Here Today, Gone Tomorrow…

Tommy Ramone has left the building. There are no more original Ramones.

There are, unfortunately, many bands who sold more records, but you would find it difficult to name any band other than the Beatles who had more of a profound influence on the course of pop music and pop culture than the Ramones. Tommy was their original drummer, and co-produced their two best albums before leaving the drum throne to be a full-time record producer.

One of the advantages of being a latch-key kid was having the ability to do things without parental approval, so long as you didn’t get caught. In June of 1979 I heard that the Ramones were going to be playing a free concert in San Francisco. School was still in, but a feigned stomach ache got me out of that and with my parents off at work I hopped on the AC Transit O bus and made my 12-year old way to the Civic Center and had my very formative mind mashed beyond comprehension by four guys who played like they were going to get the plug pulled on them at any minute. I couldn’t get as close to the stage as I wanted to, but virtually every single performance by every other band I have seen since has been measured against this experience, and most have been found wanting.

In subsequent years I saw the Ramones again several times. Each time there was a different guy playing drums (I could never bring myself to see the post-Dee Dee version of the band, and I never saw Tommy play with them, as he’d left by the time they played that first show I saw in SF) but they were always true to themselves, always fully present and engaged and powerful. As a performer myself I get lost in my head sometimes and forget the lesson the Ramones taught me again and again – play every gig like it’s the last one you will ever play and never leave anything in the tank.

I consider it one of the greatest injustices in the history of pop music that the Ramones did not sell millions of copies of every record they made, because while not all of their records are brilliant, they are all more worthy of a spot in any rock music fan’s record collection than most of the records that have sold millions of copies. At the very least the list of bands who ought to have tithed at least a portion of their earnings to the Ramones is incredibly long.

Rest in peace, Tommy.


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