Sometime later, delivering clothes for for a dry cleaner, he met Doug Colvin, known as Dee Dee. If his autobiography, Lobotomy, is to be believed, Dee Dee’s childhood was hellish. His father, an Army master sergeant stationed in Germany, moved the family back and forth between there and the U.S. His mother, he wrote, “was a drunken nut job, prone to emotional outbursts.” His parents fought brutally. “Their lives were complete chaos,” he wrote, “and they blamed it all on me.” Dee Dee was already taking narcotics in his early teens. “I couldn’t see a future for myself … Then I heard the Beatles for the first time. I got my first transistor radio, a Beatle haircut and a Beatle suit … Rock ‘n’ roll [gave] me a sense of my own identity.” When Dee Dee was about 15, his mother left his father, moving him and his sister to Forest Hills. “I can see now how it was only natural that I would gravitate toward Tommy, Joey, and Johnny Ramone,” he wrote. “They were the obvious creeps of the neighborhood … No one would have ever pegged any of us as candidates for any kind of success in life.”
Tommy, though, did. He urged Johnny and Dee Dee to form a band. He’d help them find their sound and direction; he’d worked as an audio engineer at Record Plant on sessions with Jimi Hendrix and John McLaughlin. Johnny resisted. He’d become practical-minded. “I want to be normal,” he’d tell Tommy. Also, he had seen plenty of rock & roll live – the Beatles, the Stones, Hendrix, the Doors – and had become preoccupied with Led Zeppelin. “I liked violent bands,” he said. “I hated hippies and never liked that peace-and-love shit.” Johnny told Tommy he couldn’t play guitar like any of those other musicians.
Then Johnny saw the New York Dolls, featuring singer David Johansen and guitarist Johnny Thunders. The Dolls had taken the license that David Bowie and the glitter movement had implied, and brought a new trashy democratic feasibility: Anybody could make meaningful noise. “Wow, I can do this, too,” Johnny thought. “They’re great; they’re terrible, but just great. I can do this.” Johnny finally accepted Tommy’s suggestion. He bought a $50 Mosrite (the same guitar that MC5’s Fred “Sonic” Smith and members of the Ventures played). As things developed, Dee Dee played bass, Johnny guitar; and a friend of theirs and Tommy’s joined on drums: Jeffrey Hyman.
Hyman, who became Joey Ramone, had hardships his whole life. He was born with a teratoma – a rare tumor that sometimes contains hair, teeth and bone – the size of a baseball, attached to his spine. Doctors removed the growth when Hyman was a few weeks old, but it’s possible the ordeal affected him in later years, contributing to his tendency to infections and bad blood circulation throughout his life. His parents divorced as he was approaching adolescence. His father, Noel Hyman, ran a trucking company; his mother, Charlotte, ran an art gallery. Noel had a bad temper – he once picked up Joey and threw him across a room into a wall. Joey’s lanky height and shy personality also made him a target for bullies. He wore dark glasses everywhere – even to school. “I started to spend a lot of time in the dean’s office,” he told Everett True. “I was a misfit, an outcast, a loner … The greasers were always looking to kick my ass. They’d travel in packs with fucking chains and those convertibles. They were trying to kill you. Johnny was like a greaser [for a while]. He was a hard guy.”