R.I.P Tommy Ramone

Tommy Ramone
It’s not easy trying to quantify the importance of The Ramones. It’s a bit like trying to make clear how important oxygen is, or water, or anything else that we depend on for living but have become so used to that we now take it for granted.

And similarly, one cannot overstate the importance of the man born Erdelyi Tamas, now an immortal hero of rock n’ roll that world will forever remember as Tommy Ramone.

Tommy was the last original member of The Ramones, the first, greatest and most influential punk band. He was their drummer for the first three records but more than that, he was a crucial component in sculpting the band’s sound and ethos. It was Tommy who wrote most of Blitzkreig Bop, a two-minute sugar rush that was The Ramones calling card to the world, establishing a musical vocabulary adopted by the countless others who followed in their wake.

He started out as the band’s manger and so the story goes, had no inclination of playing drums but was forced to take the gig out of necessity as no-one else was capable of keeping up with hurtling cacophony of guitar and bass. Without Tommy on the stool, The Ramones would have been a very different entity indeed. And, I daresay, a less magnificent one.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the band was that their short sharp bursts of bubblegum noise were somehow indicative of a diminished intelligence, but Tommy always fought the band’s corner on that one, claiming that they took their cues from Andy Warhol, Lou Reed and the rest of New York City’s mid-70s artistic elite. The Ramones were always supposed to be more than just a bunch of skinny white guys playing frenzied three-chord pop and at the time, their iconoclastic approach to how a band should look and sound was just as revolutionary as paintings of Campbell soup cans or Venus In Furs. The world had never seen anything like it, and once it did, it was forever changed.

It’s a bittersweet legacy that despite The Ramones’ seismic impact on modern music, the band never saw the commercial success they deserved. And it’s nothing short of tragic that every original member of the band barely made it past middle age before succumbing to terminal illness and in the case of bassist Dee Dee, drug addiction. The old guard have shuffled off, and it’s up to the young pups they leave in their wake to keep fighting the good fight.

The first three Ramones albums, which Tommy co-produced, are as good as rock n’ roll gets. Play them loud as you can, it’s as fitting a tribute as any. Rest in peace, amigo.

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