Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tommy Ramone 1949 - 2014

The year 1974 brought the United States of America to a crossroads that looked as if any route traveled would be one of futility and dread.  Richard Nixon resigned as President.  President Gerald Ford granted amnesty to deserters of the Vietnam War and Draft Dodgers.  The world was in the middle of a global Recession.  Syria and Israel agreed to a ceasefire for their conflict in the Golan Heights.  Four young men started a band that took the world by storm.

Typically when you think of "four young men" starting a band that took the world by storm you think of men named "John, Paul, George and Ringo" but that would be wrong for a number of reasons.  The names I just mentioned were part of an "invasion" that was largely overblown.  While those four men began their notoriety in the '60's and it continued into the '70's another four started something the likes of which will never been seen again.  When four men (John Cummings, Jeffery Hyman, Douglas Colvin and Thomas Erdelyi) decided to join forces and start a band music changed forever.  The band that they started was called "The Ramones," and that was the the beginning of punk rock.

Before the formation of "The Ramones" Cummings and Erdelyi were in a band called "Tangerine Puppets" and later the joined forces with Hyman and Colvin.  When the band decided to form "The Ramones" it was Colvin being a Beatles fan had been calling himself "Ramone" based on the pseudonym used by Paul Mc Cartney during his "Silver Beatles" days.  Colvin quickly changed his moniker to "Dee Dee Ramone", Cummings became "Johnny Ramone", Hyman became "Joey Ramone" and Erdelyi "Tommy Ramone."

What became of the formation of the band and the culmination of the new name was one of the greatest bands of all time.  Music was never the same after that, and in a good way.  It cannot be discounted when you think about the state of music at that time.  With the state of music drowning in the primordial ooze of "Disco", the stench of the hippies that still hadn't bathed since Woodstock and chemically induced lyrics that fueled whatever in the hell that music was in the '60's, the Ramones helped fix that.

Despite the fact that Tommy wasn't the original drummer for the band, Joey (Jeffery Hyman) was, he (Tommy) was actually selected to be the band's manager.  Interestingly enough was that Joey became the lead singer of the band and Tommy assumed the drummer position because, as Dee Dee (Douglas Colvin) said "Tommy Ramone, who was managing us, finally had to sit down behind the drums, because nobody else wanted to."  Any self-respecting Beatles fan will tell you that Ringo (another drummer)  was just that fourth wheel on the apple cart and that all of the "heavy lifting" was done by the other three, that can't be further from the truth when it came to Tommy.

His (Tommy) role within the band was not only the backbone of the sound of the band but he was the drummer for the band between the years 1974 to 1978.  He co-produced AND played on the band's first three albums (Ramones, Leave Home and Rocket to Russia).  He played guitar AND drums on the same three albums.  He wrote two Ramones classics "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and a large portion of "Blitzkrieg Bop."  But like all musicians there is still more to him than "just" that. Ramone stayed active in music, very active in fact.  One of my all-time favorite albums by the band The Replacements "Tim" was produced by Tommy.  Along with Claudia Tienan, Ramone founded the band "Uncle Monk," a bluegrass / folk duo, and yes I said bluegrass / folk.

On July 11th, 2014 Tommy Ramone / Thomas Erdelyi passed away from bile duct cancer leaving throngs of fans saddened.  Hearing about the loss of a man, the final original member of the greatest group of all time was depressing.  Its hard to hear about the loss of a person that really did give so much to not only a band, or a genre but to music history as a whole.  Tommy Ramone lost his battle with bile duct cancer at the age of 65.  He was the final member of the original band to pass away (preceded by Joey in 2001, Dee Dee in 2002, and Johnny in 2004).  He will be remembered as an artist, a musician, a producer, a film star and a pioneer.  He will never be forgotten because above it all, he was a Ramone.

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