Thomas Erdelyi, the last surviving member of the original RAMONES lineup, died 2 days ago in New York City. Aged 62, Tommy Ramone had been fighting cancer of the bile duct for some time.
Here’s the official announcement issued by the band’s management:
We are saddened to announce the passing of Tommy Ramone (nee Erdelyi), the original drummer for the Ramones, earlier today, 11 July 2014.
“It wasn’t just music in The Ramones: it was an idea. It was bringing back a whole feel that was missing in rock music – it was a whole push outwards to say something new and different. Originally it was just an artistic type of thing; finally I felt it was something that was good enough for everybody.” – Tommy Ramone, 1978
Henry Rollins via L.A. Weekly:
Tommy Ramone passed away on July 11. He, Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny are all gone now. Losing the Ramones was a slow process, as prolonged as it was painful.
Sometimes, I would be in some ruined backstage area on a multi-month tour and feel strengthened knowing they were most likely out there somewhere, lighting the place up. I remember when I found out the band had retired. I was alone in a small room and it was like something had been removed from the world. I wondered if everything would be okay the next day.
A few years later, members of the Ramones started to die. They were too young to go, I thought. It was very tough. For many people, their records are close friends, the shows memorable nights of their lives. They met so many of their fans over years, the loss was often extremely personal.
Just my personal opinion: The Ramones rescued and recharged rock and roll.
For countless young, pissed off, alienated outsiders-for-life, the Ramones spoke the language of missed dances, bad dates and no friends. They were a perfect concept, like Devo; all the brilliance without the studied self-awareness.
The cover of their first album, the classic Roberta Bayley image, is a study in cool, unease and insolence. It is one of the greatest band line-up shots ever and looks exactly like the record sounds.
The Ramones are the lesson on how to do it. They worked tirelessly on the road and in the studio. They were great and they knew it. The challenge was bringing the world up to speed.
If you want to hear a band damn near kill their audience, check out the Ramones’ in-concert epic, It’s Alive. They are almost sadistic in how they tear through the songs, seemingly bashing them senseless to get to the next one, as if each song will never be played again and must be given proper trajectory into the stratosphere. They truly achieve something that is bigger than the four of them.
If you never had the chance to stand in front of this band, I dare say you missed out on something truly spectacular. I will never forget the first time I saw them. When they walked onstage and within ten seconds, started playing, I thought I was going to explode. The show was the very definition of how powerful true rock music is. I couldn’t understand how they could keep going. It was as full-on a live experience as I have ever had and almost ruined me for going to other shows.
There is something you will notice, if you listen closely to the first three studio albums —Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket to Russia — and the aforementioned live album: The band is evolving. Not becoming softer or hollowed out, but refining and sharpening their attack. This is not only one of the most bomb-proof live bands of all time, they were writing truly excellent, memorable songs. Some, in a smarter, better world, are top-of-chart singles.
Besides Dee Dee’s songwriting going from great to amazing, Joey becoming a singular voice and Johnny’s tone and playing remaining absolutely peerless, check out Tommy. No matter what tempo at which they play, he’s pushing the whole band forward from far back and way deep in the pocket, deftly putting the entire weight and velocity of the band right in your face, perfectly setting up Johnny’s razor fisted, totally insane, all downstroke, sheet-steel chords. It is like getting cut to ribbons and smashed to pieces at the same time.
Watch live videos online, like the 1977 Rainbow show in England. Tommy’s right hand is beyond belief. Also, watch Johnny’s face, his eyes burning slits, teeth clenched. He’s so fuckin’ mad at the world and he’s going to tear it to pieces with his Mosrite guitar.
The Ramones were a band that, in my opinion, didn’t get enough credit for their musicianship and songwriting. Their stripped down, almost purist approach showed how bloated and unnecessary rock music had become. They were the perfect reset.
Every several years, there is an almost Darwinian, utilitarian culling of the herd in the rock genre. Sadly, the bands that get taken out at the watering hole in the Serengeti of prevailing taste are not guilty of anything more than adulthood. They’re kind of screwed no matter what they do. When they strive to put more colors on the palette, they get ripped for losing their edge. When they try to remain in a state of arrested development, clinging to that brief period of time when they were the same age as their audience, they look ridiculous and ancient.
I almost felt bad for all the hair bands getting disemboweled in the early ’90s. They seemed to be having so much fun. Getting all the chicks, the sunsetting Reagan-era liquidity. Remember how some of them got haircuts in an attempt to stay alive for one more album cycle? They never knew what hit them, and by the time they realized it was over, it had been for months. It was as if the entire world had changed and no one had told them.
One of the many great gifts of the better examples of music is that while the recording is locked in the past, the listener can be completely free of concern as to age/time/place when the record plays. The music does truly live forever.
No matter what, from now until the end of your life, Ramones songs will never lose speed. They will always be as exciting as when you first heard them. As the years go on, it becomes more and more clear: The Ramones are one of the greatest bands ever.
Whenever I see a young person in a Ramones T-shirt, it is total vindication. They defined their territory so completely that nothing will ever be able to flip the script. The Ramones are legends. Giants. LAMF.
“I was lucky enough to see the Ramones when I was 14. I actually saved my paper route money to buy the ticket and went with my next door neighbor who was older. At first my Dad didn’t want to let me go because they “looked like hoodlums” but after weeks of begging and pleading he finally relented. It was at Pier 84 in NYC. We got there hours early to get good seats and were right up front. The Ramones came out and from the first 1-2-3-4 the place went absolutely crazy. It was my first punk show and right then and there I could feel my life changing. Make your own path. Find your own voice. Dare to be different. Don’t let the opinions of others dictate your life. Each one of these ideals was embodied in every 2 minute song. I can honestly say I walked out of that show a changed, braver, bolder person, ready to live my life on my own terms. RIP Tommy Ramone, the last living original member. You guys are heroes.”
Randy Blythe of LAMB OF GOD added:
The last original Ramone, Tommy Ramone (second from right), has died, & with him the last of one of the main roots of all modern punk/hc/and metal as we know it today. The importance of the Ramones in the history of underground music cannot be overstated- before the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Black Flag and waaaaaaay before any speed/thrash metal band, the Ramones were blowing minds with LOUD, FAST, AGGRESSIVE music.Although to the calloused ears of modern youth who have grown up listening to crust punk/grind core/speed & thrash metal/and even some of the more aggressive music on commercial radio, the Ramones might sound like fast pop, at the time they started playing out in NYC at CBGB/Max’s Kansas City (1974) they were something that had never ever been seen or heard before. The first time my band played CBGB, I was completely emotionally overwhelmed- “Man, the FREAKING RAMONES started out here!” I thought as I stood on stage- I almost started crying. Without that band, the tempo of underground music would have never reached the speed that it has today- there were a bunch of glam bands & hippies at that time, & (yeeeech) disco was big- the Ramones came along & blasted everyone straight out of the water. No Ramones= no lamb of god, or any of the other music most fans of my band listen to. Metal existed, but it was not until punk rock kicked it right square in the ass with a combat boot that things got FAST & AGGRESSIVE. Tommy passed away from cancer yesterday in Queens, NYC, at the age of 62. Rest in peace, bro, & thank you for helping to create the music that changed and saved my life. #BEATONTHEBRATBEATONTHEBRATBEATONTHEBRATWITHABASEBALLBAT!!!!OOOO