DEE DEE RAMONE, WHO DIED FROM AN APPARENT drug overdose at his Hollywood home on June 5, was so much more than just the guy who used to count off the seemingly nonstop medley-barrages of Ramones songs in concert. True, Dee Dee's frantic seal bark “1-2-3-4!” was one of the most thrilling sounds in rock & roll: By the exact moment of the next beat, the audience was engulfed in a wall of noise so reliably pulverizing, so absolute and pervasive, that it made Phil Spector's sonic barrier seem like tattered remains on a clothesline, post-hurricane.
The Ramones bassist/backup singer (born Douglas Glenn Colvin in Fort Lee, Virginia, on September 18, 1952) wrote or co-wrote the morbidly funny lyrics and simple, propulsive music to many of the group's most popular punk classics, including “Commando,” “Time Bomb,” “Psychotherapy” and “Listen to My Heart.” “Like takin' Carrie to the high school prom/something's always goin' wrong,” he yelped on the hardcore blast “Endless Vacation,” and his words often seemed inspired by the chaos of his admittedly self-destructive past as a street hustler, heroin addict and petty criminal. He painted a typically bleak picture in just a few laconic lines on “53rd & 3rd” from the group's debut album: “Standing on the street . . . I'm tryin' to turn a trick/53rd and 3rd/You're the one they never pick . . . Don't it make you feel sick?”
Despite his reputation, Dee Dee seldom glamorized his problems with drugs. Even the junkie-lifestyle anthem “Chinese Rocks” (arguably his most famous tune, first popularized by Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers and later by the Ramones) was unrelentingly grim: “The plaster's falling off the walls/my girlfriend's crying in the shower stall.” After leaving the Ramones in 1989, he continued writing for his replacement on bass, C.J. Ramone (“Makin Monsters for My Friends”), and late front man Joey Ramone (“Pet Sematary”) until the group broke up in 1996. Dee Dee's underrated solo releases — including his prescient, endearingly goofy '80s rap-rock incarnation as Dee Dee King — are crammed with consistently heavy, catchy originals, weighted in equal parts with absurdity and gore, much like his unblinkingly frank autobiography, Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones, and recent novel, Chelsea Horror Hotel. Since moving to Hollywood a few years ago with wife/bassist Barbara Zampini, the revitalized Dee Dee Ramone performed constantly, with his final live appearance occurring June 1 at Club Makeup.