In his introduction to Dee Dee Ramone’s autobiography, Lobotomy: Surviving The Ramones, Legs McNeil says Dee Dee “epitomizes the quintessential punk rocker.” After drawing a comparison to spree-killer Charles Starkweather, who murdered 11 people triggered by parental disapproval of a teenage romance, McNeil details Dee Dee’s bonafides: an archetypal fuck-up, a male prostitute, a would-be mugger, a heroin dealer, and an accomplice to armed robbery, who would be sidetracked by rock and roll. That career would then detour Ramone into a sordid junkie’s life.
Thank god, I guess. Like many, The Ramones were perhaps *the* band that spun my head around as to what rock and roll is, was, or should be. But if you’re one of those who considered The Ramones cartoonish, then the bass player’s memoir will divest you of that notion — fast. This is a brutal book. If you’re a fan, hold on to the many great songs Dee Dee wrote, because there’s little else to like about him in this autobiography.
Which is not to say the book isn’t a fascinating read. It’s a page-turner all right, from the get go of young Douglas Colvin’s early army brat days in Germany — dysfunctional to the extreme— which caused the 12 year old to experiment with heroine and morphine. Leaving an abusive father behind in Germany and moving to NYC would introduce an even higher level of drug and alcohol abuse, but falling in with fellow delinquent (although drug free) John Cummings (aka Johnny Ramone) would take him to the heights of punk rock and eventually the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Ramones, sadly, would prove almost as defective and broken, abusive and nasty, as his real family.
There were, however, many, many stops in between, mostly due to substance abuse, and ranging from stints in jail, to emergency rooms and hospitals such as Bellevue, and assorted self-imposed exiles around Europe in an effort to get — and stay — clean. Dee Dee Ramone penned this dark, deeply disturbing memoir in 1998 as Poison Heart, and it was reissued as Lobotomy in 2000. Tragically yet utterly predictably, Dee Dee died of a heroin overdose in 2002.
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