They’re all gone! Tommy Ramone – born Tommy Erdelyi – , the last of the founding members of the Ramones, died yesterday from cancer at the age of 62. So passes our final physical connection with the founding fathers and progenitors of punk rock – the genre of music that moves me more than any other. Regarded as possibly being the only “normal” and “sane” member of the band Tommy played drums and co-produced the first three Ramones albums. Tommy didn’t enjoy life on the road and alot of the peripherals that rock bands sometimes endure and stepped aside before being replaced by Marky Ramone – real name Marc Steven Bell.
Why am I putting this up on a blog that is primarily concerned with high-performance? Well, it was worth putting up as for many Tommy’s passing would be as significant as say that of a Neil Young – don’t want to even think about that one…Long May He Run – or a Bob Dylan. But also because in a world where it’s regarded as best if you fit in, toe the line, and listen to muck like Coldplay, the Ramones were true innovators. They didn’t try to out do what every one had done before…They didn’t like what they heard when they turned on the radio and were compelled to strip away the fat and deliver the basics of rock ‘n’ roll but with a grit and speed that was fresh, in your face, brimming with vitality, and always catchy and melodic. No guitar solos for the Ramones, no drum fills either, just two minutes of a catchy verse or two with a chorus and that was your lot. A Bay City Rollers on acid so to speak.
Without the Ramones, it’s hard to imagine how bands like Green Day, Nirvana, Husker Du,Sugar, Rancid, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Black Flag, The Dead Kennedys, Blink 182, The Offspring, The Misfits, NOFX, The Damned, The Buzzcocks, Social Distortion, and the entire extreme metal movement would have sounded. Bono constantly yaps on about their influence, and yes I can see it in the first three U2 albums.
The approach of stripping everything down to the bare essentials and focusing on a bands real strengths, while also being conscious of obvious limitations has been copied by producers such as Rick Rubin who has been responsible for the production of some of the finest albums across a number of genres over the past three decades. I doubt the Ramones were overly conscious of the need to be innovative, but like all great innovators, they noticed an itch, identified what was causing it, and acted on it. Rest in peace Tommy.