The last time I spoke to Dee Dee Ramone—in March, just before the Ramones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—he reminded me of one of the first conversations we ever had. “We were talking about metaphors,” he said with a laugh, recalling an interview from over 25 years ago in which he was trying hard to explain the meaning of some of the songs he wrote. “Take ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,’ ” he told me back then. “It isn’t really a song about getting high. The next line is ‘Now I wanna have somethin’ to do.’ See, it’s about being a kid and being bored.” The glue sniffing, then, was really a metaphor? “I guess so,” he said, and then broke into one of his goofy bug-eyed stares—as if his head had started to hurt from too much brain drain.
Coming as it did, barely a year after Joey’s death, and just months after (sure, who cares, but at least it happened) the Rock Hall nod, Dee Dee Ramone’s demise at his Hollywood home on June 5 from a drug overdose was shocking more in its timing than in its reality. Given a history of drug, alcohol, and glue/Carbona/you-name-it abuse dating back to his years growing up as an army brat in Germany—not to mention the street crime and 53rd-and-Third male hustling he got into once he moved to New York in the late ’60s—the fact that Douglas Glenn Colvin somehow managed to get to age 50 was nearly as remarkable an achievement as his Pantheon-worthy position as the punk of all time in the punk rock band of all time. Like Dennis Wilson, the only Beach Boy who actually surfed, Dee Dee was the Ramones’ resident gut check, and remained that symbol even after his departure from the group in 1989: You could take Dee Dee out of the Ramones, but you could never take the Ramones out of Dee Dee. As he wrote in the title track from 1984’s Too Tough to Die: “I tell no tales/I do not lie . . . halo round my head/Too tough to die.” Those last four words were tattooed on Dee Dee Ramone’s arm, atop a picture of a horned, pitchfork-wielding devil. A fitting metaphor for a blessed demon. Rest easy, animal boy.