In 1989, the Ramones’ bassist Dee Dee Ramone, tired of cranking out punk anthems for 15 years, went hip-hop. Much to the chagrin of his band mates, he began playing the Ramones’ shows in hip-hop gear and even put out a rap single, “Funky Man,” and subsequent rap album, Standing In The Spotlight.
The Wikipedia entry for the record hyperbolically declares, “The album is sometimes considered to be one of the biggest failures in recording history.” Even today, a decade after Dee Dee’s death, Standing In The Spotlight is still getting ripped apart; The Onion A.V. Club published a long summation of it this year, calling it “a terrible idea wedded to an even worse execution.”
But for fans of the Ramones, ‘80s rap and public spectacles, Standing In The Spotlight is so much more than that. Ramone managed to rope in both Blondie’s prime mover Chris Stein on guitar and Debbie Harry herself to serve a hook girl. The two tracks with Harry—“Mashed Potato Time” and “Commotion In The Ocean”—expand on the genre fusion pioneered by the Fat Boys and the Beach Boys in combining hip-hop and oldies on the 1987 track “Wipe Out.”
Dee Dee also brought in Marky Ramone on drums; “Poor Little Rich Girl” is basically a Ramones song with rapped verses. The other Ramones may have hated Standing In The Spotlight but they came around to it eventually: The band re-recorded “The Crusher” for its final album ¡Adios Amigos!