The Ramones are dead. Long live the Ramones.

It’s being reported this morning that Tommy Ramone, co-founder of the seminal New York punk band The Ramones, and last surviving member of the original group, died yesterday at the age of 65.

If I had to credit one band with setting me on the path that led me to where I am today, it would probably be the Ramones, and it makes me incredibly sad to know that they’re all now gone. Some of the best nights in my young life were spent at Ramones’ shows, and I will be forever grateful for the work they did to drag rock ‘n roll from the high-end studios of corporate America and into the garages of gutters of the not-terribly-proficient, the angry, and the previously voiceless.

TheRamones

Now go fire up the turntable, put on a copy of The Ramones, and show your kids what real music is supposed to fucking sound like.

Here’s what they looked and sounded like in 1974.

update: Someone in the comments section asked what I meant when I said that I credited the Ramones with “setting me on the path that led me to where I am today.” Here, in case you’re interested, is my response: “Maybe it was a bit of an overstatement, but there’s likely a hint of truth in it. It never crossed my mind to pick up an instrument and make noise until I heard the Ramones. And, had I not started making noise, it’s doubtful that I would have found myself on the tiny, filthy stage of Ypsilanti’s since-condemned Cross Street Station that night in 1992, where I met Linette. So, yeah, had I not heard that first Ramones song as a kid in New Jersey, it’s likely that my life might have gone in a different direction, and my daughter, who just turned 10 yesterday, may never have existed. So, thank you Tommy.”

update: I just happened across this 1975 bio for The Ramones, written by Tommy, who also managed the band at the beginning.

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[Tommy Ramone, born Thomas Erdelyi in Budapest, Hungary, had been suffering from cancer of the bile duct, and was in hospice care.]

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13 Comments

  1. Dan Richardson
    Posted July 12, 2014 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    That is a great clip. Joey is just amazing.

  2. Bob
    Posted July 12, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Dee Dee is the most underrated pop song writer I can think of.

  3. Dan Richardson
    Posted July 12, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    So you blame the Ramones for where you are now?

  4. Eel
    Posted July 12, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    There’s nothing more punk rock than bile cancer.

  5. Grumpy
    Posted July 12, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Tommy was a pretty underrated songwriter himself. He wrote “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” setting up the Ramones signature song format in a big way. He also played all the lead guitar and some other instruments on the first albums as well as producing. All my favorite Ramones songs were written by Joey though.

  6. Dan
    Posted July 12, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    “the king is dead, long live the king” is one of the most incorrectly used phrases in our society (behind “I could care less”). The second part of the phrase is meant to honor the new king, as the old king has died and there is a transfer of power. it does not mean that you are honoring the old king’s legacy.

    also, RIP Tommy

  7. Monte A. Melnick
    Posted July 12, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Tommy was my dearest and oldest friend.
    We grew up together in Forest Hills Queens New York.
    I went to Stephen A Halsey Jr High and Forest Hills High school with him.
    He got me to pick up the bass guitar and enter into the crazy world of rock music.
    We played in several bands together (Triad & Butch) here in NYC over the late 60’s and early 70’s.
    We built and managed Performance Studios in NYC, a recording/rehearsal studio the Ramones started in. I worked with him when he in the Ramones and well after he left.
    He had an advanced musical foresight, well ahead of the times in forming and being part of the Ramones. He was a great musician on the guitar, then the drums, later on the mandolin, banjo, fiddle and many more instruments. His musical expanse bridged from Punk to Indie Bluegrass.
    I mourn the passing of the last of the original Ramones, my friend and a true musical visionary.

  8. Posted July 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Monte, thank you so much for taking the time to write. I’m sorry for your loss. And I very much appreciate your insight into Tommy’s life and work. As he’d already exited the band by the time I started following them, in the mid 80’s, I never really had a sense of who he was. I’d always appreciated his playing when I heard it, but I didn’t know much about him outside of that. On the other hand, I probably knew more about Dee Dee, Johnny and Joey than I did about many of my own family members. I did reach out to Tommy a few years ago, asking for an interview, but I never heard back. As I’d heard he didn’t like to talk about the Ramones too much, I’m not surprised. I wish now that I’d tried harder.

  9. Posted July 12, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    As for my comment about the Ramones being responsible for where I am today, maybe it was a bit of an overstatement, but there’s likely a hint of truth in it. It never crossed my mind to pick up an instrument and make noise until I heard the Ramones. And, had I not started making noise, it’s doubtful that I would have found myself on the tiny, filthy stage of Ypsilanti’s since-condemned Cross Street Station that night in 1992, where I met Linette. So, yeah, had I not heard that first Ramones song as a kid in New Jersey, it’s likely that my life might have gone in a different direction, and my daughter, who just turned 10 yesterday, may never have existed. So, thank you Tommy.

  10. Posted July 12, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Dan, you’re right about the phrase “The King is dead, long live the King.” It’s misused. In this instance, however, I think it makes perfect sense. The four original members of the Ramones, as of today, are all dead. Long live the Ramones. May they live forever in the hearts and minds of human beings until the end of time.They were an odd bunch of misfits, and our politics didn’t often align, but I loved their energy, simplicity, and fearlessness. They were visionary artists with a point of view that the world had never heard before. And, if they motivated me, I know they motivated others. And I know they’ll continue to do so for a long, long time… So, yeah, the Ramones are dead. Long live the Ramones.

  11. Posted July 12, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    More good Ramones footage. This is a clip of them on the Regis and Kathy Lee show in 1988. It must have aired at some point before I saw them play in New York City with the Dickies, because I remember the video playing without sound before the show started. As that was before the internet, I just assumed that I’d never see it again, or hear what was said. (Tommy, of course, is not in this video.)

  12. Posted July 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Rolling Stone is running one of Tommy’s last interviews. He’s a clip in which he talks about that first record, and the bands they influenced..

    …It was fun, but it was business too. We were very serious about what we were doing. Definitely a unique record with its own sound. It didn’t capture the live sound, but it captured an artistic avant-garde Ramones psychosis. A fun, crazy record.

    We were hoping the record would do something, and it came out and got mostly great reviews. I think we had a full-page ad in Rolling Stone. But the distribution was very bad. The record wasn’t promoted at all. There was a strong resistance to radio play in the industry. We didn’t know that at the time. There was a paranoia. The industry didn’t want any changes. Changes are dangerous. You could lose your job when new genres come in. People were happy with what was going on and didn’t want anything new. We were just touring small clubs, you know?

    Our big Bottom Line show [May 10th, 1976] was important. We were too loud. But it was a big deal, and historically I sensed it. Then in the summer we went to London. We played the Roundhouse and also a club called Dingwalls. At the soundcheck for Dingwalls, all these bands showed up in the parking lot. They’d all come to the show together. We went out and met all of them and took some photos. And after the show they hung out. It was the Damned, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie Sioux. It was the U.K. music scene for the next decade.

    We went and played California later, and a lot of people came to check us out and went home and started playing music, and it was the birth of alternative music or new wave or indie or modern rock, whatever they want to call it. Most of them wanted to be in bands but weren’t virtuosos. They saw us and said, “Maybe there’s something more to this than being a virtuoso.” And alternative music was born.

    Things were happening so fast. We made the second album [Ramones Leave Home, cut in the fall of 1976 and released in early 1977] before we knew the first one wasn’t doing so well. It didn’t even occur to us that we might be dropped by the label. It was the perfect year for new things to be born and develop. It was a winding down of the ’60s. That just petered out. By 1974 and ’75, it was time for something new. It really was like that.

  13. Posted July 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    An awesome take on an iconic photo.

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