Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dee Dee Ramone Figures Into Things (3)


Dee Dee Ramone Figures Into Things

How I Think of Dee Dee Ramone in Particular and Songery in General

Over the next few days and in the year since, I knew I didn't care about who wrote what, "Chinese Rock" or whatever song. Really, I just think -- wouldn't it be exciting to be walking around your neighborhood, to get onto the subway, to do anything with a hit song in your head? The type that other bands wanted to rip from you and set to record across town? Does it feel heavy until you record it? Do you whistle it for months before anyone else knows? All I want is this light drama in my life.

And I don't mean popular songs like Train's "Hey, Soul Sister" which I had to learn the name and performer of so I could hate it clearly, but maybe famous songs like Cannonball or Great Big Kiss, Heatwave or Civilization's Dying.

Learning of the plagiarism legend around "Chinese Rock" established in Poison Heart and 70s NYC cult rock biography Please Kill Me feels a bit like watching tennis. Bass player Richard Hell -- who referred to any time he spent with Thunders as babysitting -- told Dee Dee that he would write a song better than Lou Reed's "Heroin," and Dee Dee decided he would outdo both Hell and Reed by writing an even greater drug-themed song. To his testament he gave proof in shaking out the chorus and verse to "Chinese Rocks."

Oddly, The Ramones were leery of taking a song about hard drugs. This delayed prudery caused an odd shift. Without any documented slap to the face of his pride, Dee Dee tossed the song as a hey whatever/you take it to Richard Hell, who renounced his Anti-Reed vow and wrote two lines for a new verse to "Chinese Rocks." Hell then gave it to The Heartbreakers, quit The Heartbreakers, and frowned later on when Johnny Thunders and company took writer's credit for it in their next album's liner notes.

To settle things, Dee Dee writes in his autobiography that Johnny Thunders was a lowlife, a wonderful insult. Apparently, no sooner does he lose that song then Stiv Bators of The Damned stoleThe Ramones piece "Poison Heart." Bators rushed it to demo in a London studio only to die promptly afterward.

Sure, all you ingest is potato chips and methadone, you can wax a car with all the grease in your hair, and receding gum lines make you look like a sad Dracula, but a dozen creeps around the city want your choruses.

I can't distinguish the pulp from the history. But still, to have such professionally unreliable people grating out this music. It gives me pause.