Friday, June 07, 2002


by Wayne Robins

I felt bad about the death of Dee Dee Ramone, but not as bad as my colleague Lisa G did when I told her.
She who gasped and groaned--which she usually does on deadline--though this time a little more emphatically. The New York Times on Friday gave Dee Dee both a generous obit, as well as a news feature about the dozens who flocked to Wows!Ville, a Ramones'-themed record and culture store in the East Village, for a kind of impromptu wake.

It's easy to empathize. The Ramones' saved rock and roll, instinctively meshing the original D.I.Y. (do it yourself) spirit of 1960's garage band music with the naive romanticism of surf music, filtered through a uniquely New York outer boroughs (in this case Queens, my home borough) sensibility. Coming hardly months after lead singer Joey Ramone's truly untimely death (at 49, from cancer), months after the Ramones induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as recently as 15 years ago probably a 10,000 to 1 long shot), well, the tragic congruence of events speaks for itself.

But Dee Dee's death at age 50 from an apparent heroin overdose, according to published reports, damped some of my sorrow--it bummed out my bummer, if you will. The people 50 and over still playing with needles ought to be diabetics, unless your name is William S. Burroughs, Jr. Dee Dee's, unfortunately, was Douglas Glenn Colvin. Wonder if he was any relation to Shawn.

Anyway, lucky enough to be a young rock critic living in a $165 a month railroad flat on E. 26th St. in 1975-1976, I got to see the Ramones, a lot, in their residency in lower Manhattan. There was the joy of those packed to the rafters Saturday nights at CBGB' well as the extremely odd experience of seeing the same band, around the same time, playing to an audience of eight--at the club My Father's Place in Roslyn, L.I. While The Police and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played to packed houses at the tiny former bowling alley, the Ramones dreary Long Island experience was symptomatic of the resistance they faced anytime they would "Leave Home."

I once asked a hot shot program director at one of the New York City album rock stations--probably WNEW-FM at the time--why they would never give airplay to these hometown heroes. "Our listeners don't like their image," the genius of radio said. Image? MTV, remember, had yet to be born. It was 1977, 1978, and an increasing amount of people in their listening area were tuning out from the Frampton/Fleetwood Mac/"Baba O' Riley" 12 times a day format. (Their most legendary disc jockey berated me publicly for suggesting in my Newsday column that their tag line should be, "Where rock a cryogenic chamber.")

"Image?," I said. "How do you see an image on a radio station? What about The Music???" The genius (he is, of course, still running big city radio stations) still never played the Ramones, though a dozen or so years later, his people got on the Hootie & the Blowfish bandwagon. Big-time. Now they're talk radio. And we'll never know if Dee Dee learned to count beyond "1-2-3...Go!"

(c) 2002. Wayne Robins. All rights reserved. Comments?
I'm grateful to acknowledge that Wayne's Words can also now be linked directly from our friend Sheila Lennon's blog, Subterranean Homepage News
a weblog of the Providence (R.I.) Journal website.

We can also be reached on the Web log of Doc Searls, one of Silicon Valley's legendary thinkers, co-author of the still-relevant book published way back in 2000, "The Cluetrain Manifesto." Look for my name on Doc's Blogrolodex, or this column's name on Sheila's. Thanks, Sheila and Doc.
We are not worthy, but we try to be.

And, while we’re at it, you can also read my short feature on Gomez, my favorite young band for reasonably selective rock lovers, in this week’s
Boston Phoenix Navigation isn't the easiest, so go to the first music feature, go to the bottom, and click on the link to other stories.

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