Sad news filtered through today that 65-year-old Tommy Ramone, the last remaining member of the untouchable punk band The Ramones, has died. Tommy, the original drummer and producer, fought a long battle with bile duct cancer and ultimately lost. After years of music critics arguing over whether or not “punk is dead,” there’s a sense of true finality to that phrase now.
Tommy Ramone was born Thomas Erdelyi in Budapest, Hungary, in 1952 but soon found himself in Forest Hills, New York. In high school, Tommy joined a garage band where he met John Cummings, who would eventually become Johnny Ramone. Soon enough, the two formed their own band along with the members who would become Dee Dee (Douglas Colvin) and Joey (Jeffrey Hyman). Tommy was originally supposed to be the producer/manager. However, as the band grew wilder and their music grew faster, Joey’s drumming couldn’t keep up the tempo as he tried to sing. A switch put Joey at the mic and Tommy behind the kit, where he would stay until 1978.
The Ramones’ first gig in front of an audience was in March 1974, and by August they were debuting at the infamous CBGB. Before the year was up, that quartet of mop-haired dudes would play 74 sets at CBGB, all under 20 minutes long, and would usher in a new genre of music: punk. It took a long time for the Ramones, or really any punk band, to see much success outside of New York and the biggest cities in America. Now we can’t imagine American music without the influence of the Ramones and their very own godfather of American punk, Tommy.
Surprisingly enough, punk wasn’t the be-all, end-all for Tommy. After three moderately successful records, Tommy stepped away from the drum kit but kept up his influence on the Ramones, producing two more albums along the band’s long, successful and increasingly loud road. In his later years, Tommy formed the bluegrass duo Uncle Monk with Claudia Tienan of the Simplistics. Just as he could on drums, Tommy tore it up on banjo, mandolin, dobro and, of course, guitar.
The last of the Ramones is dead, and for all intents and purposes, so is punk. But we firmly believe no one in the Ramones would want to go out on a such a somber note. Let’s grab a beer, turn down the lights, throw on some ragged clothes and thrash around our offices for a while, eh?
Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue (from Ramones)
Blitzkrieg Bop (from Ramones)
I Remember You (from Leave Home)
Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment (from Leave Home)
Teenage Lobotomy (from Rocket to Russia)