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PIGSHIT by Gary Pig Gold – VERA RAMONE and her POISONED HEART Part Two

VeraRamoneAlthough I first met America’s last great rock and roll band when they hit Toronto – literally! – in the Summer of 1977, it took Vera Ramone’s grand new book “Poisoned Heart” to truly bring me back to both her, and my, gabba gabba heydays.

Yes, in those supposedly dark ages before the Internets and/or Pro Tools, it really was possible to change the world with just three chords and a full tank of gas: Over the course of twenty-two years, the Ramones performed two thousand, two hundred and sixty three concerts. I wish I could have been at every one of them.

As we pick up where we left off last Friday, Vera and Dee Dee Ramone have just made it legal, and along with Joey, Johnny, and Marky are headed towards the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the silver screen, AND Phil Spector’s recording studio…..

As you married Dee Dee in September of 1978, the Ramones were just entering what can now be seen as the peak of their initial success. They were recording their classic work, touring North America and Europe on a regular basis, and were about to star in the film “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.” In fact, you joined the band on the road whenever possible during those years, correct?

I basically quit my day job, and we traveled everywhere together.

It’s hard to be on the road without your loved ones, and the rest of the Ramones also brought along their girlfriends, and later wives. They functioned better with their significant others, and could stay out on the road for longer periods of time. It just became a way of life for us.

Then we would return after sometimes two or three months, and it felt strange to be at home. There was NO routine. We saw our families, friends and did this and that, and after a couple of weeks it was like “OK!” and we’d go back out again!

We were young and could do it. We didn’t really know any different.

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poisonedheartOver-intellectualizing about a subject as pure and simple in its perfection as the Ramones sort of defeats their entire purpose, now doesn’t it? The proverbial “dancing about architecture,” as Steve Martin (by way of Frank Zappa) might well say.

Consequently, I’ve shied away from most books and studies concerning Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Co. that have appeared over the years. After all, I have all their records, and spent a goodly part of the late Seventies joyously confined within small spaces as the brudders themselves performed the music which ultimately flattened, as opposed to merely changed, the whole g-damned world. ‘Nuff said!

So when a copy of Vera Ramone King’s “Poisoned Heart: I Married Dee Dee Ramone (The Ramones Years), A Punk Love Story” came my way, I cracked it open with a wee bit of trepidation, I do admit.

Then I noticed the pictures reproduced therein: Gloriously home-spun, fun-filled images from a louder, faster and yes, simpler time when a band could get up in the afternoon, rocket out of Queens in a rental van, and spend the next couple of decades seeing and then conquering all the world in all of its magic, Kodachrome’d glory.

But it was ultimately Vera’s words, in their own giddy and, yep, Gabba way, that slowly drew me. Like only Monte A. Melnick in his own “On The Road With The Ramones” tome before, Vera WAS there for it all, right by Dee Dee’s side, in that van with the rest of The Little Band That Could squashed ‘cross the very next seat. And throughout “Poisoned Heart,” she tells it all. In a candid, but totally non-catty way which happily – and most Ramone-appropriately, need I say – reads more like a vintage “16 Magazine” Tell-All than some fancy-pant-pressed, stuck-uppity University account.



deedee-ramone“His speech was inarticulate;
His songs were not.”
(Carl Cafarelli, “This Is Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio”)

“Dee Dee was the most important musician in the history of punk rock,
and probably the most overlooked.”
(John Holmstrom, editor/publisher of PUNK Magazine)

Seven years today since his passing, with (punk) rock now routinely reduced to yet another noxious niche within the gigantic corporate crime-scheme of things, it does seem all too easy to forget the indelible impact Dee Dee and his fellow Ramones truly wrought upon a terrifyingly wide swath of humanity. Yes, their SOUND was forever first and one-two-three-foremost within their arsenal. But the band’s look, posture, taste, aroma and very thorn-in-the-craw omnipresence offered vital inspiration, and delivered desperately needed hope by the dumpster-load, to all of us who just refused to take “Frampton Comes Alive” or even “Rumours” lying down.

Lest we ever forget too that, within mere months of that first Ramones long-player, Paul McCartney finally discovered the overdrive position on his amp, half of Led Zeppelin and even The Who tightened up their pant-legs (not to mention song structures) considerably, and even the mainstream media itself was sufficiently baited to pounce upon what in retrospect we can see to have been the last great (Caucasian) threat to the melodic status quo.