Tommy Ramone, whose simple but jackhammer driving backbeat propelled the legendary punk ensemble The Ramones to soaring heights and becoming one of the most influential punk bands of all time, died on Friday in Queens, NY, according to Variety. He was 62.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, and raised in Forest Hills in Queens, NY, Tommy Ramone, whose real name was Erdelyi Tamas, was the last surviving original member of the group, which included singer Joey Ramone, bassist Dee Dee Ramone, and guitarist Johnny Ramone. Erdelyi became a member of the band by accidental proxy back in 1974, the year they formed, and all the musicians opted to take on the surname “Ramone” as stage names. Originally, lead singer and driving force Joey Ramone was relegated to the drum throne, but ultimately couldn’t keep time with the band’s three-chord, yet ultra tempo songs. Erdelyi, who was at first going to be the band’s manager, soon took over drum duties and wound up drumming and co-producing the band’s first three albums, which spawned a slew of memorable tracks, which to this day are now punk folklore: “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” (which Erdelyi wrote), “Pinhead,'” “Give Me Shock Treatment,” “Beat on the Brat,” and the band’s signature song, which also showcases in a way their instantly recognizable signature sound, and which was also penned mostly by Erdelyi, “Blitzkrieg Bop.”
Erdelyi left the band in 1978 and was replaced by Marky Ramone, who also had the flair and muscular chops which followed the template set by Tommy Ramone. Erdelyi remained in the music business as a producer, helming and crafting the sounds of records as eclectic as Tim, by the seminal post punk band The Replacements and Redd Kross’ Neurotica. He later returned to The Ramones in the producer skein as well, producing their renowned 1984 release, Too Tough To Die (in which a highlight is the Dee Dee Ramone written and snarled “Wart Hog.”).
The Ramones, including Tommy and his three co-foundering members, along with Marky Ramone, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 18, 2002.
Tommy Ramone had been receiving hospice care for bile duct cancer treatment, which he succumbed to early on Friday, July 11, 2014 at his home in the Ridgewood section of Queens, NY. He is survived by his partner Claudia Tienan, for whom he collaborated with on the acoustic bluegrass/ country project Uncle Monk, and an older brother. The musician’s death ends an era for a band who truly defined the term DIY (“Do It Yourself”). Although they took cues from earlier punk and surf prototypes from the 1960s, The Ramones had a sound and style that was truly their own. Now, with all the original members having passed on, the end of an era now moves into an era of music history.
The Ramones will always be around in one way or another, whether it be snippets of their music (or sound-a-likes of it) accompanying various scenes in films or shamelessly used to plug and hawk products on commercials, but what most importantly it will do, regardless of the taste factor of its usage, is to keep it alive. The music is alive enough, it pulses and crackles through the speakers, helped in most part by the train off the rails drumming of Tommy Ramone. Even though all the members have now passed on, there isn’t a silence to be heard by this grim reality, not at all. Instead, there’s a constant thunderclap of a joyous mess of a sound, two- and three-minute sonic masterpieces, playing in perpetuity forever, that is The Ramones.