Defending the universally loathed

The Phoenix looks with loving eyes at some of the worst people, places, and things in the world — and gives them a big hug
By PHOENIX STAFF  |  January 14, 2008

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Okay, it’s a new year. You’ve “resoluted” this and forsworn that, all so your waistline will shrink and your breath won’t stink. (Good luck with that, by the way.) But as long as you’re being so forgiving with your mind, body, and spirit, perhaps you can extend your generosity to other entities that you previously scrutinized a little too harshly. Forsaken entities that deserve a second chance.

Of course, not every reviled person, place, and thing can be defended. Some have no redeemable qualities whatsoever — think George Steinbrenner, Nazi Germany, adult-contemporary music. But there are other critically and popularly despised articles and individuals worth rescuing from the scrapheap of judgments past

For this exercise, we asked our staff to play defense lawyer for the universally loathed, to find a spark of life in a black hole, to kiss instead of kick. So with an open mind, read on. And embrace that which you thought was un-embraceable.

deedee_loathed

Album: Standing in the Spotlight, Dee Dee King (a/k/a Dee Dee Ramone)
In the late ’80s, bassist Dee Dee Ramone (née Douglas Colvin) quit his eponymous band and made the absurd decision to record a rap album, under the nom de mic Dee Dee King. It’s since been disparaged as one of the worst albums ever made, and, yes, seen as a hip-hop record, it’s easy to see why. Dee Dee’s rhymes and “rap” vocal phrasing are clueless, and the incoherent execution of the record — in every minute detail, from its pink album cover and photos of Dee Dee, in all his scumbag CBGB glory, mugging with a Run-DMC–style black fedora and Mercedes dookie chains, to ludicrous boasts like “I’m the baddest rapper in Whitestone, Queens” — seems like a lackadaisical gag. (It wasn’t.)

But seen as the great lost Ramones album, Spotlight is more than a rapper’s delight: it’s a happy accident that captures the raw, naive talents of an outsider artist. On display in Spotlight is the formula that fueled the Forest Hills Fab Four’s Rocket to Russia and other early-career successes (successes arguably responsible for every good album made by any rock artist after 1976): cartoonish bravado and fantasy narratives (meeting a mermaid in “Commotion in the Ocean,” becoming the world’s best wrestler in “The Crusher,” being a fucking rapper in multiple tracks); raw id (“I Want What I Want When I Want It”); Spector-esque girl-group vocals (here provided by Debbie Harry on “Mashed Potato Time”); political naiveté bordering on idiocy and a Teuton-centric world view (“German Kid,” which features rapping in Deutsch, and the admittedly cringe-worthy English couplet, “I used to live in Berlin/It’s pretty cool to be half German”).

Dee Dee was delusional, clumsy, and lost, but he was also a goofy genius who, even at his drug-and-drink-addled worst, could pen deceptively simple, hook-riddled nuggets.

— Lance Gould

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