It’s a sad day.
Born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest in 1949, Ramone emigrated to America in 1957. He grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, where he began playing music with John Cummings (a.k.a. Johnny Ramone) while he was in high school. The two formed a garage band called the Tangerine Puppets before Tommy moved on to study recording engineering, finding work at the famed Record Plant studios.
In 1974, Erdelyi and Cummings joined together with two fellow Forest Hills compatriots, singer Jeffrey Hyman (Joey) and bassist Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee), and began playing simple, rapid-fire punk under a common surname. The band found a home and an audience at New York’s CBGB and released their debut album, Ramones, in 1976. “Our music is an answer to the early Seventies when artsy people with big egos would do vocal harmonies and play long guitar, solos and get called geniuses,” Tommy, who was the main writer on many of the band’s early hits, told Rolling Stone in a feature on the Ramones that year. “That was bullshit. We play rock & roll. We don’t do solos. Our only harmonics are in the overtones from the guitar chords.”
Tommy Ramone, last of the Ramones, dies
July 12, 2014, 9:47 AM EST
By KRISTEN de GROOT , Associated Press Writer
Tommy Ramone, a co-founder of the seminal punk band the Ramones and the last surviving member of the original group, has died, a business associate said Saturday.
Dave Frey, who works for Ramones Productions and Silent Partner Management, confirmed that Ramone died on Friday. Frey didn’t have additional details. Ramone was 65.
Tommy Ramone, a drummer, co-founded the Ramones in 1974 in New York along with singer Joey Ramone, bassist Dee Dee Ramone and guitarist Johnny Ramone. All four band members had different last names, but took the common name Ramone.
The band influenced a generation of rockers, and their hit songs “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and “Blitzkrieg Bop,” among others, earned them an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Clad in leather jackets and long black mops of hair, the group of motley misfits started out in legendary New York clubs like CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, where they blasted their rapid-fire songs.
Since its debut album in 1976, the band struggled for commercial success, but they left a formidable imprint on the rock genre. Though they never had a Top 40 song, the Ramones influenced scores of followers, including bands such as Green Day and Nirvana.
Even Bruce Springsteen was moved. After seeing the Ramones in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Springsteen wrote “Hungry Heart” for the band. His manager, however, swayed him to keep the song for himself and it became a hit single.
The Ramones’ best-known songs reflected their twisted teen years in Queens: “Beat on the Brat,” ”Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” ”Teenage Lobotomy,” ”Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.”
The Ramones disbanded in 1996 after a tour that followed their final studio album, “Adios Amigos.” A live farewell tour album, “We’re Outta Here!”, was released in 1997.
Johnny Ramone, whose birth name was John Cummings, died in 2004 of prostate cancer. Joey Ramone, whose real name is Jeff Hyman, died in 2001 of lymphatic cancer. Dee Dee Ramone, whose real name is Douglas Colvin, died from a drug overdose in 2002. Tommy Ramone was born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest, Hungary.
GABBA GABBA HEY!
Johnny Ramone in concert, 1977
The Ramones had a broad and lasting influence on the development of popular music. Music historian Jon Savage writes of their debut album that “it remains one of the few records that changed pop forever.” As described by Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine, “The band’s first four albums set the blueprint for punk, especially American punk and hardcore, for the next two decades.” Trouser Press’s Robbins and Isler similarly write that the Ramones “not only spearheaded the original new wave/punk movement, but also drew the blueprint for subsequent hardcore punk bands”. Punk journalist Phil Strongman writes, “In purely musical terms, The Ramones, in attempting to re-create the excitement of pre-Dolby rock, were to cast a huge shadow—they had fused a blueprint for much of the indie future.” Writing for Slate in 2001, Douglas Wolk described the Ramones as “easily the most influential group of the last 30 years.”
The Ramones’ debut album had an outsized effect relative to its modest sales. According to Generation X bassist Tony James, “Everybody went up three gears the day they got that first Ramones album. Punk rock—that rama-lama super fast stuff—is totally down to the Ramones. Bands were just playing in an MC5 groove until then.” The Ramones’ two July 1976 shows, like their debut album, are seen as having a significant impact on the style of many of the newly formed British punk acts—as one observer put it, “instantly nearly every band speeded up”. The Ramones’ first British concert, at London’s Roundhouse concert hall, was held on 4 July 1976, the United States Bicentennial. The Sex Pistols were playing in Sheffield that evening, supported by the Clash, making their public debut. The next night, members of both bands attended the Ramones’ gig at the Dingwall’s club. Ramones manager Danny Fields recalls a conversation between Johnny Ramone and Clash bassist Paul Simonon (which he mislocates at the Roundhouse): “Johnny asked him, ‘What do you do? Are you in a band?’ Paul said, ‘Well, we just rehearse. We call ourselves the Clash but we’re not good enough.’ Johnny said, ‘Wait till you see us—we stink, we’re lousy, we can’t play. Just get out there and do it.'” Another band whose members saw the Ramones perform, the Damned, played their first show two days later. The central fanzine of the early UK punk scene, Sniffin’ Glue, was named after the song “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”, which appeared on the debut LP.
Ramones concerts and recordings influenced many musicians central to the development of California punk as well, including Greg Ginn of Black Flag, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, Al Jourgensen of Ministry, Mike Ness of Social Distortion, Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, and members of the Descendents. Canada’s first major punk scenes—in Toronto and in British Columbia‘s Victoria and Vancouver—were also heavily influenced by the Ramones. In the late 1970s, many bands emerged with musical styles deeply indebted to the band’s. There were the Lurkers from England, the Undertones from Ireland, Teenage Head from Canada, and the Zeros and the Dickies from southern California. The seminal hardcore band Bad Brains took its name from a Ramones song. The Riverdales emulated the sound of the Ramones throughout their career. Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong named his son Joey in homage to Joey Ramone, and drummer Tré Cool named his daughter Ramona.
The Ramones also influenced musicians associated with other genres, such as heavy metal. Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett has described the importance of Johnny’s rapid-fire guitar playing style to his own musical development. Motörhead lead singer Lemmy, a friend of the Ramones since the late 1970s, mixed the band’s “Go Home Ann” in 1985. The members of Motörhead later composed the song “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” as a tribute, and Lemmy performed at the final Ramones concert in 1996. In the realm of alternative rock, the song “53rd and 3rd” lent its name to a British indie pop label cofounded by Stephen Pastel of the Scottish band the Pastels. Evan Dando of the Lemonheads, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam (who introduced the band members at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction) and the Strokes are among the many alternative rock and metal musicians who have credited the Ramones with inspiring them.
In April 2009, Spin writer Mark Prindle observed that the Ramones had to date “inspired a jaw-dropping 48 (at least!) full-length tribute records.” The first Ramones tribute album featuring multiple performers was released in 1991: Gabba Gabba Hey: A Tribute to the Ramones includes tracks by such acts as the Flesh Eaters, L7, Mojo Nixon, and Bad Religion. In 2001, Dee Dee made a guest appearance on one track of Ramones Maniacs, a multi-artist cover of the entire Ramones Mania compilation album. The Song Ramones the Same, which came out the following year, includes performances by the Dictators, who were part of the early New York punk scene, and Wayne Kramer, guitarist for the influential protopunk band MC5. We’re a Happy Family: A Tribute to Ramones, released in 2003, features performers such as Green Day, Metallica, Kiss, the Offspring, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, and Rob Zombie (who also did the album cover artwork).