"I don't want to die for anything anymore," he says. "I'm tired of that. I don't want to get into all the stories. I could go on forever. But I don't wanna sound like a bitter creep."
Aside from a handful of spotty records released around the world under various Dee Dee Ramone incarnations since 1989, the man continues to be a worthy club draw. Lately, he's been playing handfuls of Ramones classics at shows.
He's also dabbling in the arts, he says, painting with old friends from the Lower East Side like Arturo Vega, who for years was the Ramones' lighting and merch manager. "I just stopped [painting] this morning," says Ramone. "I did 12 of 'em in the last two weeks. We sell just about all of them and it goes very well. I can't believe it's going this good. I always had a lot of artists as friends. When I lived at the Chelsea hotel when I was younger and I had guys like Larry Rivers as neighbors."
Having lived all over the world, the sober Ramone now happily calls Hollywood home. "Yuppies and gym types" have taken over his lower Manhattan, all the Latino neighborhoods, the dealers, his way of life.
"New York was always about being funky," he says. "The dope, the Day-Glo orange stuff, ya know. But that, that's not conducive to punk rock music. But I'm like a New York-type person. I like to walk around and look at the stores. I'm like a loner. I love Hollywood Boulevard. It's great!"
His opinion of groups like Blink 182, Green Day and the Offspring -- bands that basically nicked the Ramones shtick and sold zillions of records -- is fairly generous. He likens what these bands have done to what the Rolling Stones did for the old blues cats. The Dee Dee Ramone of old may not have been so kind.