I fell in love with the Ramones the first time I saw Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, when I was 10 years old. To this day they are one of my favorite bands, possibly my very favorite. So, when I heard about this book on Marky Ramone’s Punk Rock Blitzkrieg, I had to check it out. I am so glad I did.
Poisoned Heart, by Vera Ramone King, is the story of Dee Dee Ramone and the life that Vera and Dee Dee lived together, told in a way that no one but Vera could tell it. The book keeps you reading. It has a quick pace and gives insights into the behind-the-scenes life of the Ramones and the tension within the band that may come as a shock to many fans.
Although preceded by a few legendary bands such as Iggy Pop and the Stooges and The New York Dolls, the Ramones are considered by many to be the first punk rock band in history. The Ramones came before the Sex Pistols, and were together for over 20 years. They had a unique sound and style which immediately won over their audience, but the radio stations would not play their songs and it took years of hard work and constant touring for them even begin to get the recognition they deserved.
Dee Dee was a prolific songwriter and wrote most of their songs. Even after he left the band, he continued to write for them. By the time Vera and Dee Dee met, in 1977, the Ramones were well established on the live music scene and had released three albums, but it was not easy going. They struggled to make ends meet and save up for their own place.
Dee Dee and Vera married in September, 1978. They were very much in love, and the love that they held for each other endured through all the hard times and even after they parted ways after 12 years as a couple. In the beginning, Vera could never have guessed what was to come. Dee Dee became the center of her universe. He struggled constantly with his addictions and was eventually diagnosed as bipolar. Holding Dee Dee together, and sometimes just keeping him alive, was more than a full-time job for Vera. It was 24/7.
Just reading Poisoned Heart is an emotional rollercoaster. The ups and downs of Vera’s life with Dee Dee were so extreme, but yet she manages to tell the story with balance. She tells us about Dee Dee’s great side, how loving and thoughtful he could be to her, how generous he was to others, and what a talented man he was. She does not hold back in describing his bad side, either. Dee Dee put her through Hell, and more than once came close to killing her. But she never dwells or wallows in self-pity over those episodes. She tells it all in a very straight-forward manner. Vera tells us about Dee Dee’s demons, giving us an insight into why he behaved the way he did, without making excuses for it.
Vera wrote this book to tell Dee Dee’s story. She wants us to remember him for his good points and the way he touched people’s lives, not just the turmoil and self-destruction that is so often a part of the image. But make no mistake, this book is Vera’s story, too, and her story in itself is both amazing and inspiring.